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Dunleavy reelection backers ordered to comply with subpoenas in campaign finance case

Jan. 27—JUNEAU — An Anchorage Superior Court judge on Thursday ordered backers of Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy's reelection campaign to respond to subpoenas that seek to find whether they violated state campaign finance laws in the lead-up to the 2022 election.

Two Alaska watchdog organizations — the Alaska Public Interest Research Group and the 907 Initiative — filed a complaint in October 2022 alleging that the Republican Governors Association created A Stronger Alaska as a shell entity to improperly spend money in Alaska in violation of campaign finance laws.

The RGA donated $3 million to A Stronger Alaska — an independent expenditure group — in February 2021, shortly before new voter-approved campaign disclosure rules came into effect. The complaint asserted there was little separation between the two groups, including shared bank statements and the same key personnel.

The Alaska Public Offices Commission — the state's political campaign regulator — investigated whether the RGA had spent money to support Dunleavy's reelection without properly disclosing it, and whether there was improper coordination between the Dunleavy campaign and the independent expenditure group, Alaska's version of a super PAC.

RGA and A Stronger Alaska denied in 2022 that they had violated Alaska's campaign finance laws. Both groups declined to respond to subpoenas issued by APOC, and both have continued to fight in court requests to produce documents.

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Una Gandbhir ordered that defendants to respond to the subpoenas within 15 days from Thursday. She wrote she was "unpersuaded" by arguments from the two groups that the information requested had already been made available in testimony before APOC.

Gandbhir denied some broader subpoenas issued by the campaign regulator against the Republican Governors' Public Policy Committee, but said they could be resubmitted if they were more narrowly tailored. Stacey Stoney, attorney for the RGA and A Stronger Alaska, declined Friday to comment on Gandbhir's order.

The Alaska Public Interest Research Group accused both groups of attempting to delay and "evade this investigation at every turn." Executive director Veri di Suvero applauded the judge's order, and said, "Alaskans need to know that our election and campaign laws are meaningful and fair."

Scott Kendall, attorney for the two watchdog organizations and a former chief of staff to former Gov. Bill Walker, said it was a strange case as APOC had waited over a year to receive the first documents it requested.

"I think it's gonna be a fascinating 15 days," he said. "Because something's gotta give at this point."

Heather Hebdon, executive director of APOC, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily News.