Governor Refused Court Invitation To Appeal Ruling Against Alaska’s $500 Donation Limit, Then Refused Calls To Add A Bill With Reasonable Donation Limits To The Fall Special Session.
“Governor Dunleavy did everything in his power to allow unlimited campaign spending in our elections. Yesterday he finally succeeded”, said Gubernatorial Candidate and former legislator Les Gara, who had called on the Governor to prevent this outcome in August and September. In 2018 just two individuals spent $1.4 million to elect Dunleavy, by putting that money into a “dark money” third-party campaign group. Massive campaign donations like that can now go straight to Dunleavy under yesterday’s order.
“Governor Dunleavy carefully made Alaska’s donation limits disappear through a refusal to appeal the August ruling, by refusing a court invitation to appeal that ruling, and by refusing to uphold his sworn oath to defend Alaska’s laws. This, by a Governor who has been appeal-happy his whole term,” said Gara.”
The court ruling Dunleavy refused to appeal authorized the state to establish a new donation limit of perhaps $1000 or $1500. That narrowly split 2-1 decision said new donation limits could be passed by legislation, but should be annually indexed to inflation. “Dunleavy, again, refused to act, and rejected calls to file legislation to prevent unlimited campaign donations in Alaska elections,” said Gara, who called out the Governor’s efforts to achieve unlimited money in Alaska politics in September.
Here’s the timeline of the Governor’s intentional conduct, which was transparently aimed at achieving unlimited campaign contributions to candidates like himself.
– In August a three judge court issued a 2-1 split decision striking down a $500 campaign donation limit passed by 70% of Alaska voters in 2006.
– Dunleavy, whose term has been marked by seemingly constant appeals and lawsuits, refused to try to uphold Alaska’s voter initiative by appealing the case to the full Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
– On August 20 the court took the unusual step of specifically inviting Dunleavy to appeal, calling for the state to explain why it would not appeal this decision or attempt to uphold Alaska law.
– Dunleavy rejected the court’s invitation to appeal to defend Alaska’s voter initiative.
– In August Gara and many legislators called on Dunleavy to add a new donation limit, allowed under that court order, to the August Special Session (the Legislature could not have added the issue to the Special Session call without an unattainable 2/3 majority under the Alaska Constitution, but the Governor was permitted to add the issue). The Governor again refused to act to re-establish campaign spending limits.
“Yesterday the Alaska Public Offices Commission issued the Order Dunleavy wanted all along,” said Gara. It ruled that with the removal of Alaska’s $500 donation limit, donors can now give state candidates unlimited amounts of money.
“The Governor did everything he could to drown out the voices of ordinary Alaskans from the political process. Campaigns will now be a battle between those who donate for good policy, and those who donate to undermine the public interest for personal and corporate benefit. I fear the good Alaskans who donate for reasons that have nothing to do with their own personal benefit will be vastly outspent by those seeking profit for themselves and their businesses,” said Gara.
“It’s a sad day when you have to ask Alaskans who care about the state to donate as much as they can, to prevent the purchase of our elections by those who donate millions out of self interest. This could have been prevented,” said Gara.
A portion of the state’s briefing, refusing the Court’s invitation to appeal the 2-1 decision, follows. The state argued new limits could be established by legislation – something the Governor has specifically refused to do.