WAGING WAR AGAINST ‘CITIZENS UNITED,’ ONE STATE AT AT TIME
The group called Alaskans for Better Elections, headed by former Rep. Jason Grenn, has raised nearly zero dollars from Alaska since launching this spring.
Its main contributor is a Massachusetts-based group called RepresentUs.
That organization has contributed over $10,000 in in-kind donations to Alaskans for Better Elections, according to the group’s recent report to Alaska Public Offices Commission.
$10,000 for July services? That is what is being declared to APOC.
The goal of Alaskans for Better Elections is to get Alaskans to enact a law that would effectively undo the U.S. Supreme Court ruling known as Citizens United, which allows groups to raise money to influence the outcome of elections. The high court ruled that certain forms of political spending are protected political speech. Lots of groups get engaged in trying to influence the outcomes: Unions, business organizations and private groups like Americans for Prosperity and The Alaska Center (for the Environment) and Alaska Conservation Voters.
RepresentUs wants to end all that.
NAME SOUND FAMILIAR?
RepresentUs may sound familiar to Alaskans, but it’s all Outside. It is the same group that pressured lawmakers into passing HB 44, anti-corruption legislation signed into law by Gov. Bill Walker last year. (Photo above, with local children-as-props dressed in RepresentUs t-shirts.)
The legislation was supported by the League of Women Voters, and the Alaska Public Interest Research Group, which wrote a letters saying any legislator with a conflict of interest should not be allowed to vote on any item with that conflict.
ThE HB 44 legislation was found to be so flawed that lawmakers could not discuss any pending legislation that may affect any member of their family. In Alaska, where people have conflicts of interest all over the map, that was a problem. Legislators who have family members with commercial fishing permits were muzzled. Those who had family members driving with Uber could not deliberate legislation relating to ridesharing. Sen. Shelley Hughes found she was unable to discuss health care reform with anyone because her husband works in a health-related business.
To force HB 44 into law, RepresentUs paid for the collection of 45,000 signatures to put the Alaska Anti-Corruption Act on the November, 2018 ballot. With those signatures, Grenn and RepresentUs forced the Legislature to pass a similarly worded bill.
The Grenn law was so flawed that this year it had to be fixed.
“What we found in passing this law was when you put several pieces together, there became questions that could not be answered,” Senate Rules Committee Chairman John Coghill told reporters earlier this year. “Out of an abundance of caution people had retreated from doing their official work. So, this is actually fixing a problem that emerged.”
SB 89 fixed RepresentUs’ HB 49. It went into law in May, 2019.
NOW FOR THE BIG PLAY
Now RepresentUs is back for another swing at Alaska’s elections with its newly minted astroturf group, Alaskans for Better Elections. Astroturfing is fake grassroots campaigning.
Alaskans for Better Elections has raised a $50 contribution from Grenn, who is now a marketing director for United Way of Anchorage, a $100 check from Ship Creek Group consultant Paula DeLaiarro, and a $42 non-monetary contribution from someone who set up the website.
Then there’s the $10,000 in nonmonetary contributions from RepresentUs, making it clear who is running the show.
Campaign consultants say that Alaskans for Better Elections is nothing but a host organization for RepresentUs, which has a stated goals of trying to remove money from politics.
MORE ABOUT REPRESENTUS
RepresentUs is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) that has a 501(c)(4) advocacy subsidiary. The actual work of RepresentUs is done through the 501(c)(4).
Who funds RepresentUs? Left-leaning groups that include the Tides Foundation, the Park Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Sixteen Thirty Fund, the same group that is waging a war on the Pebble Mine.
RepresentUs is run by its founder Josh Silver, a graduate of Evergreen State College in Washington State.
According to Wikipedia, “Silver advocates a grassroots campaign of citizen-led legislative lobbying and ballot initiatives passed at the city and state level to fix policy locally while building momentum towards national reform. The organization he co-founded and directs, RepresentUs, was established to support these grassroots anti-corruption efforts.”
In 2016, the last year the group’s tax filings are available at the IRS, RepresentUs received over $5 million in donor contributions and grants.
DEBTS PILE UP
While RepresentUs is providing all the staff work for the voter initiative, the bills are piling up. Alaskans for Better Elections now owes Ship Creek Group $2,500 for campaign start-up services and Paula DeLaiarro $2,000 for being the treasurer for the less than $300 in cash donations.