The Alaska Legislature’s ethics committee is investigating two complaints against Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, members said during a Monday hearing.
The complaints involve allegations that Eastman used state resources for a partisan political purpose and improperly solicited donations for a previously existing legal defense campaign during the legislative session.
“Both of those complaints will be moved forward into an investigation,” said Joyce Anderson, chair of the House Subcommittee on Legislative Ethics.
The ethics committee is notoriously secretive, with both complaints and the results of investigations kept confidential under state law unless the recipient of the complaint waives that privilege.
By text message, Eastman said, “I have waived confidentiality protections for these and other complaints because too often political activists are able to file complaints behind closed doors with zero public accountability for their ongoing efforts to thwart the will of the public.”
Despite the waiver, staff for the ethics committee said they were unable to release copies of the complaints. Informed of that fact, Eastman said, “The statute is explicit that once confidentiality has been waived, the public has access to those documents. They can stonewall, but they do so in direct violation of the statute. It wouldn’t be the first time they have delayed access. They also tried that when I was on the committee.”
Under the committee’s typical procedure, the complaints will be investigated by attorneys previously hired under contract. At a future meeting, the committee will decide whether to dismiss the complaints or to compile findings of fact and possible punishment.
Those decisions are not always made public. In 2020, for example, the committee published the result of only one complaint. That issue was levied against Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, but the file number for the complaint ends in 003, indicating that at least two other complaints were filed but not publicly released.
Complaints, if upheld, rarely result in significant fines or punishments beyond reimbursement to the state, a review of the ethics committee’s actions shows.
In Monday’s subcommittee meeting, Anderson said one of the two complaints against Eastman involved “davidlegal.org,” a website copyrighted by the legislator. It contained a link soliciting donations to pay for his legal defense in a lawsuit that alleged he violated the Alaska Constitution’s disloyalty clause with his membership in the Oath Keepers, a far-right group whose leaders have been imprisoned for their role in the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
A Superior Court judge ruled that Eastman did not violate the disloyalty clause, and the person who filed the lawsuit declined to appeal.
The davidlegal.org website was blank on Monday, but the Internet Archive showed it remained online during the legislative session. A donation page linked to Eastman’s site indicated that the legislator had raised $1,050 toward a $300,000 goal.
This is at least the third time that Eastman has been the subject of an ethics complaint since he entered the Legislature in 2017.
Last year, Eastman and Rep. Christopher Kurka, R-Wasilla, were the subject of ethics complaints that accused them of using state resources for a partisan political purpose. In hearings that took place in June and November, Eastman defended his innocence. A final report has not been published for either complaint.
In 2018, the committee found Eastman violated ethics rules by disclosing committee business to a reporter during the prior year.
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