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We Build Alaska

The Sunday Minefield – October 16, 2022

The November election is just over three weeks away. Absentee ballots are already hitting Alaska mailboxes and early in-person voting starts on October 24. The Alaska Public Offices Commission granted an expedited hearing on a complaint that alleges Brett Huber illegally coordinated with the Dunleavy campaign while working for a pro-Dunleavy independent expenditure group. And recent campaign finance reports show a Texas billionaire couple are spending big money to influence Alaska elections.

A friendly message and reminder to all our readers. The Landmine is made possible by myself and a team of awesome Alaskans. We are working hard to provide in-depth election coverage for all of the ongoing races. If you enjoy the content we provide, please consider making a one time or recurring monthly donation. You can click here to donate. We have a donation system that makes it super easy. We would really appreciate it. And thanks to everyone who has been supportive.

APOC Hearing Reveals Nothing Burger

On Wednesday the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) granted an expedited hearing for a complaint brought by the Alaska Public Interest Research Group (AKPIRG). The hearing took place on Friday afternoon. The complaint alleges that Brett Huber illegally coordinated with the Dunleavy campaign while working for a group called A Stronger Alaska – a pro-Dunleavy independent expenditure group financed by the Republican Governors Association. Brett Huber is no stranger to Alaska politics or APOC. He ran Governor Mike Dunleavy’s (R – Alaska) 2018 campaign. He ran a group opposing Ballot Measure 2 in 2020. Even though the group was unsuccessful he collected $45,000. After leaving his employment with the Dunleavy administration he was given a $50,000 contract by Dunleavy.

Brett Huber is definitely one who lives off government and campaign largess. He is not a sympathetic figure. And the evidence sure doesn’t look good. Huber was collecting $11,500 a month from A Stronger Alaska while he also had a contract with Dunleavy’s office and was listed as a deputy treasurer for the Dunleavy campaign. But the hearing on Friday revealed zero evidence of any coordination between Huber and the Dunleavy campaign. Scott Kendall is the lawyer representing AKPIRG on the complaint. He served as chief of staff to former Governor Bill Walker – who is currently running against Mike Dunleavy. Kendall loathes Mike Dunleavy and wants nothing more than to have Bill Walker back. That is an important part of all of this.

Kendall questioned Huber extensively during the hearing, who was under oath. Kendall spent some time on the idea of a “cooling off” period between when someone leaves a campaign and goes to work on an independent expenditure group. The problem is Alaska has no such law. Huber explained that he was listed as a deputy treasurer for Dunleavy’s campaign so he could collect money for a single fundraiser that was held before he was associated with A Stronger Alaska. He said he got ethics approval for the contract with Dunleavy’s office. He said he is not the decision maker for A Stronger Alaska and just provides advice and consulting for the campaign. Does the circumstantial evidence presented look bad? Yes. But it proved no coordination and the burden of proof is on AKPIRG and Kendall to prove, not the other way around.

After Kendall questioned Huber, he called Paula DeLaiarro as an “impeachment witness.” DeLaiarro, who works for the progressive consulting firm Ship Creek Group, is well-known for her expertise with APOC reporting. DeLaiarro alleged that the Republican Governors Association, who donated $3 million to A Stronger Alaska, actually never gave the money to them according to IRS records. During questioning Huber told Kendall he did not know where the money he was being paid came from because it was direct deposited in his account, but he sent his invoices to A Stronger Alaska. Lawyers for A Stronger Alaska, the Republican Governors Association and Huber objected because this was not part of the complaint and they were not given any information about it. Kendall’s big surprise turned out to be another nothing burger, at least for this complaint.

APOC has ten days to issue a ruling. But my bet is they come out with a ruling much sooner that says no proof of coordination was given and that directs APOC staff to continue the investigation into the complaint. During the hearing Scott Kendall claimed he is nothing more than a lawyer who was hired by AKPIRG. Let me be clear: that is utter bullshit. Kendall is a self-righteous political operative who has been around Alaska politics a long time. He was behind Ballot Measure 2 that gave us the mess of ranked choice voting. He probably wrote or helped write the damn complaint against Huber. He has become increasingly toxic to our political system. And he is not going anywhere. He is an expert at using the courts and other institutions to wreak as much havoc as possible against his political opponents.

