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Commission staff recommends $52,650 fine against Anchorage Mayor Bronson for campaign finance violations

Alaska Public Offices Commission officials Friday recommended a $52,650 fine against Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson’s campaign for what he believes are multiple violations of Alaska campaign finance rules.

The report, released Friday, found that the Bronson campaign violated transparency rules when it failed to disclose tens of thousands of dollars in debt for more than seven months after it was contracted — until after the April 6 election and May runoff — under several other violations of state campaign funding rules, according to the report.

“Finally, after many days of struggling through (Bronson to the mayor) extremely confusing reports, it is clear to staff that the public had no idea what was going on in the BFM campaign until well after the April 6 election. 2021 and the May elections. 11, 2021 second round,” the report said.

Bronson’s campaign finance reports didn’t come “even close to being compliant” until election day two, according to the report. It recommends the commission issue the full civil fine of $52,650.

Bronson’s campaign attorney, Stacey Stone, said the campaign is cooperating with APOC’s lawsuit, which is still ongoing.

“Over the course of the campaign, the campaign became aware of certain errors related to reports submitted to the APOC,” Stone said by email. “The Bronson for Mayor campaign has publicly acknowledged these issues and has been working to resolve them in real time. Many previous candidates with nearly identical issues have received significantly lower fines in the past.”

APOC has yet to review the recommendations and has not yet made a decision on whether or not to fine the Bronson campaign or by how much, and the campaign has 10 days to issue a formal response to the staff report.

Forrest Dunbar, Bronson’s second-round opponent for mayor of Anchorage, first filed a complaint with the commission in April, alleging multiple violations amounting to tens of thousands of dollars in misreported campaign finances and illegally accepted contributions. .

“The reporting requirements exist for a reason and that is transparency,” Paula DeLaiarro, Dunbar’s campaign treasurer, said Friday.

Dunbar and DeLaiarro requested an expedited review at the time of filing the complaint, which the committee denied during a hearing.

At that hearing, Stone said Bronson’s campaign was working to fix some errors in the report and also said some of Dunbar’s allegations were conjecture without evidence and should be dismissed “short-lived”.

Subsequent investigations by APOC employees into Bronson’s campaign finances found misreported debts, including $95,000 owed to Hackney and Hackney, a political consultant and communications firm owned by Republican consultant Art Hackney. That debt, incurred by the campaign on September 20, 2020, was not reported until more than seven months later, on May 5, 2021, and “may or may not have actually been $150,000,” the report states.

The APOC investigation also found that based on a pre-election report on April 6, the Bronson campaign revealed no blame to Axiom Strategies, a Kansas-based Republican political consultancy founded by former Ted Cruz campaign manager.

“Here’s this national political organization that has been operating a little under the radar,” said Paula DeLaiarro, Dunbar’s campaign treasurer.

Bronson signed a contract with Axiom on Feb. 4, giving the company a commission, but that debt wasn’t included in campaign reports until May, according to the report to APOC. When the Bronson campaign reported the debt, it underestimated the debt owed to Axiom and changed it from $20,000 to $80,000 and then to $60,000.

The campaign never gave a realistic estimate of the debt, the report said.

As of May 5, payments to Axiom from the Bronson campaign totaled $240,831, according to the report.

The staff report found other violations, including not listing the names of local television and radio stations that Hackney and Hackney outsourced to run ads and accepting some donations above the $500 per year limit, including an additional $ 500 from Jerry Prevo, longtime leader of the Anchorage Baptist Temple and president of Liberty University.

The report also recommended that some of the other accusations of the Dunbar campaign against Bronson be dismissed.

The report asks staff to continue the investigation into one complaint related to certain poll data, for which Bronson for Mayor’s reports show no expenses, debts or non-monetary contributions consistent with obtaining the poll data.

Thomas Lucas, the campaign coordinator who prepared the report to APOC, said the commission will now decide whether it agrees with the report’s findings and determine the amount of the fine.

The Bronson for Mayor campaign has 10 days to provide a formal response to the report, Lucas said. After that, the committee will consider the matter at its next meeting in late September, he said.

“The campaign continues to work with the ongoing process and will respond in due course,” Stone said. “However, this issue should not serve as a distraction from the Bronson Administration’s ongoing work as it continues to focus on growing Anchorage’s economy, addressing homelessness-related issues and revitalizing the Port of Alaska. “

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