Complaint alleges foes of Alaska’s ranked choice voting formed a church to funnel political donations

A man with glasses speaks behind a podium while standing in front of an American flag.
Art Mathias speaks to voters at an Alaskans for Honest Elections event on Feb. 16, 2023. (Elyssa Loughlin/Alaska Public Media)

Backers of ranked choice voting have filed a complaint with the Alaska Public Offices Commission alleging that a group working to repeal Alaska’s new voting system has repeatedly violated state finance laws, in part by funneling money through a religious organization. 

“Whether by design or through sheer incompetence, the scope and scale of respondents violations are staggering, and has kept the public from knowing who is financing this confederation of opponents of Ballot Measure 2,” the complaint says.

The APOC complaint involves two groups with similar names but opposing missions. Alaskans for Better Elections filed the complaint. It sponsored Ballot Measure 2 in 2020, which established a ranked choice voting system in Alaska. 

The complaint is filed against Alaskans for Honest Elections, which is campaigning to get rid of ranked choice voting.

The complaint cites documents showing that ranked choice foes formed a separate religious company, Ranked Choice Education Association, as an “integrated auxiliary” of a church.

Anchorage attorney Scott Kendall, author of the complaint, alleges the purpose was to mask campaign donations and potentially falsely obtain tax deductions for those contributions. 

“That’s beyond my wildest imagination,” Kendall said, “because I’ve formed campaign groups, I’ve formed ballot measure groups, I’ve formed super PACs. It has never occurred to me, nor would it ever occur to me to form it as a church. It’s one of the more bizarre things I’ve seen in my entire career.”

Phil Izon is named in the complaint as both one of the directors of RCEA and a director for Alaskans for Honest Elections. Izon said he isn’t privy to the specifics of the filing status, but denied that RCEA is a church. He said most of the filing was done by CPAs and tax experts.

“We did consult with people doing it. So we didn’t just randomly do that,” Izon said. Izon said RCEA was not a religious organization, “as far as I’m aware.”

The articles for the RCEA list several goals as the mission of the “ministry,” including to promote Christian doctrine, train community faith leaders, establish places of worship, and “the preservation of the truth.” 

But Kendall says RCEA’s website is exclusively dedicated to ranked choice voting, with links to articles and videos disparaging the system. Religious entities risk losing their tax-exempt status if they engage in overt political campaigning.

“The Ranked Choice Education Association are out there essentially campaigning without registering,” Kendall said. “They have a website and materials that look identical to the registered group. So it’s confusing, but it seems to be confusing by design of these people.” 

Documents list Art Mathias as president of RCEA. Mathias is also a director for Alaskans for Honest Elections and is the president and founding pastor of Wellspring Ministries. The articles of incorporation for RCEA, filed in Washington state, describe it as an “integrated auxiliary of the founding church, Wellspring Fellowship of Alaska.”

While Mathias has publicly claimed he donated $100,000 to the effort to get rid of ranked  choice voting, no such donation exists in his name in Alaskans for Honest Elections financial disclosures. However, a contribution disclosure from RCEA shows Mathias as a source of a $90,000 donation made through that company instead of individually. 

Mathias did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

The complaint also alleges that Alaskans for Honest Elections did not file appropriate paperwork with APOC before soliciting donations and spending money. 

The group began operating in November 2022 and started receiving donations as early as January 23 of this year. However, the group was only registered with APOC in March. 

Izon said his group is aware of the issue and said that APOC initially believed their organization was a referendum drive to repeal all of Ballot Measure 2, which in addition to legally creating ranked choice voting also established additional criteria for campaign disclosure. 

“We are only repealing the rank choice voting and the jungle primary sections of the bill,” Izon said. “We’re not doing anything with the campaign finance laws.”

Izon said he was told by APOC that Alaskans for Honest Elections wasn’t required to disclose anything as a referendum. He said most of the financial disclosure issues have been fixed with APOC, now that his effort is recognized as a ballot initiative.

Izon is at the center of another allegation in the complaint. He is listed as contributing $200,000 as an in-kind donation to Alaskans for Honest Elections, in the form of professional services.

The donation was dated January 23, two weeks after Alaskans For Honest Elections began taking donations. The complaint alleges “the fantastical assertion that Mr. Izon’s time is worth $100,000 per week is absurd on its face.”

That $200,000 donation also accounts for more than two-thirds of the total money raised by Alaskans For Honest Elections, despite not being an actual monetary donation.

Kendall says the donation was listed to give a false impression.

“It appears to have been used to inflate the appearance of the support for their ballot measure,” Kendall said. “‘Look at us, we raised $290,000.’ Never mind the fact that $200,000 is fictional.”

Izon said the money is meant to represent the work he will do over the year, not for the two-week period. He said he was directed by APOC Campaign Disclosure Coordinator Tom Lucas to list it as a one-time expense in the campaign disclosure.  

“Nothing to do with inflating [support] or anything to do with that,” Izon said. “That honestly wasn’t the intention. It was literally… that was what APOC told us to do.”

The only money spent by Alaskans For Honest Elections, per APOC filings, has been $67,000 going to Leading Light Advisors for marketing purposes. The company is run by Diamond Metzner, Izon’s wife and the treasurer for RCEA. Izon said his wife runs the company herself.

“I don’t have access,” Izon said. “I’m not on any of the bank accounts for that organization.” 

The complaint alleges that the Alaskans for Honest Elections “appears to have been set up by Mr. Izon and Ms. Metzner as a grift —and a clumsy one at that — to funnel every dime AHE raises back to them, and them alone.”

Kendall says he hopes APOC will do a thorough investigation into the allegations, “along with any others that come to light during an investigation.”

“I think if APOC can accomplish anything, it’s to get into these people’s records, whatever condition the records are in, and get them to report accurately,” he said.

Izon said his group has gathered roughly 20,000 signatures to repeal ranked choice voting. They need 27,000 to get the measure on the ballot.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the name of the organization receiving money from Alaskans For Honest Elections for marketing. It is Leading Light Advisors, not Leading Light Advisories.

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Wesley Early covers Anchorage life and city politics for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at and follow him on X at @wesley_early. Read more about Wesley here.

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