State Republican Party short of money, removes 2 staffers from payroll

The Alaska Republican Party has taken a pair of paid staffers off the payroll, laying off one, and stepped up its fundraising efforts amid a financial report to GOP leaders that showed less than $40 in its general operating account.

The party's executive director, Josh Walton, is still on the job but now works as a volunteer, while the state GOP no longer has an office manager, said Tuckerman Babcock, the state party chairman.

The Republicans still reported $100,000 in the party's state account in July, according to a handout obtained by Alaska Dispatch News. But nearly all of that cash is tied up in sub-accounts for individual districts and state House and Senate campaigns.

The party can grant as much as $100,000 to its gubernatorial candidate in next year's race, in which the GOP aims to unseat incumbent Bill Walker, a Republican-turned-independent who ran with a Democrat, Byron Mallott, who's now lieutenant governor.

"The concern was pretty broad," said Ric Davidge, a GOP district chairman from Anchorage. "It was sort of a wake-up call."

Since the August meeting, several lobbyists said they'd been approached by GOP leaders with requests for cash.

But two of the state's top Republican officials, party chairman Babcock and vice chairman Rick Whitbeck, downplayed concerns about GOP finances and said their fundraising efforts were on track. They said the report at the August meeting gave a snapshot of a single point in time, and that the party had raised an additional $24,000 in the following three weeks.

"The first quarter is not the time to go fundraising — it's just not. And the summer is a tough time," Whitbeck said. "I'm not sure there's any there there."

The party's paid staff "can be a benefit," Babcock said, but added that "too high a proportion of what we were raising" was going to payroll.

Other Republican district chairs said they were satisfied by the amount of cash raised by party leaders. They also pointed out that Alaska is in the middle of a recession, and that much of the money that will be spent on the gubernatorial campaign is expected to come from Outside sources like the independent expenditure groups made possible by the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision.

"Why would I be concerned about it when I know there's going to be $10 million coming from national sources?" asked Jon Faulkner, a Republican district leader from Homer. "I don't particularly like it, but it is what we have."

On Friday, Republicans announced a fundraiser for later this month featuring Bob Paduchik, co-chair of the Republican National Committee. The recommended donation is $250, but the price includes two free drink tickets.

The Alaska Democratic Party reported $53,000 in its state account in its latest campaign finance disclosure, dated Tuesday — though no Democratic candidates have filed to run for governor.

Walker, the incumbent, held his first campaign fundraiser Tuesday and brought in more than $40,000, according to campaign spokeswoman Lindsay Hobson.