By JAY MCDONALD
On Nov. 16, the Alaska Public Offices Commission held a hearing on campaign-related complaints that have recently been filed with the commission.
In the afternoon, the complaint I filed against Rep. Jennie Armstrong was heard by the commission. During the hearing, Armstrong accused me of weaponizing the process unfairly.
That is Rep. Armstrong’s opinion, but what is true? Here are the facts on what is happening and why:
- – Campaign finance laws were written and passed by both Democrat and Republican legislators.
- – Campaign finance laws apply equally to both Democrat and Republican legislators.
- – The Alaska Public Offices Commission does not have the staff to audit and enforce these laws on individual politicians.
- Accountability and enforcement is reactive, not proactive. A citizen files a complaint, then APOC staff investigates and responds. The matter is usually referred to the commission itself for judgment.
Increasingly in recent years, high-profile Democrat operatives like Scott Kendall (Representative Armstrong’s Lawyer) and Paula DeLaiarro (Representative Armstrong’s filing consultant) have been filing APOC complaints against conservative political opponents in the races they work on.
For example, in the 2020 election cycle Paula DeLaiarro filed complaints against Rep. Lance Pruitt, a Republican. He was fined $19,716.
This year complaints (being represented by Scott Kendall) are currently pending against former Senate candidate and ranked-choice voting opponent Kelly Tshibaka. APOC staff have identified up to $23,000 in potential fines, although the commission has yet to finalize their decision and the outcome is still pending.
A reasonable person would call a process “weaponized” if it only applied penalties and accountability to one side and not the other.
On average, Democrat politicians violate campaign finance statutes as often as Republican politicians. In recent years, we have been seeing judgments against Republican politicians but not Democrat politicians. This is not because APOC staff are partisan actors, this is because complaints are only being filed against Republican politicians. Republicans are not filing complaints against Democrats at anywhere near the same rate.
It is very important to me that APOC does not become weaponized. In order to ensure that the process is nonpartisan, enforcement must be as equal as possible. I will personally be filing complaints against Democrat politicians who have violated state statutes until enforcement levels are nonpartisan and equitable. We must have a level playing field with APOC.
I deeply regret that I must do this, but it is critically important for the Democratic process that campaign finance laws are equally and fairly applied.
I have more complaints pending, as well as complaints that I have drafted, which I hope I will not need to submit.
Jay McDonald is a citizen of Anchorage and a political activist.