D.C. dark money pours into effort to block an Alaska Constitutional Convention

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By HAYDEN LUDWIG | CAPITAL RESEARCH GROUP

As the country prepares to head to the polls this November, Alaskans will also be asked if they want to hold a constitutional convention to decide important issues like reapportioning the Permanent Fund dividend, which has become a charged issue in recent years. 

As you might expect, where money’s involved D.C. special interests aren’t far behind.

The main group opposing the convention is Defend Our Constitution, which has been described as a “bipartisan” mix of Republican lawmakers, ex-Attorney General Bruce Botelho, and Big Labor. 

The group’s website explains that it was formed to stop “outside special interest groups and dark money” from promoting their own agenda over that of Alaskans. 

Left unmentioned is its top contributor: the “dark money” group Sixteen Thirty Fund, which dumped a cool $500,000—you read that right—into Defend Our Constitution’s coffers in July, accounting for 61 percent of the latter’s contributions since December 2021.

That name shouldn’t sound familiar… and that’s the point. Sixteen Thirty Fund is part of a $1.7 billion political machine run by Arabella Advisors, a D.C.-based consultancy for liberal mega-donors, many of whom share the same last name: Foundation.

It’s unclear why Arabella is mixed up in the convention fight. But after more than three years of tracking and reporting on this “dark money” giant, I’m certain of one thing: Left-wing donors choose Arabella because they want to fund politics, not philanthropy

The Arabella empire specializes in funneling secret money to the Left’s most extreme causes, including packing the Supreme Court with “progressive” justices and granting statehood to D.C. One of the network’s creations, States Newsroom, is already spreading partisan news to Juneau, Anchorage, and other cities across Alaska. 

Incredibly, this machine went totally unnoticed by the mainstream media until the Capital Research Center exposed it in 2019. Since then, Arabella’s become the poster child of “dark money” and its activist campaigns have been dragged into the light.

Because most of the Arabella network’s donors remain hidden, we don’t know who channeled the $500,000 grant through Sixteen Thirty Fund to Defend Our Constitution, or why. 

But we do know that the same sort of professional operatives we’ve exposed in the past are working on overdrive to defeat Alaska’s convention measure.

As of late August, Defend Our Constitution had spent over $278,000 in independent expenditures (largely campaign ads) opposing the measure since January. In comparison, the measure’s main backer, ConventionYes, has spent less than $5,000, according to steering committee member Jim Minnery. It doesn’t expect to spend much more than that.

On Aug. 9 alone, Defend Our Constitution dumped $18,634 into social media ads through Yuit Communications, an Anchorage-based P.R. firm with staffers drawn from the congressional campaign of Alyse Gavin (D) and Gov. Walker’s (I) administration.

Amazingly, no fewer than nine—almost half—of Defend Our Constitution’s board members come from Ship Creek Group, a prominent Democratic full-service campaign consultancy. The company’s website boasts voter registration and campaign services for a host of Democratic or left-leaning politicians, including congresswoman-elect Mary Peltola (D), former Anchorage Assemblyman John Weddleton, and state house candidate Genevieve Mina (D), whose resumé boasts “engaging historically low-voter turnout neighborhoods” in the 2018 election (translation: likely Democratic voters).

Ship Creek Group was founded in 2015 by political operative John-Henry Heckendorn—also present on Defend Our Constitution’s board—an ex-Walker political aide who managed the governor’s failed 2018 reelection campaign. 

Defeat aside, Washington elites were entranced by Heckendorn, whom liberal Politico gushed over as “reviving progressivism” in Alaska in an article titled “How to Turn a Red State Purple (Democrats Not Required).”

Here’s the bottom line: There’s more to this ballot question than meets the eye. 

Deciding on a constitutional convention isn’t a simple black-and-white issue. Alaskans should weigh the merits for themselves—and that starts with having all the facts.

Hayden Ludwig is a senior investigative researcher for the Capital Research Center.

54 COMMENTS

  1. The main reasons Republican swine want an Constitutional Convention is to make abortion illegal, and eliminate the PFD. Anti-abortion for the Church Lady, and elimination the PFD for the oil and gas industry.

    • Rubbish. Everything that happens at a convention must be line item ratified by a vote of the people. Doesnt matter what anyone wants, nothing changes without a majority of support from the people of Alaska. If you think a majority of people would vote to eliminate the PFD, you’re drunk or stoned. And the sad truth is that passing an outright abortion ban would also likely not be ratified by the people of Alaska. What MIGHT pass is badly needed judicial selection reform, formally constitutionalizing the PFD, and a balanced budget law that forces the state to live within its means. Your bogeyman argument is utter rubbish, both on principle and on likely outcome.

