Judge upholds historic fines against signature-gathering group opposing ranked choice voting

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Anchorage Superior Court Judge Laura Hartz, appointed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, has allowed to stand the campaign violation fines levied in January by the Alaska Public Offices Commission against the group challenging Alaska’s ranked choice voting system.

The repeal of ranked choice voting will be on November’s general election ballot.

The Alaskans for Honest Elections was successful in getting enough signatures to get the question on the ballot in November, giving Alaska voters another chance to consider whether they want to use ranked choice voting and nonpartisan primaries as their method to elect people to state and federal offices. But their handling of their campaign finances was lacking and exposed them to a complaint with Alaska Public Offices Commission.

The dark-money group Alaskans for Better Elections, which created the final-four primary and ranked choice voting general, had originally filed that complaint, saying that Alaskans for Honest Elections, Phil Izon, Art Mathias, and Wellsprings Fellowship violated campaign finance laws by not accurately reporting the pathway of a major donation to the group’s signature-gathering effort.

After the complaint was filed, APOC reviewed the facts and issued one of the largest penalties in APOC memory: $94,610.20.

The fine can be compared to a 2021 fine that APOC levied against the campaign of Mayor Dave Bronson, who was fined $38,500 by the regulatory agency.

In 2020, APOC fined Rep. Lance Pruitt over $1 million, but then reduced it by 99% and ultimately fined him $10,222.

In 2014, Rep. Chris Tuck was fined $14,000 for campaign reporting errors.

But for Alaskans for Honest Elections, which wants to repeal 2020’s Ballot Measure 2, APOC determined that the full court press was appropriate. Mathias contributed $90,000 to the Ranked Choice Education Association, which then gave the money to Alaskans for Honest Elections. The source of the original funds was not clear to the public.

Judge Hartz wrote, “There is no constitutional right to make anonymous contributions for the purpose of influencing the outcome of an election. There is likewise no right to contribute through an intermediary or in the name of another, and the court declines to create such a right.”

Hartz also wrote that the Alaskans for Honest Elections claim that “true source reporting does not apply to ballot initiatives misreads the admittedly confusing but ultimately plain language of .065(c) and ignores the broader statutory framework referenced in the statute. Appellants’ reading of the statute renders meaningless multiple subsections of AS 15.13.040 and 2 AAC 50.352 in full. Courts ‘generally disfavor statutory constructions that reach absurd results.'”

The judged concluded that Alaska’s true source reporting statute and related provisions are narrowly tailored to the government’s “substantial interest” in having an informed electorate by making publicly available to voters the true source of election funds.

“Courts have recognized that knowing the sources of election spending ultimately informs voters’ decisions, prevents groups from ‘hiding behind dubious and misleading names’ and likewise prevents individuals from hiding in anonymity. The Alaska Supreme Court has likewise held that ‘[w]hen citizens vote on the basis of misinformation, or a lack of relevant information, the decision-making process on which our government ultimately rests suffers.'”

Alaskans for Better Elections asked the judge to impose triple damages on Alaskans for Honest Elections, but was denied.

The full judgment can be read here:


31 COMMENTS

  1. The bureaucratic morass is deeply embedded and those involved are there to maintain their stranglehold on the government purse. The judiciary is no different than the rest of the bureaucrats anymore.

  2. Liberals are continuing to decide elections by judges. Through the court system Judges are continuing to try to bankrupt organizations that are against the liberal agenda. Don’t fall for this Alaska. Send money in support of Alaska for Honest Elections who are advocating to End Rank Choice Voting today!

  3. A person could believe it all fair if the fines doled out represented the fairness of the finding. In this case the waters of fairness have been tainted.

  4. Good reporting on this. If you want to be an elected official or influence an election, just follow the finance rules. They aren’t that complicated. 99% of campaigns do it right. We the people should have a right to know where the money is coming from and where it’s going. Sloppy reporting or trying to game the system is not wise

  5. Thank you Art for your generous contribution.
    I will accept any inside “dark money” over outside dark money from George Soros that Peltola receives on a daily basis for reelection or the money Lisa Murkowski hides that she received from Sammy”the Bankman” Freid.
    And dont forget the money Anchorage Mayor elect Suzanne Lafrance received from a gun grabbing group from Washington state.
    I didnt see any fines for outside “dark money” contributions to our local elections.
    Any money from outside Alaska should be illegal when it comes to elections.

  6. It’s a simple legal calculation. The harder the opposition fights to NOT remove RCV, the more you begin to realize that RCV is the enemy of the fair and truthful vehicle of our election process. Depend on Scott Kendall to fight against removal of RCV with all of his might. On another note, expect this weasel attorney to employ lots of dirty tricks to get his brother, Grier Hopkins, elected as Mayor up in Fairbanks. Outright election fraud is always a consideration with these contemptable and desperate Democrats.

  7. “Alaskans for Better Elections asked the judge to impose triple damages on Alaskans for Honest Elections, but was denied.” Wow.

    “ignores the broader statutory framework referenced in the statute.”

    It still amazes me how Lawbreakers are allowed to ignore the broader Alaska Constitutional framework of the PFD while breaking statutory law, too.

  8. First:
    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” 1st Amendment.

    It is unconstitutional for bureaucrats to suppress free speech. Period. APOC rules are so cumbersome that a lot of speech doesn’t even happen because many can’t climb the hurdles APOC places in the way to engage in speech. Some fear making a mistake on some deadline and being bankrupted by APOC fines. So groups do not form, and free speech is denied.

    It is time to get rid of APOC. The best way might be through a case that gets to the US Supreme Court.

    As far as this group goes, they just need to fie Chapter 7 bankruptcy and re- form under a new name, and different leaders.

  9. Isn’t there some other state where Scott Kendall could go to create more trouble there? Why does he continue to pick on Alaska? What has the Great Land done to him? Why does he hate it so?

    • Why does George Soros hate America?
      Why did Adolph hate the Jewish community?
      Why does Joe Sniffy hate MAGA?
      Why does Hillary hate Trump supporters?
      Why does Anchorage ASSembly hate Dave Bronson?
      Why do so many people on the left hate certain supreme court justices?

      So many questions… but the answers are all the same.

  10. Awesome opinion. The new precedent will be used to target the 907 Initiative, REAP, the Alaska Center (for the Environment) and other fellow travelers. You guys managed to thump one of ours, but in doing so, you put another 10 of yours in the crosshairs. It also put APOC in play, which has gotten really cute in recent years – large fines for those on the right, relatively small ones for their fellow travelers on the left. Cheers –

  11. Appeal it to the AK Supreme Court. At least ask for an opinion if the fine should stand, but be reduced to a reasonable amount.
    In my experience, lower court judges (especially Superior Court ones) do whatever they damn please, and pray that no one will appeal their decisions.
    Otherwise, bankruptcy seems to be the only option. Score one more win for our state’s lawfare team. Reconfiguring the organization with a new name is possible. But if the earlier commenter is correct, the people who are the driving force in this movement would not be able to run any new organization.

  12. “Ranked-choice voting is just an elaborate way to hide your actual vote in a puzzle box. What’s next, secret handshakes?”

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