In Anchorage’s mayoral runoff, most independent expenditure group money is boosting just one candidate

In the runoff election to be Anchorage’s next mayor, former Assembly Chair Suzanne LaFrance has a sizable advantage in the amount of money being spent on her candidacy by independent expenditure groups. Incumbent Mayor Dave Bronson, who benefited from a deluge of spending on his behalf from political action groups in the 2021 runoff, is seeing barely any of that kind of support this time around.

In Alaska elections, candidates are required to report all of the direct donations to their campaigns, and how that money is being spent. The LaFrance and Bronson campaigns are required to file their fundraising reports with the Alaska Public Offices Commission on Tuesday, May 7.

Until those disclosures are published, there’s limited public information on how much candidates are raising, from whom, and what they are spending it on. Transactions by independent expenditure groups, which are bound by different reporting requirements, are another way of assessing where candidates’ supporters and allies are applying their resources.

Almost all of the independent expenditure group money in the mayor’s race is boosting LaFrance’s campaign. The overwhelming majority of those funds are being spent by the Putting Alaskans First Committee, a group financed through donations from Alaska labor unions. Since the election entered the runoff phase after initial results came in earlier in April, the group has spent tens of thousands of dollars supporting LaFrance and opposing Bronson.

Expenditures have included $15,000 to buy radio ads in Anchorage; $3,750 to Washington, D.C.-based Helm Research for a “voter database subscription”; $1,500 worth of staff time by Alaska AFL-CIO members to help with campaign efforts; $10,000 to the Virginia-based firm Blueprint Interactive for production of ads placed on Google and Facebook; and nearly $20,000 for direct mail to residents.

Putting Alaskans First, as well as an independent expenditure group for the Alaska Center, an environmental group, spent $5,000 each on door-to-door canvassing through an Anchorage-based company called The Mobilization Center, which describes itself as providing “a myriad of field organizing and canvassing services to support organizations and campaigns in Alaska.”

907 Action, the registered group for the 907 Initiative, which bills itself as an ethics-in-government watchdog, spent several thousand dollars heading into the April election on behalf of LaFrance and three progressive-leaning school board members. The organization has not filed any public expenditures so far during the runoff. However, on April 9 it recorded a single $9,750 donation from Paul Strasburg of Denver, Colorado.


Before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Alaska’s $500-a-year cap on contributions to campaigns in 2021, independent expenditure groups were a way for individuals to pump cash into elections by donating to groups backing their preferred politicians and causes instead of directly to candidates. Now, their role is less clear cut, with individuals both in and out of state able to cut checks for as much as they want to a candidate.

According to available state campaign finance records, it appears that just one independent expenditure group is spending to reelect Bronson. Keep It Alaska, a group emphasizing conservative principles in Alaska politics, has so far spent $3,750 on texting services in support of Bronson. Keep It Alaska’s treasurer, Thomas Datwyler, is CEO of Ax Capital, a Lower 48 company that specializes in compliance for Republican political campaigns.

[Anchorage mayoral runoff election: Q&As with Dave Bronson and Suzanne LaFrance]

It’s a starkly different funding situation for Bronson compared to 2021, when he first ran to lead the city amid widespread anger over pandemic lockdown measures and municipal proposals to spend federal COVID-19 relief dollars on homelessness and addiction treatment. During that year’s mayoral runoff between Bronson and then-Assembly member Forrest Dunbar, two separate, well-funded independent expenditure groups spent heavily on Bronson and against Dunbar, who also received significant financial support from independent expenditure groups both in and out of state that year. Open for Business Anchorage raised $83,450 to help elect Bronson, primarily driven by four- and five-figure contributions from local business owners. Most of that money went to political ads and messaging, both online as well as broadcast. Some of the money also paid for services from Republican operatives, including $4,200 paid to Judy Eledge for “voter data for mailing and texting,” according a disclosure report filed with the state.

In that same cycle, another group called Alaskans for Change received $60,000 from Kentucky businessman William J. Yung III. Some of those funds paid for legal services done on behalf of the Bronson campaign, and $43,000 went to Louisiana-based Cabildo Strategy for advertising.

Neither one of those independent expenditure groups has been active this cycle.

The next round of campaign finance disclosures will be filed with the state Tuesday.

Ballots in the runoff election were mailed earlier this week. The last day to vote is Tuesday, May 14.

Zachariah Hughes

Zachariah Hughes covers Anchorage government, the military, dog mushing, subsistence issues and general assignments for the Anchorage Daily News. He also helps produce the ADN's weekly politics podcast. Prior to joining the ADN, he worked in Alaska’s public radio network, and got his start in journalism at KNOM in Nome.