The re-election campaign for Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott is accusing the Republican Governors Association of setting up an independent expenditure group in Alaska as a "front group" so it can shield its donors and so the advertisements it's funding appear to originate in the state.
The Walker-Mallott campaign included those accusations in one of two complaints against the RGA that it filed Friday with the Alaska Public Offices Commission, the state agency that regulates campaign finance and can levy financial penalties for violations. One of the campaign's complaints is about the 2018 election and the other is about the 2014 election.
The Washington, D.C.-based RGA backs Republican candidates for governor. Walker is an independent. In response to the APOC complaints, Michael Adams, RGA general counsel, said in a statement: "The 'facts' alleged here are false, and if invited to respond by the Commission we will mount an aggressive defense."
The Walker-Mallott campaign said in its 2018 complaint that the RGA reserved ad time worth $1.5 million in Alaska for the purpose of influencing the election and without ever registering with APOC or reporting the expenditures. It said the RGA set up Families for Alaska's Future — Dunleavy as its "front group." That way, it said, RGA didn't have to publicly disclose its donors. It also makes it appear that TV ads supporting Mike Dunleavy, the Republican candidate for governor, originated in Alaska, the campaign said.
The Walker-Mallott campaign's second complaint against the RGA raises similar issues with the organization from the 2014 election.
"These complaints reveal that the RGA — over multiple years and to the tune of several million dollars — has systematically operated as an independent expenditure group for the purpose of influencing Alaska's elections, failing to satisfy the basic requirements for separating itself from the front groups it hoped to hide behind," the campaign said in a news release.
Families for Alaska's Future — Dunleavy is registered as an independent expenditure group. Those groups can raise unlimited funds from individuals and organizations, but can't coordinate with the campaigns of the candidates they're supporting or opposing.
Families for Alaska's Future is chaired by Steve Strait, a Republican businessman in Alaska. Strait declined to comment on the APOC complaints Friday because he said he had yet to review them.
The Walker-Mallott campaign asked for expedited review of its 2018 complaint. APOC set a hearing for 9 a.m. Tuesday, where a decision will be made about whether to expedite it.
The Walker-Mallott campaign had announced earlier that it also filed an APOC complaint against Families for Alaska's Future — Dunleavy. APOC rejected that complaint. That's because the campaign had delivered it to a former chair of the group, not the current one, according to Paula DeLaiarro, Walker-Mallott campaign treasurer. DeLaiarro said the campaign would deliver it to the current chair, Strait, on Monday.