The board in charge of Alaska’s campaign finance laws confirmed a $38,500 fine against Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson’s election campaign on Monday for filing inaccurate campaign expenditure reports during his runoff election against Forrest Dunbar.
The fine may be paid, appealed to state courts, or Bronson could ask for the Alaska Public Offices Commission to reconsider its decision. The commission is in charge of enforcing state campaign laws.
Bronson’s attorneys did not answer an email or phone call Monday afternoon.
“I hope it sends a strong message to campaigns that this type of behavior is not to be tolerated,” said Paula DeLaiarro, who performed compliance work for the Dunbar campaign and filed the complaint against Bronson.
According to the commission’s final order, the fine could have been higher, but commissioners declined to fine Bronson for failing to promptly return donations that were larger than the maximum allowed by law.
That’s because a three-judge panel on the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled many of Alaska’s maximum contributions unconstitutional. While that decision is not final and may be reconsidered by the full court, commissioners voted against a fine “due to the very high likelihood that the Ninth Circuit’s recent decision overturning that limit will stand.”
Commissioners did uphold fines for failing to properly report campaign spending until after Bronson won the election in May. Among the most significant faults, Bronson’s campaign failed to properly disclose its advertising relationship with Republican strategist and consultant Art Hackney and failed to say how Hackney and another contractor were advertising on behalf of Bronson.
In a preliminary report, regulatory staff said the extent of the failures meant “the public had no idea what was going on in the (Bronson For Mayor) campaign until well after the April 6, 2021 election and the May 11, 2021 runoff election.”
Regulatory staff typically recommend large fines that are then reduced by commissioners, but in Bronson’s case, commissioners upheld the maximum fine allowed by law.
According to Monday’s final order, “Staff emphasized the pervasiveness of the violations and the fact that the commissioner gave (the campaign) an opportunity ... to ‘expeditiously correct’ the issues before the runoff election. But staff pointed out that despite filing a total of 17 amendments ... (the campaign) never fully complied with its reporting obligations.”
In a separate action, the board approved a $50 fine against Bronson for a different violation; commission staff had previously recommended a $500 penalty. As of Monday, the commission had not published its decision on another $33,500 in penalties for Bronson proposed in two separate actions, but that figure could be similarly reduced.