In an investigation into alleged violations of campaign finance laws, an independent expenditure group supporting Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s reelection has refused to respond to requests for information, according to the state’s campaign finance watchdog agency.
In early September, nonprofits Alaska Public Interest Research Group and the 907 Initiative filed a complaint with the Alaska Public Offices Commission against Dunleavy, his reelection campaign and others for alleged violations of campaign finance laws.
The complaint said the Republican Governors Association and Dunleavy are “engaged in a scheme” to subsidize and coordinate the campaign activities of the independent expenditure group A Stronger Alaska with those of Dunleavy’s official campaign committee. Other parties involved in the alleged wrongdoing are Brett Huber and his company Strategic Synergies, according to the complaint.
Coordination between a candidate or a candidate’s representatives and an independent expenditure group is prohibited by law.
Having 30 days to do an investigation, APOC staff faced a deadline on Monday to file a recommendation to the commission on whether or not there is a violation and, if so, what the remedy would be.
Instead, on Oct. 7, staff filed a request for an extension of time “because, despite its requests, Respondent, A Stronger Alaska, has refused to adequately respond to staff’s requests for information while carrying out its investigation,” and the refusal “makes it impossible for staff to complete its investigation and prepare its investigation report in the time required,” the filing said. The request is for an additional 30 days from when the independent expenditure group responds to staff’s request for information. Voters will decide on the next governor in the Nov. 8 general election.
“We have told the commission that we cannot complete the investigation without this information and the other side is not cooperating,” said Tom Lucas, campaign disclosure coordinator at APOC.
The request for an extension notes that A Stronger Alaska has refused to respond to staff’s requests unless presented with a subpoena. On behalf of APOC staff, the attorney general’s office on Oct. 3 filed a motion to issue subpoenas to A Stronger Alaska Treasurer Erim Canligil and Chair Dave Rexrode. Canligil and Rexrode are also part of the Republican Governor’s Association – Canligil is chief financial officer and Rexrode is executive director.
“But the subpoena is not asking them about them in their capacity as principles of RGA; rather the subpoena is asking them about what they’ve done in their capacity as officers of A Stronger Alaska,” Lucas said.
The subpoenas ask for Canligil and Rexrode to identify every individual that has knowledge of A Stronger Alaska’s campaign plans, projects or needs; to state each individual’s role in A Stronger Alaska’s campaign; to identify their communications with the Republican Governors Association since Feb. 24, 2021; and to identify their communications with Strategic Synergies, including Brett Huber, since Feb. 25, 2021. Huber and Strategic Synergies are also listed in the original complaint.
The commission has not yet ruled on the staff’s motion to issue subpoenas and Lucas said there is no time limit for the commission to make that decision. If the subpoenas are issued, Canligil and Rexrode would have seven calendar days to respond.
Meanwhile, Alaska Public Interest Research Group and the 907 Initiative on Monday have filed a request to expedite the APOC investigation to prohibit A Stronger Alaska from making any campaign expenditures for the 2022 gubernatorial election.
“Complainants want APOC Staff to continue using its subpoena power to prepare a Staff Report so that the Commission can ultimately resolve their complaint on an ordinary timeline. But in the interim, the Commission must act immediately to prevent ASA from influencing the outcome of the election because of unlawful coordination,” the filing said.
In its response to the original complaint, A Stronger Alaska denies violating any Alaska law, maintains “there has been absolutely no Coordination between ASA, the official office of Governor Dunleavy, and the Dunleavy for Governor campaign,” and asks the commission to dismiss the complaint. The Republic Governors Association made a motion to dismiss the allegations in the complaint against it, saying, “because there are no facts alleged which could give rise to a violation of law and/or regulation, RGA must be summarily dismissed without delay.”
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