Anti-ranked choice voting campaign is operating out of a South Anchorage church, new APOC complaint alleges

sign posted on green grass says "sign here" and says ranked choice voting "get rid of it"
Supporters of a petition to repeal ranked choice voting collected signatures at the Alaska State Fair on Labor Day 2023 (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

Scott Kendall, the architect of Alaska’s ranked choice voting system, filed a new complaint Monday with the Alaska Public Offices Commission, this time alleging that opponents of ranked choice are using an Anchorage church as the headquarters of their campaign to repeal the voting system, despite swearing under oath that they are not.

This is the third APOC complaint Kendall has filed on behalf of Alaskans for Better Elections against Anchorage pastor Art Mathias or a constellation of faith-based organizations he founded or leads.

The complaint is based in part on secret recordings from a man Kendall’s team hired just before Thanksgiving to pose as someone interested in collecting signatures to get the repeal measure on the ballot. The undercover plant went to Wellspring Ministries, in south Anchorage, and met with a campaign contractor, the complaint says. It also says a church employee handed him the signature booklets. Kendall claims the ranked choice opponents have violated state campaign disclosure laws, while also abusing the church tax status.

“I know that none of those groups, according to the IRS, are supposed to get involved in politics. And yet they’re running politics out of their church building using church staff,” Kendall said.

At an APOC hearing last month and in documents, Mathias has said repeatedly that Wellspring Ministries, a faith-based organization that owns the South Anchorage building, and Wellspring Fellowship, a church, are entirely separate from the ballot measure campaign.

Attorney Kevin Clarkson represents Mathias and other Alaska opponents of ranked choice. He said Kendall is “harassing” the opposing campaign with multiple complaints.

“He’s trying to scare them off,” Clarkson said.

The campaign contractor working out of the Wellspring building, Mikaela Emswiler, is renting that space, Clarkson said. The anti-ranked choice campaign paid her $15,000 and she’s paying the rent through her business, Top Fundraising Solutions, LLC. At most, Clarkson says, the campaign may have been late reporting that expense.

“So fine: File a complaint, tell APOC the reports is late and let APOC deal with it,” Clarkson said, “instead of claiming all these salacious things like, ‘Wellspring Ministries is running a shadow campaign.’ Good Lord.”

Kendall is asking for the commission to consider the complaint on an expedited basis. The commission says it will rule on his first complaint by Jan. 5.

Anti-ranked choice advocates say they hope to finish collecting the required signatures by the end of the year.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Liz here.

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