      • Constitutional Convention? (Laughing till my sides hurt)

        Never gonna happen.

        We all know the cannabis industry is part of the Alaskan coalition of privacy rights and reproductive autonomy advocates who want Article 1, Section 22 UNTOUCHED.

        • What makes you think Article 1, Section 22 will be touched?
          Is there some requirement to alter every article and section that I am not aware of?

    • No. This conservative wants election integrity, reforming Supreme Court selection, PFD protection in the constitution and resource extraction and development. I would also like to see all communities fund at least part of their own education.

    • Liar, liar, pants on fire. Just like Mary Peltola. Your “Republican swine” comment marks you as nothing more than a troll and shill for the Left.

    • We have so many problems right now and people like you still prioritize killing babies and getting a couple thousand dollars as your main concern. Yes, we can have Democrats run everything. If that does become the case you better seriously stock up on food, warm clothing, water purifiers, and a firearm. You’ll need all of these and probably more.

      • It’s none of your business what decisions women make about their reproductive choices. We are not chattel nor are we state property.

        When men relinquish control of their reproductive and sexual choices, maybe we can talk.

        Otherwise, take your arrogant, patriarchal attitude, any Stepford wife and daughters you have — and buzz off!

        • Sophie, your arrogant bitterness, rabid intolerance and sheer hatred of all those who believe differently than you is simply off the charts. Seek help, for your own sake, if not for the sake of all those around you and who must deal with you.
          .
          Be all that as it may, you, along with every other radical leftist extremist, simply can NEVER acknowledge the even potential validity of abortion being the taking of an innocent life. You, as a woman, are free to reproduce all you want — that is not in question. Your ability to kill the life that you thereby create is in question, however, no matter how much you try to obfuscate the fundamental issue.

        • “No murderer shall enter the kingdom of heaven.”
          Abortions of convenience is murder, no matter whatever label is used to make it sound better.
          Are you going to keep count of yours, or will all your abortions be no big deal to you?

        • In my world, there are 3 people involved with a pregnancy: Mom, who carries the child, Dad, who is expected to pay the bills thru age 18-22, and the child, who nobody speaks for. In your world, Mom is the ONLY one with a say in the discussion, something I believe to be woefully misguided. Cheers –

        • “It’s none of your business what decisions women make about their reproductive choices.”
          Absolutely correct, and I agree 100… no 1,000%. Right up until conception.
          .
          The moment a man and a woman are involved in creating a new human life, they BOTH have a say. It does not matter which individual is carrying the baby, it matters that both are the parents. If the father can be forced under the law to pay for the child’s upbringing, the father also has a say in the child’s life before it is born.
          .
          Go on, tell me the man has no say in whether his child is aborted. If you think that is the case, than the man has no obligation to that child either.
          .
          What do you want? Unfettered rights to do with an unborn child whatever you will, whenever you want, or father’s to hold responsibility for the children?

        • Blah! Blah! Blah! Talk about arrogant – you and your ilk are the epitome of arrogance. You sound like a screeching, hate-filled, dark hearted harpy. Killing babies is abhorrent. But, I’ll tell you what, if that’s what you want to do, that’s between you, your god and your doctor. Just stop expecting the taxpayers to pay for it. Of course, godless idiots like you only care about yourselves.

    • Lies. Abortion is essentially murder and should not be treated as birth control. Abortion should be illegal as birth control. If a woman is raped or her life is in danger then at th very very earlier an abortion should be allowed to protect the mother but only then, and that is still allowed. Conservatives want the full pfd. It is progressives stealing it. You need to do your homework. Or perhaps you are just a troll trying to get people to respond.

      • Elizabeth- You never been raped before and pregnant as a result of the action. I am glad you never experienced it. You being a woman may think differently. Losing a child from rape is the same as when the baby dies by natural causes. The woman never sees how the baby looks and thats a hard reality while seeing children running around living life. When there are mothers who decided to give up their life if the baby had a chance to live longer than killing the pregnacy if that would be the last pregnancy she could ever have. Intentionally killing a baby under all circumstances is wrong. In life there are no do-overs.

