• Tue. Sep 20th, 2022

Dunleavy accused of using public funds to pay campaign staff and breaking campaign finance rules

ByChad J. Johnson

Sep 7, 2022

Governor Mike Dunleavy answers the phone about awaiting election results at Dunleavy Headquarters on Fairbanks Street on August 16, 2022. (Mizelle Mayo/Alaska Public Media)

A nonpartisan watchdog group said Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s re-election campaign was coordinating with a super PAC working to get him elected. The Alaska Public Research Interest Group and a new organization called the 907 Initiative filed the complaint Tuesday with the Alaska Commission of Public Offices.

The complaint also alleges that the Dunleavy administration uses taxpayer money to pay campaign staffers, a violation of the state’s Executive Branch Ethics Act.

The complaint involves two longtime Dunleavy employees: Brett Huber and Jordan Shilling. He reports earlier this year that Huber simultaneously worked as assistant treasurer on Dunleavy’s campaign and managed the operations of a Dunleavy-focused super PAC called A Stronger Alaska. This type of crossing is considered illegal coordination under the APOC statute.

“The public has no idea who the money is,” AKPIRG attorney Scott Kendall said Tuesday. “And the ability to prevent corruption is gone, because not only will it be anonymous money, but it’s anonymous money that the governor gets directly or indirectly to say how it’s spent.” The campaign finance law at this point means nothing.

Kendall previously worked as independent Governor Bill Walker’s chief of staff. Walker, Democrat Les Gara and Republican Charlie Pierce are running against Dunleavy for governor.

In addition to his work on the Dunleavy campaign and the pro-Dunleavy PAC, Huber was also a state contractor in the governor’s office, earning more than $8,000 a month as a consultant on “defence of the State,” according to copies of its contract documents included in AKPIRG’s complaint.

Shilling, who claims to work as an unpaid volunteer on the campaign, also has a $10,000-a-month state contract to consult on renewable energy policy.

In an email Tuesday, Dunleavy spokesman Jeff Turner said Huber terminated his contract on June 1, but Shilling’s is still in effect. Turner said he had no information on why Huber terminated his contract.

Dunleavy’s campaign declined to comment for this story.

Dunleavy’s campaign finance disclosures show that he spent just $6,200 to pay campaign staff this election cycle, the complaint says. By comparison, his 2018 gubernatorial campaign spent more than $50,000 on staff contracts and consulting fees.

Kendall is suspicious of both contracts. He said they appeared to have been set up to pay for campaign work with taxpayers’ money, as they did not appear to have a clear objective.

“Where is the deliverable? What is the list of meetings you have taken? Where are the memos you wrote? You can’t raise $10,000 by just hanging around,” he said.

AKPIRG executive director Veri di Suvero said the group plans to file an ethics complaint with the Alaska State Staff Council next week, alleging misuse of public funds. In the meantime, the group hopes the Alaska Public Offices Commission will take action before November on the allegation that the super PAC coordinated with Dunleavy’s campaign. This could include disbanding the super PAC or freezing its activities.