A Friday hearing intended to investigate a major campaign finance complaint against a group backing Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s re-election bid revealed no new evidence to support claims that the group illegally coordinated with Dunleavy’s campaign.
The Alaska Public Offices Commission now has 10 days to examine previously submitted documents and testimony before ruling on the complaint, which affects a multimillion-dollar group backed by the national Republican Governors Association.
Attorney Scott Kendall, representing a pair of nonprofits who filed the complaint, told commission members that the position of Brett Huber, a former Dunleavy aide, was a violation of state law because he simultaneously held a contract with the state, had a position in Dunleavy’s re-election campaign and worked for a third-party group.
Under oath on Friday, Huber downplayed his role in the re-election campaign and the third-party group, named A Stronger Alaska. Huber said he was only an adviser to A Stronger Alaska and did not direct the group’s spending. He said he served as a deputy treasurer for Dunleavy’s campaign in order to conduct one fundraiser and requested to be removed from his position after the event but never was.
State law forbids campaigns from coordinating with third-party groups, and Huber said there was no coordination, though paperwork listed him as a member of the campaign and A Stronger Alaska simultaneously.
Kendall admitted that the evidence is circumstantial but said it strains credulity to believe there was no coordination.
“Do you have to stand on your deck at 1 a.m. and watch it snow to know that it snowed in the morning? Or do you believe, when you wake up in the morning and there’s snow in your yard, that a UFO flew over your house and dropped snow on you? What’s more likely?” he said.
Attorney Richard Moses, representing A Stronger Alaska, said Kendall failed to meet the burden of proof.
“All you have heard today is if, if, if, and but, but, but. Well, if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we would all have a Merry Christmas this year,” he said.
“The reason there is no evidence of coordination is because coordination did not occur,” Moses said, telling commissioners that the complaint is politically motivated and intended to disrupt spending by A Stronger Alaska to support Dunleavy.
Tom Amodio, representing the Dunleavy campaign, noted that Huber had asked the campaign to remove him as a deputy treasurer but it failed to do so.
“The campaign failed to do so, and it was the campaign’s failure. Absolutely. But that does not rise to the level of coordination and cooperation,” he said.
Kendall called a witness in an attempt to impeach Huber’s testimony as unreliable, but her testimony was interrupted by objections from the opposing attorneys.
Closing his argument, Kendall said it is suspicious that Huber has been paid $80,000 for a role that only involves advice.
“That doesn’t sound like a good investment, if you’re paying money to someone who has utterly no idea what you’re doing and no input on what you do,” he said.
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