Maybe it’s theft. Maybe it’s mail fraud. Maybe it’s just playing fast and loose with the law.
The Alaska Republican Party on Monday filed a police report to document what the party believes is theft of materials and/or attempted mail fraud by Citizens for Joe Miller.
On a Federal Election Commission report, the Libertarian-registered Miller campaign said it received boxes and boxes of postcard mailers from the Alaska Republican Party as a contribution worth $4,500.
It turns out, these were old postcards from 2010, when the party backed Miller as the nominee, and opposed Lisa Murkowski, who had lost the primary. The party did not give Miller the postcards, said Tuckerman Babcock, party chairman. The only record of possible transfer of the materials comes from an account offered by the former communications director for the Alaska Republican Party, who says he let someone take them off his hands after the 2010 General Election.
That contentious election festers as a sore among Joe Miller supporters to this day. Murkowski went on to run a write-in campaign, as a Republican, in November of 2010, even after her candidacy was not supported by the Alaska Republican Party. She won. He lost. He cried foul. She essentially said “Where’s the beef, Joe?”
Murkowski had pulled off a miracle and Miller supporters have never forgot. To this day that chasm tears the guts apart in the Republican Party of Alaska, which has strong Libertarian leanings.
But last week, these old official party postcards, which should have been destroyed, surfaced when the Miller campaign tried to commit what the Alaska Republican Party considers mail fraud.
Miller, it appears, tried to post the items with a newly minted bulk mail permit, but with a “Paid for by the Alaska Republican Party” disclaimer, and with the Alaska Republican Party’s return address.
The Alaska Republican Party first learned that Miller possessed these old Republican Party campaign materials when Miller reported on his Federal Election Commission report that the party had donated the fliers to him this year. That was simply not the case, said Chairman Babcock.
What he said, actually, is this: “That’s a lie. The party made no such gift to the Joe Miller campaign in 2016.”
On Oct. 24, Miller changed his story, saying he had obtained the fliers from someone who dropped them off at his headquarters. Miller displayed the flier for the media and later posted it on social media.
To ensure that no fraud was in the works, Babcock paid a visit to Alejandro T. Tungul, supervisor of business mail at the main office of the U.S. Postal Service in Anchorage.
Babcock alerted Mr. Tungul to what he thought was a remote possibility that someone might attempt to mail the fraudulent flier with the party’s disclaimer or misuse the bulk permit of the party, both of which were printed upon the old 2010 fliers displayed by Joe Miller.
On Oct. 28, Mr. Tungul notified Babcock by e-mail, confirming that an attempt by the Miller campaign was made:
“Good afternoon. I tried calling you several times but no one answered. The attached mailing was presented for mailing but was not accepted. Thank you.”
The flier attached to Tungul’s e-mail was the same flier that Joe Miller had displayed publicly the previous Monday.
In addition, the flier Mr. Tungul attached did not include a disclaimer related to Citizens for Joe Miller, nor was the Alaska Republican Party’s bulk mail permit blackened out.
On Oct. 31, a party representative visited Mr. Tungul, who said the USPS had opened an investigation into the attempt to mail the flier.
Tungul could not share any other information except to confirm that those attempting to mail the items did not seek to use the bulk permit of the Alaska Republican Party. He was clamming up, however, because of the investigation under way.
Miller’s sworn FEC report says that he obtained the mailers from the Alaska Republican Party in September 2016.
But his Oct. 31 press release claims that his campaign actually acquired the old 2010 mailers from some an unnamed registered Republican individual — not the Alaska Republican Party itself.
If Joe Miller had been telling the truth when he claimed the fliers as a 2016 donation from the Alaska Republican Party, then the mailers were taken from the Alaska Republican Party without its consent, and the party considers that a theft.
However, if Miller himself somehow obtained the mailers and stored them until the present, then he appears to have committed a violation by knowingly and intentionally making a sworn falsehood on his FEC report.
Instead of correcting the old fliers with a new permit number, disclaimer and return address, Miller tried to leave the impression that the mailer was from the Alaska Republican Party.
If Miller had successfully sent the mailers, they would have gone out with a knowingly false “paid for by” notification saying the Alaska Republican Party had paid for the message.
Miller’s effort to correct that problem was to also print a new disclaimer, and leave both visible, with the public having no idea who paid for what.
Miller blotted out the Alaska Republican Party bulk mail permit, and printed his own, on the fliers. However, he left return address as the Alaska Republican Party. And, as shown here, he then put stamps on the mailer and sent them out across the state. Thousands of them.
It should be noted that the address on the old flier is now obsolete, as the Alaska Republican Party headquarters has moved.