Recall Dunleavy Committee repurposed into dark money political action committee - Must Read Alaska
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Sunday, October 25, 2020
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Recall Dunleavy Committee repurposed into dark money political action committee

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LEGAL LOOPHOLE: DATA AND FUNDS CAN GO WHEREVER

They’d been hot on the trail to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy for months, but it wasn’t until January, 2020 that the Recall Dunleavy Committee actually registered with the Alaska Public Offices Commission as a “group” working to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

The group didn’t have to register, to be clear. Because it is ostensibly a “recall” committee, it follows no rules until it turns in to the Division of Elections the second list of signatures it has gathered and is certified for a statewide election, special or otherwise.

The dirty little secret is, however, the group never has to turn in those signatures. And that means it can operate in the dark until November, 2022.

The group had reserved the website name “RecallDunleavy.org” a year earlier — back in February of 2019, four days after Dunleavy filed his first budget; the public rollout for gathering signatures was a couple of months later.

The summer of 2019 was when the first round of signatures were gathered, and how quickly those names came. Rallies were held across the state. The recall committee was on a roll.

By January, 2020, it was a mature operation, with paid, experienced staff, paid signature gatherers, and lots of events under its belt as it went for the second round of signatures. It kept raising money, but no one knows how much or where the money comes from.

The group, led by a former chief of staff to former Gov. Bill Walker, has obtained some 45,700 signatures and email addresses on the second round of signature gathering, roughly 25,000 short of what’s needed to get a recall onto the ballot this year. The effort has, on the surface, failed.

But the Recall Dunleavy Committee can continue its shadowy work until the General Election of 2022, when the governor comes up for reelection. It can act as an opposition group to his reelection.

As long as it doesn’t turn in those signatures for certification by the Division of Elections, the group can work in the shadows of other campaigns, too, without transparency or oversight by the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

What’s become evident to critics is that the recall committee is a new form of political action committee.

Call it the Kendall Loophole. Scott Kendall, the group’s leader and chief litigant, is a lawyer who specializes in dark money since leaving office with the deeply discredited Walker Administration in late 2018.

Few in Alaska are paying attention to the recall group’s activities, because voters have other fish to fry: Trying to make a living, trying to help children with their online school work, and getting ready for a cooped up winter of dodging COVID-19 viral fragments.

Also, Gov. Dunleavy’s approval rating is soaring, according to one recent poll.

But with over 50,000 email addresses in its email file, the Recall Dunleavy Committee continues to campaign against the governor, sending out emails on a regular basis, most recently to motivate its base to attend a virtual town hall meeting the governor was hosting.

Is the Recall Dunleavy Committee repurposing its email, cell phone-text lists, and donations? Did its leader Kendall raise the money for one mission, but does he use it for another?

There’s nothing stopping the paid staff of the Recall Dunleavy Committee — whatever size it is — from being assigned to get Democrat candidates elected in 2020. In real political action committees that were being monitored for legal and illegal activity, such coordination would be prohibited without disclosure.

There’s also nothing stopping Kendall from transferring those 50,000 email addresses over to his other political project, the ballot measure known as Ballot Measure 2, another project funded by dark money.

Ballot Measure 2 also required signatures, and its proponents, like Kendall and former Rep. Jason Green, must follow campaign finance laws. It takes sleuthing to discover the sources of the funds for the group that wants to remake Alaska’s currently well-understood election process.

That money — an estimated $3 million — comes mainly from Outside the state through groups like “Unite America” and “Represent Us.”

It’s not easy, but a dogged effort can uncover some of the bigger contributors to those funding funnels, such as:

Kathryn Murdoch is a billionaire New York climate change activist and trustee for the Environmental Defense Fund (a group supportive of the Green New Deal, whose president raked in $666,000 in compensation in 2018). She previously aligned with Communist China in its battle against Hong Kong.

Marc Merrill is a billionaire California video-game developer whose toxic workplace was ground zero for “me-too” accusations last year. He sold his company to a Chinese media conglomerate, although he continues to be the public face of Riot Games in the western world.