Other Happenings

While going through all the APOC finance reports, I kept coming across two names – John and Laura Arnold. They are billionaire philanthropists from Texas. John Arnold used to work for, wait for it, Enron. They gave big money to support Ballot Measure 2 in 2020. They have donated nearly $150,000 to groups and candidates in Alaska this year, most of it since September. Bill Walker and Heidi Drygas have received $70,000. Putting Alaskans First Committee, an independent expenditure group that supports progressive candidates, has received $50,000. And several Senate candidates, all likely to be in a coalition, have received $27,500 collectively.

Tim Sullivan announced he is the new government affairs manager for Alaska USA. Congrats, Tim! He was previously the director of external affairs at the Alaska Railroad for ten years but abruptly left that role in March with no explanation.

If you have not seen this it’s amazing. Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka, introduced by Dave Donley, addressed a crowd at Thursday Night at the Fights. It is beyond cringe. In addition to the women in bikinis walking around the ring, no one in the crowd is interested to hear what she had to say. I would love to know who advised her to do this.

This Week’s Loose Unit 

This week’s designee became glaringly obvious on Thursday. This week’s Loose Unit is the Alaska Democratic Party, specifically West Anchorage Democrats. It all started when the official voter pamphlet came out. Jennie Armstrong, the Democrat and front runner running for the open West Anchorage House seat, wrote that she has been an Alaska resident since 2019. This immediately made me wonder if she was even qualified because the Alaska Constitution requires three years of residency when you file to run for the Legislature. After an investigation, it’s clear Armstrong is not qualified due to residency issues.

But let’s just say her claim that she has been a resident since May 20 is true. Which according to her own Instagram posts about her trip to Alaska is not the case. That would mean she met the bare minimum for residency to be a candidate for the Legislature by eleven days. Eleven days! Super loose. Oh, and check out that dirty delete on her Instagram about when she moved here. Very loose. Love those receipts.

When I think of Democratic or progressive areas of Anchorage, I think of Downtown and West Anchorage. Representative Matt Claman (D- Anchorage), who currently holds the House seat but is running against Senator Mia Costello (R – Anchorage) for the Senate seat, waited until the absolute last minute to announce that. Meaning he either hand chose Armstrong, similar to what Senator Tom Begich (D – Anchorage) did with Loki Tobin, or was selfish and gave almost no time for Democrats in West Anchorage to consider filing for the seat. The result is a Democratic candidate who moved to Alaska five minutes ago. Here is a list of just a few Democrats and progressives who live in West Anchorage and have been in Alaska a hell of a lot longer than three years:

  1. Nicole Borromeo
  2. Grace Kubitz
  3. Carolyn Hall
  4. Assembly member Austin Quinn-Davidson
  5. Stephanie Quinn-Davidson
  6. Assembly member Kameron Perez-Verdia
  7. Anna Brawley
  8. Mark Wiggin

The entire situation is about as loose as it gets. Especially if Armstrong is deemed ineligible to serve in the Legislature. Stay tuned. Classic Loose Unit behavior by the Alaska Democrats.

If you have a nomination for this week’s Loose Unit, or if you have any political news, stories or gossip (or any old pics of politicians or public officials) please email me at jeff@alaskalandmine.com.

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Curtis Interruptus
1 month ago

The pot calling the kettle black: “…a self-righteous political operative…” Landfield must have been looking in his mirror when he wrote that. If calling everyone loose units isn’t self-righteous, what is?

slipstream
1 month ago

Okay, you published a list of Democrats who have lived in Alaska a hell of a lot longer than Armstrong.

How about publishing a list of Republicans who have lived in Alaska a hell of a lot longer than Tshibaka?

Zack
1 month ago
Reply to  slipstream

Jeff doesn’t owe you an infinite number of lists about an infinite number of candidates. Get a grip.

Jay McDonald
1 month ago
Reply to  slipstream

The requirements for federal candidates are completely different. This has nothing to do with Kelly, or Lisa, or Palin.

Ryan Nelson
1 month ago
Reply to  slipstream

Kelly Tshibaka has been in Alaska longer than most Alaskans, spending 26 years of her life here. Alaska is the most transient state in the country.

slipstream
1 month ago
Reply to  Ryan Nelson

Yeah, right. Tshibaka has lived here so long that the state had to pay $81,000 to move her here in 2019.

