The multi-million-dollar backed pro-ranked choice voting group, Alaskans for Better Elections (ABE), is now under official investigation for allegedly skirting state election laws.
Scott Kendall, who provides legal counsel for ABE, was notified of the investigation via a letter dated Oct. 10 from the Alaska Public Offices Commission.
The former campaign legal counsel for U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Kendall drafted and helped spearhead the ranked choice voting law in Alaska, and has defended it against legal challenges.
He was the driving force behind the 2020 Ballot Measure 2, which passed by 1% of the vote and ushered Alaska into the new and highly controversial era of ranked choice voting. The novel change also did away with traditional party primaries, a move that is widely seen as ideal for Murkowski, whom many believe would never make it out of a Republican primary contest.
Prior to receiving notice of the new APOC investigation, Kendall recently authored a very similar APOC complaint against the group working to repeal ranked choice voting, namely Alaskans for Honest Elections (AHE), which is currently gathering signatures in hopes of repealing ranked choice voting in 2024. Following an investigation into Kendall’s allegations that AHE ran afoul of election reporting rules, APOC staffers suggested that APOC commissioners issue fines of roughly $50,000 for the individuals and major groups associated with AHE.
Now Kendall and his allies face similar accusations. The Oct. 10 APOC letter, is specifically addressed to Kendal, stating that ABE is accused of violating campaign disclosure law.
“As the Respondent, you have the right to file a response within 15 days of this notification,” the APOC letter states. “APOC staff will conduct an investigation as provided in AS 15.13.380 and 2 AAC 50.875 to collect factual information, prepare a summary and present recommendations to the Commission.”
Following an investigation, ABE could face civil penalties if the evidence supports a violation, the letter explains.
“The Commission may also refer the case to the Attorney General,” it adds. “If the Commission schedules a hearing, you may participate in person or by phone. After the investigation concludes, the case file becomes a public document.”
Phillip Izon, who serves as a director of Alaskans for Honest Elections, submitted the complaint against ABE to APOC, stating that the ranked-choice voting advocates have broken many of the same rules they accuse the repeal side of violating.
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“While leveling complaints with APOC against the people and the groups who are pursuing the initiative to repeal the flawed ranked choice voting and open primary election system, respondents have been violating many of the same Alaska campaign finance laws that they tout in their complaints,” Izon’s states.
Izon alleges that ABE and its affiliated groups have been funneling money from unidentified donors to ABE, while they “cavalierly flout the very campaign finance laws that they have wielded as swords against those supporting” efforts to repeal ranked choice voting and restore traditional party primaries.
In particular, Izon alleges that ABE failed to register as a political opposition group to the effort to repeal ranked choice voting, and that ABE’s affiliate groups – Alaskans for Better Elections, Inc (ABEI) and Alaskans for Better Elections Foundation (ABEF) – failed to register with APOC as either groups or entities, but they were both formed as non-profit organizations and granted tax-exempt status by the IRS.
Izon’s complaint accuses ABE and associated groups of issuing press releases, releasing television ads and accepting millions of dollars in tax-exempt donations to fight the repeal effort, all while failing to file reports as ballot opposition groups.
The complaint also accuses ABEF of violating the “giving in the name of another” prohibition by receiving funds donated by others and then repurposing those funds into a donation to ABE in the name of ABEF – thus giving its donor’s funds to ABE in the name of another, namely its own name.”