John Arnold is a billionaire former Enron executive who walked away with the largest employee bonus Enron ever awarded while regular employees were left with nothing as the company imploded.

What all this dark money activity has in common is Kendall, lining his pockets with donor dollars as he litigates and lobbies against the governor, which has become his cottage industry.

A clever lawyer knows just where the legal line is, and Kendall knows how to do this to a T, turning the recall effort into a political slush fund to be used for any purpose his group desires.

It’s been 19 months and no one has discovered the group’s true source of funds or how it’s using them. Likely no one ever will.

Kendall knows there’s nothing the Alaska Public Offices Commission can do about it, even if it was paying attention.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Scroo these Outsiders and their dirty money!!

  • Thank you, Suzanne, for exposing what no one else will. “Kendall’s cottage industry” of recalling the governor with outside funding. That’s rich.
    But one must admit, a failed recall campaign is by no means going to waste. Maybe the word is “exploit.”

  • What would be nice is to have a list of all candidates seeking office this year in Alaska, who actually signed the Recall Dunleavy Petition. Is such a list available?

  • Dunleavy has violated our civil liberties and must be removed and held accountable!!!

    • Nav, if he has violated our civil liberties, you need to quickly notify the Recall Dunleavy campaign so they can add it to their list of “impeachable” offenses. They must have missed these violations, as have I.
      Please ennumerate these specific violagtions for us all instead of just the general statement. Thanks!

    • No proof, no argument, just a call for ‘justice.’ Clowns like you are not giving your cause more credibility, NAV. Much love and kisses.

    • Just how much of the Kool-Aid have you been drunk on?

  • There are no grounds to recall Dunleavy, besides its not like he is actually doing anything for anyone…he is a lame duck when he doesn’t have to be.Quack quack.

    Give me a real Governor who isn’t afraid.

    • Is Dunleavy afraid, JMF, or just inexperienced at rebuffing all the personal attacks on his family and his administration? I agree that he doesn’t have to be ineffectual. He has shown remarkable courage in forcing us to take a closer look at what has happened to this state since Walker and Mallot came in and then blew themselves up. What a crap-shoot that was! What damage they did!
      Why don’t you consider getting more involved in supporting this political ‘outsider’ who was elected because he genuinely does express our concerns. I’m not talking about money. I’m talking about mobilizing your anger and intellect to support his efforts to have our state legislators more accurately reflect our values, not their political ambitions. Consider Murkowski, a perfect example of a career RINO elected official who does not represent Alaska conservative values. Help get her dismissed and a new senator more representative of our values elected. There are many ways for each of us to take a stand against attempts to turn this state blue. Voting is only a start.

  • Checked out the Unite America web site. They seem big on non-partisan elections. The thing is…what election is really non-partisan? When it comes to issue campaigns (like voter propositions) or candidate campaigns they are all partisan. Every single one. This is why I object to borough or muni elections being labeled non-partisan. Are you kidding me? Borough taxation policy or school board policies are non-partisan? Mayoral races are non-partisan? Borough Assembly races are non-partisan?

    People will still group together over common interests (political parties) and fund candidates/issues (thru the various political action type groups) no matter how we hold elections. Unless, of course, you somehow prevent it by labeling efforts to pursue a controversial campaign as partisan & divisive/racist or not promoting equality/social justice. That may sound kind of conpiracy theory type thought but look around. Thats is happening already.

    I don’t like all the political rancor we’re experiencing today but why’s it happening? Is it really because candidates are members of political parties? Or is it because we (people) are disagreeing about some of the basic foundations of our Republic? I can’t think of a document that was more partisan in it’s time of author than the Declaration of Independance.

    • Well expressed. Thank you, Dave.

  • Remember, if it is a Leftist outfit, you must refer to it as a public interest group. If it is not Leftist, then you must refer to it as a right-wing think tank.

    • Scott Kendall:
      Enemy of democracy in elections, and…..ignominious attorney with no brains.

  • It is time to upgrade Alaska’s political laws. Groups like this, that have the potential reshape the political landscape, should not be able to operate in the dark. Political candidates should be asked for their opinions on this subject at debates and forums.

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