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APOC, marijuana activist Charlo Greene clash over campaign disclosure questions

  • Author: Suzanna Caldwell
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published November 13, 2014

Alaska officials are still trying to determine whether Anchorage marijuana activist Charlo Greene violated campaign finance laws.

After more than a month of back and forth with Greene, the Alaska Public Offices Commission will hold a hearing next week to review whether it has the authority to subpoena Greene for records related to fundraising for the Alaska Cannabis Club.

Greene abruptly quit her job as a television reporter live on air to devote herself to fighting for "freedom and fairness" in marijuana reform, revealing herself to be the president and CEO of the Alaska Cannabis Club, a group looking to connect marijuana with medical marijuana patients -- and on which she had reported without disclosing her connection.

According to agenda documents released by APOC, in order to better understand whether Greene was in compliance with campaign disclosure laws, the commission asked Greene in early October to produce documents related to her IndieGogo fundraising campaign. That campaign netted the Cannabis Club with over $8,400 in donations.

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 submitted to the commission.

While Greene registered her group with the commission on Oct. 2, filing a handful of independent expenditures, she then stopped and began challenging the agency's jurisdiction over her fundraising efforts.

In an interview Thursday, Greene contended that she filed with the organization to comply with finance disclosure laws for the small amount of advocating she did do for the marijuana effort. But, she says, the IndieGogo campaign should not be subject to APOC reporting requirements because it was fundraising for her organization, not the ballot measure.

She reiterated that stance in a series of emails and memos the agency submitted as part of the APOC commissioner's meeting agenda.

"The goal stated is and always has been 'working toward marijuana reform in Alaska and the nation.' No where (sic) in the campaign are the words 'Vote Yes on 2' or any other statements made in direct favor of the measure," Greene wrote in an Oct. 13 email to Thomas Lucas, APOC campaign disclosure coordinator.

In a later email, included as part of the commission's filing, Lucas disagreed, citing at least two instances of what he believes are active campaigning from the group in support of Ballot Measure 2 listed on Greene's IndieGogo website.

In one citation, Lucas notes a passage from the IndieGogo site saying "Ballot measure 2 ... isn't just about marijuana in the Last Frontier, it's about keeping the ball rolling on national legalization. Imagine, if after Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational marijuana and offering the rest of the world a positive outlook on what (ending) marijuana prohibition can do, Alaskan voters fail to continue moving our nation in the direction toward freedom and fairness."

Lucas tells Greene this is clearly advocating for marijuana legalization, and that a later passage even shows Greene as saying few people are as "completely dedicated to passing the initiative" as she is. Lucas adds that this phrase makes it clear that contributions she is soliciting will be used to help pass Ballot Measure 2.

In a follow-up email, Greene disagrees with what she calls Lucas' "misinterpretation of said facts."

"I meant what I wrote when I said this was about 'marijuana reform in Alaska and the nation.' I never said this was about ballot measure 2."

She said the quote on Washington and Colorado proves her movement is about keeping the movement going nationally, not just in Alaska, making it clear in her opinion that the purpose of the IndieGogo campaign is not solely for advocating on the Alaska initiative.

At the end of the email she adds a request that Lucas "please stop harassing" her while she's on her "personal mission to bring about marijuana reform across the globe."

Greene challenges the subpoena again on Oct. 28, saying the commission has no authority to "intimidate (her) into a providing information which APOC has no right to or jurisdiction over with an administrative subpoena ...

"Don't contact me again unless you're to apologize or take this to court, after which I will most certainly file a civil suit for the harassment perpetuated by APOC that I have documented extensively," she wrote.

Greene writes that Lucas contacted her nine times in one week and left her four voice messages where he "threatens to fine me tens of thousands of dollars and possible jail time for my private business' FACEBOOK page and the 90+ minute phone conversation in which Mr. Lucas is clearly heard misrepresenting APOC duties, jurisdiction and reach in an attempt to manipulate me into offering information APOC has no legal authority over."

APOC notes that early in its investigation the organization had difficulty contacting Greene.

In an attached memo to the Oct. 28 email, written to APOC staff by Greene (writing under her legal name, Charlene Egbe), she notes that IndieGogo is an international crowdfunding site based in California and that APOC has no jurisdiction over its records.

She also notes that the Alaska Cannabis Club has a global mission, saying its mission is similar to Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Campaign for Human Justice, among others. She notes that the campaign has not donated to a political entity in Alaska, individually or collectively.

The commission will review the matter at its Nov. 19 meeting. A memo from Lucas analyzing the recommendation asks commissioners to deny Greene's objection to the subpoena and order her and the Alaska Cannabis Club to comply with producing the records and to seek "judicial enforcement" if she or the club refuses.

Greene has the option of participating. In an interview Thursday, Greene said she was unsure if she would attend. However, she remains firm in her objection to subpoena. Greene said she didn't even receive the funds from the IndieGogo account until three weeks after the fundraising effort ended -- about one week before the election.

"I had nothing to do with the campaign (for Ballot Measure 2)," she said. "(APOC) is saying the IndieGogo was formed for the ballot measure, and it wasn't. It was formed for our freedom and fairness fight, which didn't end on Nov. 4 because marijuana is still not legal across the entire nation."

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