A sitting governor has an advantage in a re-election campaign. But never has a sitting Alaska governor had such an advantage as this one has.
Gov. Bill Walker’s campaign adviser and special assistant John-Henry Heckendorn is the latest name to be listed as a deputy treasurer for the Walker-Mallott ticket, along with Scott Kendall, the governor’s chief of staff and several others on the official roster of the Governor’s Office.
Both Heckendorn and Kendall were hired within the last year by the Office of the Governor. The only significant experience either one of them has had is running campaigns. Kendall, now as chief of staff, is suddenly running the entire state. He came fresh off the Lisa Murkowski re-election campaign, but has no real policy experience.
Heckendorn, who founded the Ship Creek Group, was hired by Walker in January. He left the company he founded on Jan. 30, but no one outside Ship Creek Group knows if those ties are actually severed or just swept under the carpet. His cofounders have picked up his 52 percent ownership.
The breadcrumb trail shows direct connections between the Office of the Governor, the Ship Creek Group, and the Walker-Mallott campaign.The treasurer for the Walker-Mallott campaign is Paula DeLaiarro, a principal of the Ship Creek Group. Another deputy treasurer is Shea Siegert, who was with the Ship Creek Group, where he picked up the campaign of Palmer District 11 Rep. DeLena Johnson. Siegert then went to work for Johnson as a legislative research assistant after her election. Correspondence relating to fundraisers for Walker has shown up with his name attached and he is still listed as Johnson’s staff member in the State employee directory, although he has left to work on the Walker campaign. His 2016 filing with the Alaska Public Offices Commission showed his home address as the same as Democrat Sen. Minority Leader Berta Gardner.
In the political world, this is what is called embedding. The Ship Creek Group is handling the day-to-day campaign for Walker-Mallott, and Heckendorn is being paid by the public treasury at the cost of at least $100,000 a year to run the Walker campaign as he stands to the side of Walker at every official event.
“This is classic corruption,” said Steve Strait, an Anchorage media professional. “We’re ranked as the seventh most corrupt state out of 50, and this is an example of that.”
On the Ship Creek Group web site, a disclaimer has recently been posted to clarify the relationship between the company and its founder:
“Note: Founder and former Projects Director John-Henry Heckendorn is currently serving as Special Assistant to Alaska Governor Bill Walker, and is not active in SCG projects or operations. Additionally, SCG wishes to recognize the exemplary work of our 2016 election cycle staff: Genevieve Mina, Jillian Banner, Max Neale, Mark Simon, Peter Heckendorn, and Shea Siegert.”
Heckendorn has, however, been recently overheard telling Alaskans he is leading the Walker-Mallott re-election strategy.
Heckendorn’s photograph is still on the Ship Creek Group’s web site under the “About” tab, which also credits him for the company’s “break the mold” model.
He has also been featured by the dark-money Lottsfeldt Strategies group as in the talent pool of Jim Lottsfeldt, who ran an independently funded campaign to get Walker elected in 2014 and who owns and operates the political blog MidnightSunAk.