Politics

AFL-CIO launches independent expenditure group devoted to governor race

The umbrella labor organization in Alaska has formed the equivalent of a super PAC to advocate in favor of Bill Walker's gubernatorial campaign.

The Alaska AFL-CIO recently formed "Alaskans for Walker Mallott," and the group has about $160,000 in the bank, said Vince Beltrami, president of the labor organization and chair of the independent expenditure group.

About one-third of that money comes from the labor organization, said Beltrami. The two other top supporters are Anchorage attorney Robin Brena and Barney Gottstein, a former partner in the old Carrs Quality Centers. Both men contributed money to support the tax-cut repeal referendum that failed during the August 19 primary election.

Beltrami said this is the labor organization's first time creating an independent expenditure group focused on a governor's race. Independent expenditure groups are like federal super PACs in that they can accept contributions of any size, as long as they do not coordinate with candidates.

Beltrami said his "phone has been ringing off the hook" with others wanting to donate, and said about another $40,000 has been committed but is not yet in the bank. All the group's contributions are from Alaskans or Alaska organizations, he said.

Three of the independent expenditure groups registered with the Alaska Public Offices Commission name a candidate -- meaning all the money they raise can be used to support that candidate, said Paul Dauphinais, executive director of APOC.

Those three groups are all for Walker or his running mate, Byron Mallott.

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One is a small group formed by a couple of men from Willow called "Walker for Alaska's Future." The group had raised a little more than the $1,245 last reported in July, said chairman Bill Arterburn. It plans to at least buy online advertising and possibly radio ads.

Another independent expenditure group -- "Mallott-One Alaska PAC" -- reported in August that it had raised $50,000 and had spent nearly all of that with Trippi and Associates, a media firm based in Washington, D.C. Steve Boyd is listed as the treasurer of that group. Attempts to reach that group were unsuccessful.

None of the 19 independent expenditure groups registered with APOC name Walker's opponent, incumbent Gov. Sean Parnell, said Dauphinais.

An independent expenditure group formed in part to support Parnell -- "Alaskans for Economic Stability" -- will be closed down, said founder Randy Ruedrich, former Alaskan Republican Party chairman.

The group was created about 10 days ago to support the Parnell ticket and legislative candidates. Ruedrich, who had the idea for the organization, said he is dissolving it.

Since Parnell's name is not in the title, no more than two-thirds of the funding could have been used to support Parnell and oppose Walker, said Ruedrich. The remaining one-third would have been used to support several other legislative candidates, he said. Supporting so many candidates would have required too much paperwork, he said.

"Before you got very far down that road, you realize we would be primarily a paper-shuffling shop rather than a public information entity," he said.

He also pointed out that other groups already support Republican legislative candidates, such as the Alaska Prosperity Project, the independent expenditure group created by ProsperityAlaska, as well as state party organizations.

"Alaskans for Economic Stability" had raised less than $3,000, much of it coming from Ruedrich, he said.

Asked whether he would form another group to fully support Parnell, Ruedrich said it was too early to know what would come next.

As for the AFL-CIO's new political group, Beltrami said Tuesday it released its first ad called "History," with running mate Mallott describing why he joined forces with Walker. The video is currently on YouTube, and Beltrami said efforts are underway to get the commercial on cable TV as soon as possible.

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or alex@adn.com.

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