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Politics

LeDoux's new fundraising effort targets lobbyists, bar owners

  • Author: Nathaniel Herz
  • Updated: August 11, 2016
  • Published August 10, 2016

Alaska campaign finance law bars lobbyists from donating to Anchorage Republican Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux's re-election campaign, or any other legislative campaign, unless they live in the candidate's district.

But that hasn't stopped LeDoux from collecting $500 checks from them anyway, using a new political action committee she created last month.

In the committee's first disclosure, filed Tuesday, LeDoux reported raising $7,800, with $5,000 coming from lobbyists, some of whom are the most powerful in the state.

She in turn transferred more than $5,500 to the campaigns of incumbent Republican lawmakers and a handful of challengers.

In a phone interview Wednesday, LeDoux said her new committee, Gabbie's Tuesday PAC, is akin to the leadership PACs used by federal politicians.

Those PACs — Republican U.S. Sens. Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski each have them — are often used to make donations to colleagues in Congress with the hope of building clout and loyalties that can help lawmakers ascend to leadership positions.

LeDoux, an attorney, said she cleared her new fundraising activity with state campaign finance regulators. And she dismissed a question about whether she was angling for a leadership spot in the next House organization, after the fall election.

"The law is clear and I'm doing everything legally," said LeDoux, who faces no primary challenger and one Democratic opponent in November. She added: "At this point, I'm not even thinking about organization — I'll think of organization after the primary, and after I complete my election."

Lobbyists reacted to the formation of LeDoux's PAC with bemused respect.

"Frankly, I think you've got to give her an attaboy for having the desire and energy to raise money and support the candidates that she believes in," said lobbyist Ashley Reed, who donated $500 to LeDoux's group.

The limits on lobbyists' donations to candidates stems from 1996 campaign finance reforms passed by the Legislature. At the time, the idea met with little resistance from lobbyists, said one of its proponents, former Democratic legislator David Finkelstein.

"The most frequent comment was, 'I'd be very glad to have legislators not hitting me up for money any more,' " Finkelstein said in a phone interview from Tucson, Arizona, where he lives now.

The idea of lawmakers soliciting contributions from lobbyists for their own PACs amounts to an attempt at an "end-run of the law," Finkelstein added.

"Attempting to have individual, legislative leadership PACs undermines the concepts behind the campaign finance reforms," said Finkelstein. "You could have their 60 leadership PACs as a conduit for hundreds of thousands of dollars getting around the current limits."

Paul Dauphinais, the director of the Alaska Public Offices Commission, the state agency charged with overseeing campaign finance laws, said he couldn't recall a similar fundraising effort, though he added: "She can do it."

But LeDoux predicted her PAC would spawn others.

"I suspect that by next year, there's probably going to be about a half dozen people who will have them," she said.

Contributions to LeDoux's PAC came from lobbyists whose clients include labor groups, oil and gas companies, and cigar and tobacco companies. She also collected $500 donations from three bar owners.

LeDoux earlier this year drew criticism for blocking legislation that would have created a statewide indoor smoking ban. But she rejected the idea she'd be influenced by a $500 contribution.

"If somebody came to me and said, 'I donated to your PAC, I need a favor,' I would say, 'Get the hell out of my office and don't come back again,' " LeDoux said.

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