A new dark-money political action group has emerged in Alaska this year and is attacking Mayor Dave Bronson with an expensive media buy, including glossy mailers that arrived in Anchorage mailboxes this week, radio ads, and a target social media campaign — all worth tens of thousands of dollars.
The 907 Initiative’s first major salvo in the 2024 municipal election season is aimed at the mayor’s response to an historic snowfall, which has piled up as berms around the city and made traffic navigation a nightmare for many, as the city strains to clear the roads and walkways.
The flyer authors don’t want voters to forget in 2024 about the piles of snow and stuck vehicles of the winter of 2022. It’s a drip-drip-drip form of campaigning, disguised as public policy watchdog work, to damage the mayor more than a year and four months from the election.
The 907 Initiative is headed up by Aubrey Wieber, former Anchorage Assembly aide to Assemblyman Chris Constant, and former communications director for Constant for Congress. Wieber also was a reporter at the Anchorage Daily News, and at other newspapers since graduating from journalism school in 2014. Like many coming out of journalism backgrounds, he’s a devoted leftist.
“The 907 Initiative works with individuals, organizations and grassroots coalitions to promote a greater quality of life and promote Alaskan values,” Wieber says of the group’s mission.
The group characterizes itself as a nonprofit watchdog group, but is in fact a partisan political entity that formed up in August and instantly attacked Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
Dunleavy won easily, handing the 907 Initiative its first big 1-for-1 loss.
Telling is that the group is not reporting where its funds come from, and based on its known activities, this makes it a dark-money group. But it has money for lawsuits and campaigns, and also to pay for an executive director.
The group, which is not yet listed with the Internal Revenue Service, teamed up with the Alaska Public Interest Research Group to run an attack on the campaign of Gov. Mike Dunleavy over the summer, with the intent of draining resources from the Dunleavy reelection effort. Election attorney Scott Kendall, who specializes in attacking Republicans, litigated against the governor in that effort; he is the former chief of staff for former Gov. Bill Walker. He is also the author of Ballot Measure 2, which was sold to voters to rid the state of dark money in elections. But clearly, groups like the 907 Initiative have a workaround plan. It’s unknown how much Kendall is involved with the 907 Initiative at present, and the group’s tax filings will not be publicly available for at least two years at the IRS.gov website.
Meanwhile, the 907 Initiative can work in the dark. It has its sights on Mayor Dave Bronson, spending tens of thousands of dollars in attack ads — all outside the reach of the Alaska Public Offices Commission, where it has not registered as a political group.
Normally, because Bronson is a declared candidate, a group like this would have to register with APOC and reveal its funders, but because the group pretends to be working on public policy matters, it can do what it wants, and a complaint lodged with APOC would likely only draw the meekest response from the campaign accountability agency, which is known for not calling fouls on Democrat teams.
The 907 Initiative officers and incorporators are Aubrey Wieber; Sara Dykstra, a teacher in Anchorage School District, and Kati Ward-Hamer, who is co-chair of the Health and Human Services Commission for Anchorage and who is a Democrat activist.
Other officers are bigger names in politics: Debra Call, a hardline Democrat who ran for lieutenant governor in 2018; Eleanor Andrews, former commissioner of Administration for Democrat Gov. Bill Sheffield and frequent political activist; and Stephanie Nichols, who is vice president for Ethics & Compliance and Compliance Counsel at GCI. Nichols is listed as the president of the 907 Initiative and is also on the board of directors for another leftist group, “Alaska Common Ground.”
In its glossy flyer opposing Bronson, the group cleverly misquotes Must Read Alaska regarding the Assembly’s knowledge about the lack of snowplow operators before winter hit. While the flyer appears to quote Must Read Alaska, it removes the quote marks even as it cites MRAK as a source, a form of political dishonesty that 907 Initiative hopes dupes voters into believing MRAK reported something, when in fact MRAK reported the opposite.
Although it’s a dark-money group, eventually the sources of the tens of thousands of dollars spent to sue the Dunleavy campaign, and the tens of thousands more spent to attack Mayor Bronson will become more clear; it may be years before that information is available to the public and that, apparently, is what the 907 Initiative is counting on.