        • Jen:
          I think, if you read Elizabeth’s comment closely, she is not saying abortion of a child due to rape should be mandatory or anything like that. I think she is leaving up to the mother, obviously based on the rest of her statements, as a last resort.
          .
          Using abortion as a form of birth control is not justified. Using abortion for convenience, is not justified. In the case of a child conceived in rape, there is the question of the mother’s mental health, as well as the child’s life. A decision that I do not want to see prohibited by law.
          .
          And, the woman who aborts a child conceived through a rape will have to live with those consequences. But, those are her consequences to endure.

      • The church’s position on birth control is based on a misinterpretation of the Biblical story of Onan:

        Onan had an older brother named Er, whom died without leaving a male heir. Judah was Onan’s and Er’s father.
        Genesis 38: 8, 9, 10 – “And Judah said to Onan, Go in to your brother’s wife and marry her, and raise up seed to your brother. And Onan knew that the seed would not be his. And it happened when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his semen to the ground, not giving seed to his brother. (Deut 25:5-10) And what he did was evil in the sight of God…”

        Onan’s punishment had nothing to do with contraception, and all to do with his denying his deceased brother of an lawful heir. Without an male heir, the widow of Er had no claim to Er’s estate. Onan knew this, and was being greedy, wanting Er’s estate for himself.

        The most relevant admonition in the Bible about birth control is to not have sex during the women’s monthly. Even though the egg is being passed out of the body, it can still be fertilized; resulting in a living soul, dying needlessly. This is a strong indicator that our creator recognizes the moment of conception as the beginning of life, a living soul.

    • Spin it as wildly you wish. Abortion isn’t an issue in Alaska. Theft of Alaskans PFD by the Walker regime and subsequent lawlesslatures, yeah, there’s the beef. These dark money outsiders want Alaskans in poverty, jobless and cheap labor for their fancy lodges and eco-tourism. They don’t want to live here and really don’t care whether you can continue. Please don’t try to palm off the Democrat Party’s hatred of our statuatory PFM share on the party you so hate and fear.

    • Apparently you haven’t been paying attention. It has been democrats, led by Bill Walker’s initial veto of the statutory PFD stealing PFD since 2015. But thanks for playing. Cheers –

  2. Sounds like MRAK should be pushing to overturn Citizens United and outlaw PACs and Super PACs, but I still haven’t seen that article. In other news, it appears that the left is getting much more organized than the right and it seems likely that will only further exacerbate the Alaska Republican Party’s meltdown–do they pour resources into trying to overturn Ranked Choice Voting or supporting a constitutional convention? (Trick question: They’re going to spend the coming weeks tearing down the other Republican in the upcoming election race.)

    • MRAK is a news blog, nothing else. That Suzanne has an occasional personal opinion is her right. That does not make MRAK any sort of activist agency.
      There are dozens of activist groups trying to get Citizens United overturned, along with PACs.
      If MRAK becomes just another activist agency, like ADN and FDNM, I will go elsewhere for just the news; Who, What, When, Where.

  3. I’m a Republican member of the Convention YES steering committee. I am not a swine. I’m involved because I want the PFD in the Constitution, where Gov. Jay Hammond wanted it. I was one of Hammond’s principle political lieutenants, and the PFD is his legacy. Putting the dividend in the Constitution takes it out of the hands of the legislature, which has an inherent conflict of interest. Money that goes to the PFD is unavailable for the legislature to spend. And the Alaska legislature wants to spend every nickel it can.

    Please vote yes on the Convention, to protect the dividend, and ensure it’s available to future generations. It’s an Alaska cost of living adjustment (COLA) and a way for citizens to get a small share of Alaska’s resource wealth.

    • Agree with you 100%. Craig Campbell laid it out nicely on KENI radio the other morning, and I hope Convention YES can get radio ads out consistently telling the truth about why a Constitutional Convention is necessary. The downright LIES that come out of many of these NO ads is so disturbing.
      Come PFD time on 9/20, I plan on making a donation to Convention YES!

      • One thing that would help would be for MRAK to remove/disavow the “No on 1” ads that appear on her blog.

        Suzanne Downing…

        • Our state of affairs is BROKEN, our courts are controlled by the alaska bar association, our elections are controlled by dominion, and the 113% of eligible voters, not to mention the anchorage’s assemblies phony ballot mail out scam. Juneau is only convenient to lobbyists who work against regular citizens, one newspaper and one tv station for the majority of population and don’t hold your breath for actual reporting unless you want to know about a new flavor of cup cake at the school. .. don’t count on maria downey or keni radio ?news? for a true explanation of the convention process. Socialist democrats must be proud of this dystopia and willing to spend soros et.al money unlimited to continue their dissection of society.
          Who would vote yes on 1 to change this wonderful situation. For too many, a slow death is preferable to standing up for anything worthwhile.

