NO NATURAL HOME ON THE RANGE: Both Democrats and Republicans have fundraisers in Juneau tonight, and the buzz around the Capitol is — where will the Musk Ox Republicans go?
To the Republican fundraiser at the Hangar Ballroom, or will they stop in at the Juneau City Museum, where their new allies are –the Democrats who have taken over the majority in the House?
The Musk Ox have gone over to the Democrats in a pure, unadultrated grab for power. It was a dangerous play because the Democrats barely need them, and the Republicans are now furious with them.
Rules Chair Gabrielle LeDoux, still a Republican, is now the titular leader of the Musk Ox Caucus, a group that includes Reps. Louise Stutes of Kodiak and Paul Seaton of Homer, who landed himself the plum job of Finance co-chair.
One other Musk Ox was thinned out in the election when Republican George Rauscher knocked off Jim Colver to restore a conservative to District 9.
With her now-open purse, where she is gathering lobbyists’ money, LeDoux is becoming the new Bill Allen of Juneau.
Those with a Biblical frame of mind may recall the vivid New Testament story of how Jesus stormed the Temple of Jerusalem, violently overturning the moneylenders’ tables and shouting that they’d turned a place of worship into a “den of thieves.”
The Capitol may be no temple, but Rep. LeDoux, with her newly minted political action committee, “Gabby’s Tuesday PAC,” and Rep. Seaton, with his “Sustain Alaska” slush fund, have gotten the Den of Thieves part down pat.
LeDoux is a sharp lawyer who found a money-laundering loophole in state campaign finance law. That loophole lets her collect money from lobbyists who have business with the Alaska Legislature, and give it to other legislators who will join with her and vote the way she wants them to.
She created her “Gabby’s Tuesday PAC” last July, purportedly to support “common sense conservative candidates.” She quickly collected $5,000 from lobbyists, then funneled the money to legislative candidates.
In a more genteel age, Gabrielle LeDoux might have been described as a Republican “of easy virtue.”
She was a Democrat when she ran and lost to Gary Stevens for Alaska State House in 2000.
She was a Democrat when she ran, won and served as Kodiak Island Borough mayor from 2001-04.
She was a Republican when she ran and won and served as a state representative from Kodiak from 2005-2009.
She ran and lost as a Republican against Rep. Don Young in 2007.
When she packed her carpet bag and moved to Muldoon in 2009, she was a Republican, first losing to Democrat Pete Peterson, then beating Democrat Kay Rollison.
Since she and other Musk Ox refused to consider using Permanent Fund earnings to help fill the state budget gap in 2015, she has been actively consorting with Democrats.
Shortly after Election Day 2016, her end game became clear: She abandoned her Republican colleagues and principles, and took two Republicans with her to join a caucus in return for the chairmanship of the powerful Rules Committee, with near-total control over what bills even make it to the House floor for a vote.
The combination of her PAC and her new legislative job make Gabrielle LeDoux like the mobster who visits a lobbyist’s office and says, “Nice little business you’ve got here. It’d be a real shame if anything should happen to it – like, for instance, if you weren’t able to get in to see legislators with the power to pass bills your clients want. Oh, incidentally, my Gabby’s Tuesday PAC is accepting contributions from lobbyists, especially smart lobbyists like you. The maximum annual contribution is $500. We’re holding a fundraiser next week. See you there?”
Alaskans generally don’t like “pay to play” politics, and thought they had made such legislative money laundering illegal.
Alaskans didn’t want lobbyists to be able to buy influence with legislators by making campaign contributions to legislators, in hopes of currying favor with clients paying tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to lobbyists.
Alaskans thought they had made it illegal for a legislator to demand that a lobbyist contribute to his or her campaign, as a condition of being able to ply their trade of seeking to inform or influence legislation in the interests of their clients.
Alaskans were wrong.
Even Democrats know this money-laundering loophole stinks. Back when Gabby was running for re-election as a Republican, the Alaska Democrat Party objected to her PAC plan in a complaint to the Alaska Public Offices Commission. Once Gabrielle traded sides, and APOC ruled Gabby’s PAC legal on a technicality, however, Democrats have not only forgiven her, but embraced her PAC tactics.
On Dec. 10, 2016, Gabrielle held a held a fundraiser to raise even more money for her money-laundering PAC, and to pay campaign debt for by Democrats Harriet Drummond, Dean Westlake and Zach Fansler.
They were joined by Rep. Paul Seaton of Homer, another Republican who won a plum job — as Finance Committee co-chair — after defecting to caucus with the Democrats. Seaton even followed LeDoux’s lead by forming his own money laundering PAC, the “Sustain Alaska Fund.”
Alaskans who supported a bipartisan House Coalition in hopes it would inspire a new bipartisan spirit of cooperation, bring an end to politics as usual, and maybe even, as the Democratic bumper sticker says, get “Big Money OUT of Alaska Politics,” should be concerned.
Some who they championed have made it their first order of business to turn the Alaska State Capitol into a marble money-laundering temple, and the Alaska House of Representatives into a house of ill repute.