In April of last year, a cadre of "new guard" Republicans swept into leadership positions in the Alaska Republican Party, rankling some "establishment" party folks who had perhaps become used to a certain modus operandi under the long reign of party chair Randy Ruedrich. Now, chairman-elect and constitutional conservative Russ Millette may face being unseated before ever getting to properly assume the role he was voted into last year, thanks to complaints filed against him and other new party stewards by the existing Alaska Republican Party leadership.
Joining Millette in having complaints lodged against them are vice-chair-elect Debbie Brown and two district officials. If both Millette and Brown are removed from office at a party hearing resulting from the complaints, a new election will have to be held to fill their vacant seats, effectively undoing much of the coup that was pulled off by tea party and constitutional conservative Republicans in spring of 2012.
Ruedrich himself filed the complain against Brown -- who had also served as the party's vice-chair of District 34 from her home in Kasilof -- on Jan. 2. In it, he alleges that she had failed to properly apportion funds for her district in the wake of the redistricting process that shifted Alaska's electoral maps in 2011. Additionally, Debbie Brown and her husband, Jack Brown -- who served as treasurer of the district -- are accused of failing to properly report their district's earnings and expenditures to the Alaska Public Offices Commission.
"This irresponsible management of party funds by an Alaska Republican Party leader will do material harm to the Alaska Republican Party and its fund raising capabilities," the complaint said. "With access to a bigger bank account, more egregious mismanagement is a serious concern."
The charges against Millette -- filed by ARP assistant treasurer Frank McQueary -- also feature an allegation of mismanagement of funds, dating back to June of 2012, when McQueary says Millette failed to report funds collected at a re-convening of the party convention.
But other charges against Millette stem from his assertion that he is a lifelong Republican, which McQueary disputes based on Millette's voter registration history. McQueary states that Millette changed his voter affiliation to Republican only during the leadup to the state party convention in 2010 and 2012.
"During the run-up to the 2012 Presidential election," McQueary writes in the opening of the complaint, "an organized group of political activists registered as Republicans in February and March of 2012 with the express purpose of 'taking over' Republican party operations and disrupting the normal candidate selection process."
McQueary never directly connects Millette with these "activists," but the implication is clear. He asserts that some of the newly-registered Republicans were Ron Paul supporters, while still others were affiliated with the "Occupy Wall Street" movement -- a movement which was also sympathetic to a Ron Paul candidacy. McQueary accused the latter group of "...masquerading as Republicans."
As for Millette, McQueary says that he has "embarrassed" the ARP.
"[Millette] has clearly demonstrated through his actions and comments that he has neither skills nor the aptitude to lead the party," the complaint says.
McQueary said that he preferred not to comment on the complaint at this point because it was a "semi-judicial" issue now it's been filed and a hearing is planned for next week.
Ruedrich also couldn't go into detail on the individual complaints -- "we're not going to try this in the media," he said -- but did say this was an unusual set of circumstances for the party.
"There's never been a hearing, or at least I don't know of one, since 2000," Ruedrich said. "Perhaps more importantly, there hadn't been a complaint filed, or at least I don't know of one being filed, in a number of years."
Normally, in the absence or resignation of a party chairman, the vice-chair would assume the lead position. But if both Brown and Millette lose their seats, ARP rules dictate that a new meeting must be held to elect others to fill those positions.
In the meantime, Millette has assembled a defense team -- which reportedly may include failed 2010 Senate candidate Joe Miller, who was present during the leadership shakeup in April 2012 -- in anticipation of defending his rightfully-won chairmanship. Millette declined to provide official comment for this story, but an editorial written on his behalf was forwarded to Alaska Dispatch.
In it, author Sean Godfrey -- a Millette supporter -- refers to the current Republican party leadership as "old guard power mongers" and accuses them of "inflammatory rhetoric, distortions, and baseless allegations" against Millette.
"This witch-hunt is clearly just an attempt by the Machiavellian Alaska GOP establishment to subvert the will of the 2012 convention delegates," Godfrey writes.
The one point in the complaint that may have merit, Godfrey writes, is that Millette has not been wholly effective in raising money for the party during his time as Finance Chair during the leadup to his assuming the role of Chairman.
"However, this is easily mitigated by the fact that with men like Ruedrich, (ARP Treasurer Glen) Clary, and Mcqueary controlling the money, there is serious concern for how any money deposited in party coffers will be used," Godfrey says.
This is an interesting point -- rumors have been circulating in recent weeks that the Alaska Republican Party has been divvying up its funds to smaller, independently-run "subordinate" groups like the Capital City Republicans of Juneau or Anchorage Women Republicans, in hopes of preventing the incoming leadership from accessing those funds.
Tom Lucas with APOC said that money can be moved around between "subordinate" groups of a political party without limits, but those transfers must be reported. But end-of-year disclosure reports aren't due until Feb. 15, and many groups haven't filed anything since shortly before the November election, so a lot could have happened in the interim.
On Friday, Ruedrich dismissed such rumors as "red herrings."
"The party is still paying bills from the election and no funds have been transferred anywhere," he said.
A sign-waving rally supporting Millette and Brown was planned for Sunday, and the hearing was currently scheduled for the evening of Jan. 17.
Correction: This article originally stated that the rally supporting Brown and Millette was planned for Wednesday. It is actually scheduled for Sunday. We regret the error.
Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com