Native groups, unions put cash behind effort to link PFD, voter registration

The group behind the initiative to merge voter registration with Alaskans' Permanent Fund dividend applications has pulled in another $45,000 from unions, Alaska Native groups and the campaign committee of Forrest Dunbar -- a former candidate for U.S. Congress.

In a report filed Monday, the campaign reported donations of $5,000 from Doyon, the Tanana Chiefs Conference and Get Out the Native Vote; $10,000 from the National Education Association; and $5,000 from a political action committee of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Retired Alaska Supreme Court justice Walt Carpeneti gave $250. And Dunbar, who recently announced he was running for Anchorage Assembly, gave $4,500 in funds left over from his federal campaign committee.

Dunbar, a Democrat, said in a phone interview Tuesday that he was in the process of closing the federal committee as he shifts his focus to his Assembly campaign; he gave another $2,000 left over from his House bid last year to programs of Bean's Cafe, the Anchorage soup kitchen.

Dunbar is also a deputy treasurer of the voter registration initiative.

The initiative currently claims a broad, left-leaning coalition of support, with other officers that include Sitka Democratic Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, political consultant Jim Lottsfeldt and officials from unions and Alaska Native groups.

If it passes, the initiative would automatically register dividend applicants to vote -- a move that backers say would add as many as 70,000 people to the state's voter rolls.

To qualify for the 2016 ballot, the group behind the initiative says it must submit 28,500 petition signatures to the office of the lieutenant governor by mid-January. In its disclosure filed Monday, the group said it spent $33,000 on signature gathering, and it also reported a $6,000 signature-gathering debt.

Nathaniel Herz

Anchorage-based independent journalist Nathaniel Herz has been a reporter in Alaska for nearly a decade, with stints at the Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Public Media. Read his newsletter, Northern Journal, at natherz.substack.com