The Alaska Public Offices Commission is deliberating whether or not to subpoena Anchorage marijuana activist Charlo Greene's financial documents in an effort to understand if she might have violated campaign finance law.
The five-member commission came to no immediate conclusion Wednesday on whether to issue a subpoena to Greene -- whose legal name is Charlene Egbe -- which would force her to provide documents related to an online fundraising campaign.
The possible subpoena is only investigating Greene's actions. Greene, a former KTVA-TV reporter who quit live on air to dedicate herself to her marijuana business full-time, could face fines if the commission finds she violated campaign finance law.
Alaska law requires all entities advocating for candidates or campaigns to register with the commission. All donations and expenditures related to campaign activities must be documented with the commission. The agency will issue its recommendation on whether or not to subpoena within 10 days of the hearing, according to APOC executive director Paul Dauphinais.
Should the commission decide to issue the subpoena, it then has the power to seek judicial enforcement of the request if Greene does not comply.
Greene contends the fundraising was not done to advocate for Ballot Measure 2, the initiative that voters approved Nov. 4 to legalize recreational marijuana in Alaska. While Greene registered her Alaska Cannabis Club business with the commission Oct. 2, filing a handful of independent expenditures, she then stopped and began challenging the agency's jurisdiction over her fundraising efforts.
Greene's representation reiterated to the commissioners during the 40-minute meeting that Greene's IndieGogo campaign was to raise money for her "freedom and fairness fight" in legalizing marijuana. That's a campaign, they argued, but a separate campaign from Ballot Measure 2.
Greene contends that the fundraising was for her as an individual and business owner, and that the Alaska Public Offices Commission has no authority for records related to her own finances. The online fundraising campaign netted Greene just over $8,400.
"The (Cannabis Club) is not intended as a political entity," Greene's representative, Don Hart, told commissioners at the hearing.
"It seems like unfair prosecution for one of the smallest players in this election," said fellow Greene representative Ronda Marcy.
Both Hart and Marcy met Greene at Ballot Measure 2 hearings, which were held across the state. Both were involved in previous marijuana legalization campaigns in 2000 and 2004.
Commissioners asked questions of Greene's representatives and of Tom Lucas, APOC group campaign disclosure coordinator.
Lucas pointed out to commissioners that even businesses are still subject to campaign disclosure rules. He used BP as an example, noting that if the company advocated for or against a ballot measure or candidate, they would be required to register and file expenditures with the commission.
"The fact that it is a business entity does not take it out of the jurisdiction of the Alaska Public Offices Commission," Lucas said.
He also addressed Greene's claims that she was harassed to come into compliance by Lucas with multiple phone calls and voicemails. In an earlier commission filing, Lucas noted difficulty in reaching Greene.
"The purpose of the contact was to try to bring her into compliance as soon as possible so any civil penalties that could be growing could be stopped in their tracks," Lucas told the commission.
After the hearing Greene said if the commission decides to issue the subpoena she will continue to fight it, and that since coming out as owner of the Alaska Cannabis Club in September she has been transparent in her business dealings. But Greene contends APOC is overreaching in this matter. She said other smaller entities that advocated for the measure on Facebook don't appear to be facing similar challenges from APOC.
"We understand the position that we're put in and that we have extra scrutiny paid to us and probably will for a long time," Greene said. "But we just want to make sure we understand the position we've been put in and protect ourselves and other people's rights."