Alaska regulators will hear complaint against national Republican group on Friday

APOC screenshot
In this screenshot from the Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022 meeting of the Alaska Public Offices Commission, attorney Scott Kendall (at right) speaks to members of the commission, including chair Anne Helzer (left). Kendall was requesting a speedy hearing for a complaint against the Republican Governors Association. (Screenshot)

The Alaska Public Offices Commission will meet on Friday to determine whether the national Republican Governors Association violated state campaign law in its support of Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican.

On Thursday afternoon, commissioners voted 3-2 to act before Election Day on a complaint filed by two nonprofits against the association and A Stronger Alaska, the third-party group formed by the association to support Dunleavy’s campaign.

The Alaska Public Interest Research Group and the 907 Initiative are the two politically active, progressive nonprofits who filed the complaint and have alleged that the governors association is spending directly on the campaign, rather than through its Alaska intermediary.

If the complaint is upheld, commissioners could rule that the governors association is subject to provisions of 2020’s Ballot Measure 2 that require an organization to disclose the source of its funding.

That could have national repercussions: The association is involved in gubernatorial races across the country and collects millions of dollars from wealthy donors whose identities have been kept secret.

The $3 million donated by the RGA to A Stronger Alaska for the Alaska governor’s race is a larger sum than has been raised by any of the four candidates in the race.

Complainants are represented by attorney Scott Kendall, a noted Dunleavy critic, and on Thursday, Kendall discussed bank records and tax documents that appeared to show money intended for Alaska was moved only within the RGA’s accounts.

“A Stronger Alaska, for all intents and purposes, doesn’t appear to exist,” Kendall said, citing IRS documents that fail to list a $3 million transfer in 2021 from the RGA to A Stronger Alaska.

That transaction was disclosed in state documents but not to the IRS, which Kendall said is evidence that it never actually took place.

In 2014 and 2018, the RGA disclosed its Alaska transfers in IRS tax documents and in state campaign filings.

Richard Moses, representing A Stronger Alaska, said the group and the RGA share a tax identification number, which is why the transfer didn’t show up.

He provided bank statements, which he said backed up the assertion that the two groups are distinct.

APOC commissioner Dan LaSota noted that only one account number appears on the statements. If there was a transfer, he asked, why don’t the documents list both the origin and the destination?

Moses said he didn’t know.

After an extended round of closed-door deliberations, commission chair Anne Helzer said the RGA should provide additional information on Friday.

“It is this commission’s expectation that the Republican Governors Association and A Strong Alaska will produce witness testimony to explain the separation between the two entities,” she said, adding that the commission encourages the group’s chief executive and financial officers to testify.

If they do appear, Kendall would be permitted to cross-examine them under oath.

Kendall appeared skeptical that they will testify, noting that the commission did not subpoena them.

Attorney Stacey Stone, representing the RGA, did not return a phone call asking whether the officials will testify.

Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Andrew Kitchenman for questions: info@alaskabeacon.com. Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and Twitter.

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