September 13, 2021

News: Dunleavy Puts Big Money Back Into Alaska Politics

“Governor Dunleavy Has Done Everything In His Power to Put Big Money Back By Wealthy Donors Back In Politics. His Goal Is To Allow His Special Interest Friends To Drown Out Voices of Alaskans Who Can’t Make Those Donations.”

In 2006 Alaska voters limited campaign donations to $500 per candidate, to keep wealthy donors from drowning out the voices of Alaskans with less money. “As someone who worked on that initiative, and gathered signatures, I wanted to make sure large donors didn’t use their money to silence voters who can’t afford big donations,” said Former Rep Les Gara.,_Measure_1_(August_2006).

This past Friday Governor Dunleavy took the last needed step to bring big money by wealthy donors back into politics.

“His goal has been to violate his constitutional duty to defend Alaska’s strict donation limits. He wants big money from wealthy donors back in Alaska politics. He’s taken every step he can to get rid of a voter-passed initiative that put a strict limit on big money in politics, and to avoid any accountability for his plan” said Gara. 

In July a partial 3-Judge Panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Alaska’s $500 donation limit. The 2-1 ruling was controversial. “It came with a strong dissent giving the state the basis for a strong appeal to defend our law,” said Gara of the dissenting opinion.

From that point Governor Dunleavy took four quiet but crucial steps to ensure that ruling against our donation limits would stand. He’s avoided answering any questions on why he won’t appeal.

First, he had the duty to uphold Alaska law by Appealing this ruling to the Full 9th Circuit for review. He refused to call for full court, or “En Banc”, review despite his history of filing lawsuits. He was silent when asked why he wouldn’t appeal this ruling to the full court.

Then, in a rare move, when Dunleavy refused to try to uphold Alaska’s law, the Court asked him why he wasn’t appealing. It expressly invited him to file a brief on appealing the ruling, and to try to uphold Alaska’s donation limits.

In August, during Special Session, former Rep. Les Gara and legislators called on him to at least add a bill to the Special Session Call to adopt a new acceptable $1,000 donation limit that complied with the Ninth Circuit ruling if he refused to appeal. Again, Governor Dunleavy intentionally took no action, hoping for a rule allowing wealthy donors to make unlimited campaign contributions. Governor Dunleavy refused to add a campaign finance bill to the Special Session call, knowing the Legislature did not have the 2/3 super-majority of votes needed to add the topic to the Special Session Call on its own.  He says a bill can be filed next year, knowing either none will pass, or that one will, at the earliest, pass in April or May.

He took his final needed step Friday. Despite being invited to uphold Alaska law with an appeal to the full court, his Attorney General (who isn’t shy about filing lawsuits) wrote the court saying he would not accept the invitation to appeal the case to the full court.

“Governor Dunleavy did everything he could to get rid of our voter-passed campaign donation limits. This last step – refusing a Court invitation to file an appeal to defend Alaska law – shows he’s on the side of wealthy donors, not Alaskans who voted to limit their influence,” said Gara.

Portions of that Friday brief, dressed in legal excuses for his refusal to defend our law despite an invitation from the Court, are attached here.

APOC will now have to decide whether Alaska allows for unlimited campaign donations, or, hopefully, that at least our law reverts to the pre-2006 $1,000 limit.