    • I do remember that, and I thought “there is no law, no matter how well written that will stop dark money from flowing freely. Every time you stop it there, three more avenues will get flooded with it.”

  4. Know your place serfs. Alaska exists to be a national park to your betters.

    How dare you peasants think you should have a voice in how your state run.

  5. Wasn’t eliminating dark money supposedly part of that awful ranked choice voting proposition? The one that had 3 separate items that made it illegal to even be on the ballot as one. Time for a convention to fix this stuff.

  6. I thought Ranked Choice Voting was supposed to eliminate dark money. That’s what the ads said. A constitutional convention will be a disaster for Alaska. The libs/communists/socialists/democrats will stack the convention, the conservatives will stay home or keep working at their jobs, and we’ll end up with a worker’s utopia like California or New York or worse. No thanks.

  7. Am about as Republican as they come… That said, the last thing I think we need is a constituional convention. Can you imagine the craziness that could result from a loud, vocal minority running wild rewriting our Constitution while Outside dark money political entities pour huge funds into misleading advertising that pushes Alaskans to vote for radical changes? Look no further than our new ranked-choice voting mess for an example. While saving the PFD is a noble goal, am not thinking it is worth opening Pandora’s box.

  8. Statehood for DC and a Progressive SCOTUS is not happening anytime soon, why would anyone worry about an outfit like Arabella that chases pipe dreams?

  9. First let’s make a correction….that group was SELF described as bipartisan.

    Next let’s state the obvious…..

    Anywhere you find Both Bruce Botelho and Big Labor, you will not find a conservative.

  10. See how much money the multi millionaires or billionaire waste. 500,000 it’d been better spent toward Freedom House’s cafe, so its residents can have a nice
    workplace to make espresso and food for the public that gives the women a positive work history on a resume. Nobody but lucinda and sophie are watching those negative ads. What a waste of money. 500,000 is not chump change. That’s more
    than enough money to build a cafe, so women with a dark negative could see themselves doing something positive
    .

  11. See how much money the multi millionaires or billionaire waste. 500,000 it’d been better spent toward Freedom House’s cafe, so its residents can have a nice
    workplace to make espresso and food for the public that gives the women a positive work history on a resume. Nobody but lucinda and sophie are watching those negative ads. What a waste of money. 500,000 is not chump change. That’s more
    than enough money to build a cafe, so women with a dark negative past could see themselves doing something positive.

  12. Thank you for the article, MRAK, and for provided the sources. Following the links, here are a few more interesting tidbits:
    Arabella was founded by a Clinton Admin. alumnus, another corrupt admin.
    Arabella’s projects to include access to abortion and Obamacare.
    Arabella’s former employees and board members are traced the Biden Admin., including Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta.

  13. The infamous Ballot Measure 2 that supposedly banned Dark Money from elections (in addition to the RCV fiasco) specifically exempted ballot measures from the Dark Money ban.

    • Do you guys just not pay attention to what parts of ballot measures actually get implemented? The cap, disclosures, and such were ruled unconstitutional under Citizens United.

  14. One thing to ponder about the mechanics of a constitutional convention. In 1955, the delegates were elected by a multi-tiered district structure. Several delegates were elected territory-wide (prominent citizens such as Bill Egan and R. Rolland Armstrong) and a larger handful were elected from smaller districts fashioned from recording districts (people of more local note such as Jack Coghill and Yule Kilcher). Most were elected by judicial division, which is how the territorial legislature was apportioned. James Nolan of Wrangell was a delegate and also served in the territorial and state legislatures a total of 20 years. He advocated for the original apportionment of the state Senate, which included eight members elected by judicial division and twelve members elected by districts combining two of the 24 House districts. In other words, something far from the strictly population-based system we’ve long known. Nolan sued to attempt to overturn Egan’s 1965 reapportionment of the Senate in response to the SCOTUS position of “one man, one vote” stemming from Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Sims. Bottom line, a repeat would be highly unlikely today because of those rulings. It would be too easy to create the same sort of partisan fiefdoms which have been created for the state legislature and Anchorage Assembly. You’ll get the same quality of people, too.

  15. Globalists, DC dark money and all who receive it want to extinguish even the expectation of God-given liberty in the US and Alaska. If American they are traitors.

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