Zack
1 month ago

Having read Jennie Armstrong’s social media posts, it is clear that she either lied about her residency or made a mistake, and she is/was not eligible to run. Those who defend her simply want their preferred candidate to get a free pass on breaking the law (actually the Alaska State Constitution). Jennie’s after-the-fact editing of her social media looks like a terribly amateurish coverup. This is really a huge failure by the Anchorage Dems. I would like to see some expedited action on this. Any idea what will happen? Will Jennie just be able to violate the constitution with no… Read more »

Floridawoman
1 month ago

How is ranked choice voting a mess? Because it is newer than the horse and buggy?

Akwhitty
1 month ago
Reply to  Floridawoman

I was praying the hurricane took you away.

Jared
1 month ago

This whole thing has really been a slow decline since that Campbell Lake piece…

Kent
1 month ago
Reply to  Jared

I agree. Speaking of Cambell Lake, is there or is there NOT public access?

Kathrin
1 month ago

Dear Landmine, I was annoyed by the comments your landmine for Sunday made about rank choice voting which I consider a move for the better in Alaska’s voting system. As for the “nothing burger, I suggest you read Dermot Cole’s blog this am and revise you analysis of how serious the whole campaign finance issue with the Who, What , Where related to 3million to RGA. Or not. I also do not like the way you busted on Scott Kendall. The seemed very unnecessary to me. This is far from a “nothing burger” and is in fact a very big… Read more »

David Westman
1 month ago
Reply to  Kathrin

Agreed. Ranked choice voting is fantastic. The author just assumes that the reader will agree that it’s a “mess.” It’s not, though. It’s what the voters wanted and it’s working exactly as it should.

Nonpartisan Alaskan
1 month ago

For years I’ve read Jeff’s reporting despite his occasional wannabe Ben Shapiro weirdness. But in the past 3-6 months he seems to have seriously gone off the rails. He alleges outlandish stuff (like this Jennie Armstrong thing) and then seems impossible of course correcting when given more facts (see the discussion on Twitter on this same issue). His factual reporting, in my opinion, is getting more and more detached from reality. I won’t be surprised if in the near future Jeff gets successfully sued for libel. It’s reached the point that I’ve decided to block him on twitter and stop… Read more »

David Westman
1 month ago

But if Jennie violated the Alaska constitution by running when she wasn’t eligible, isn’t that significant? I agree that Jeff’s reporting is bombastic and he gets things very wrong but in this case the evidence does show that she moved here in early June, which would make her ineligible to run. If her candidacy is illegal, then it’s illegal. I don’t see how she should get a free pass here. Jeff also reported on Kelly Tshibaka breaking the law by fishing illegally. These residency requirements really do matter.

Akfreedom
1 month ago

Couldn’t agree more. I keep hoping for another professional piece, but nothing but disappointment over the last few months/year…. Another political operative is not what I need; looking for solid reporting.

Maureen Suttman
1 month ago

As he speaks regularly about drinking and talking with legislators in Juneau bars, I understand his blog and twitter to be tainted by this. I suspect extra drinking has been going on.

David Westman
1 month ago

I would like to see someone other than Jeff address the Jennie Armstrong situation. At this point there really does seem to be evidence that Jennie was not eligible to run. Her social media posts paint a picture of someone who visited a fling, fell in love with him, and then definitively moved here in early June. You do not become an Alaska resident because you are simply physically in the state and mentally decide you are an Alaskan. That is just not how it works. But Jeff is also clearly wound up by the story. So it is time… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by David Westman
Taku
1 month ago
Reply to  David Westman

It would be interesting to find out if she voted in any elections outside of Alaska in the last three years. That would nail down where she was claiming residency.

Ivan Hodes
1 month ago
Reply to  David Westman

“You do not become an Alaska resident because you are simply physically in the state and mentally decide you are an Alaskan.” Are you sure? The law says “A change of residence is made only by the act of removal joined with the intent to remain in another place. There can only be one residence.” So if you have a residence in Louisiana and come to Alaska, the moment you decide to “intend to remain”—which is a state of mind —is the moment you become a resident. Since nobody can prove or disprove a state of mind, and the burden… Read more »

Matt
1 month ago

Ranked choice is one of the few things that makes me hopeful about Alaska politics.

Lynn Willis
1 month ago

Apparently, this Mr. Huber invoices for services then “balances his books” with anonymous deposits into his bank account. You Betcha!