Quick hearing rejected in complaint against French

Richard Mauer

The Alaska Public Offices Commission brushed away a request for quick consideration of a complaint brought by a Republican Party activist charging that Democratic Sen. Hollis French improperly coordinated his campaign with that of an independent political committee.

In an order issued Tuesday, the bipartisan commission unanimously denied the request by Bernadette Wilson for a hearing before the Nov. 6 election, saying the complaint failed to justify "expedited consideration."

The order said that "based on the evidence presented, there was not reasonable cause to believe that a violation of the campaign finance laws had occurred or will occur."

Asked if he had any comment, French said, "I don't think there's anything I can say that's stronger than that statement."

Wilson couldn't be reached for comment.

In her complaint, announced in a news conference at state Republican Party headquarters last week, Wilson asserted that French improperly coordinated commercials with a union-backed campaign that supported senators of both parties who blocked Gov. Sean Parnell's oil-tax cuts.

As evidence of coordination, she cited the fact that the same bookkeeper prepared campaign reports for French and union-backed Putting Alaskans First Committee. Wilson also said it was improper that the same companies in Washington, D.C., designed commercials for both and bought time on television for both.

Both French and the committee reported the names of the bookkeeper, the Washington media advisor and the time buyer on their campaign disclosures.

French and Vince Beltrami, chairman of Putting Alaskans First and president of the Alaska AFL-CIO, had said there was nothing to Wilson's complaint. They asserted that Wilson appeared to be part of a Republican effort to help French's election opponent, Bob Bell, recover political ground after being fined by the Public Offices Commission for failing to disclose the clients of his engineering firm.

In announcing her news conference last week, Wilson said she had uncovered a "major violation of campaign election law." In her complaint, she sought an expedited hearing that she hoped would lead to an order removing French's commercials from the airwaves before the election and before the commission could rule on the merits of her complaint.

Instead, the commission directed its staff to investigate and bring the matter back for a hearing at a later date.

Reach Richard Mauer at rmauer@adn.com or 257-4345.

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