Dunleavy continues to campaign on state dime, ignoring state ethics act

3/9/2022 10:33 AM

Gov. Mike Dunleavy continues to ignore the state law that prohibits the use of “state funds, facilities, equipment, services or another government asset or resource for partisan political purposes.”

The Legislature hasn’t done a thing about it and Alaska news organizations have failed to report on Dunleavy’s continual use of state funds and resources to promote his campaign.

The law says that partisan “means having the intent to differentially benefit or harm a candidate or potential candidate for elective office.”

Dunleavy’s campaign spokesman, Andrew Jensen, is a $90,000-a-year state communications employee. Dunleavy is misusing state resources by allowing Jensen, who was hired by the state Oct. 19,  to be his “volunteer” PR campaign worker. Jensen is doing the same job for the state and the campaign—praising and defending his boss.

Dunleavy hired two additional PR people last summer. One of the main reasons his campaign had spent nothing on personnel by the end of 2021 was that he has been using his state PR workers for what should be campaign work.

The latest state-funded PR campaign ad for Dunleavy appeared Tuesday, the Facebook post shown here. There is no question that this is partisan purpose and a misuse of state resources, both in creating it and publishing it.

“This post will be part of a series we are posting to end misinformation around Alaska,” said the state employee who wrote the ad in Dunleavy’s voice. I  hope not.

Dunleavy and his state PR employees are not telling the truth. This ad does nothing to “end misinformation around Alaska.” It spreads misinformation.

It is not a myth that Dunleavy tried to end the Power Cost Equalization Endowment.  He has  made several attempts to raid and end the fund.

Here is refresher course.

The PCE endowment is a fund set up by the Legislature. Earnings from the fund provide a sustainable revenue source for the program that helps lower electric rates in rural Alaska.

Dunleavy and former temporary budget director Donna Arduin tried to do away with the $1 billion PCE endowment and a host of other funds in 2019.

“We began on Day 1 of the administration. We started with eliminating budget silos, tearing down those silos,” Arduin told legislators on Jan. 23, 2019.

One of the budget “silos” that Arduin and Dunleavy sought to tear down was the Power Cost Equalization endowment, created by the Legislature to provide a regular revenue source to pay for the rural electric subsidies, estimated at $32 million a year.

“All spending is state spending so all programs should compete for available dollars. So let’s scrutinize those programs that are funded with designated general funds—cuz all money is green,” Arduin said.

The PCE because it serves rural Alaska, would lose in any competition with programs mainly helping Anchorage, Mat-Su and Fairbanks. Getting rid of the endowment would put the PCE program on the endangered list.

Three months after Arduin declared that all money is green, Dunleavy proposed a bill to get rid of the PCE endowment, which was the prime target.

The Legislature refused to comply, but when Dunleavy’s Republican allies in the Legislature blocked the budget, the governor’s crew tried a new tactic.

In the summer of 2019, he eliminated the endowment with an AG Kevin Clarkson legal dodge, an action that was overturned by a super-majority of the Legislature.

The political argument morphed overnight into a flimsy legal theory in which former AG Clarkson and Arduin claimed the endowment had to be ended to follow the Alaska Constitution.

Clarkson had a habit during his pompous tenure as AG of trying to disguise political gamesmanship with a veneer of legal analysis, losing time after time.

This past summer Dunleavy made the policy call to shut down the Power Cost Equalization program for rural Alaska July 1.

After losing a lawsuit about his handling of the endowment, Dunleavy claimed he had welcomed the lawsuit and was pleased with the result.

Dunleavy has long been an opponent of the endowment, seeing it as a pot of money that could be used for other programs..

When he served in the Senate, Dunleavy also targeted the PCE endowment.

“We are experiencing a $4 billion hole and there are a billion in this fund. Just a thought as to why wouldn’t we use this fund to at least backfill some of the deficit? I certainly understand the assistance it gives to many of our communities but I am just curious if there is a comment by anyone,” Dunleavy said on April 11, 2016.

A year later, Dunleavy advanced his plan to spend down the PCE endowment with a proposal to withdraw $300 million from the account. “Just to note that that withdrawal is from the endowment and does not curtail or negatively impact the service delivered under the PCE program,” Dunleavy said on Feb. 23, 2017.

In his understated manner, Sen. John Coghill said that spending one-third of the account on other things was a “huge chunk” that would create a problem going forward.

Candidate Dunleavy is trying to get everyone in rural Alaska to forget about his record of trying to get rid of the PCE endowment. That’s to be expected during the campaign.

He should stop using state employees and state resources for campaign work that should be paid for by his campaign.

The personnel board, which enforces the state ethics act, includes former GOP Rep. Craig Johnson; Keith Hamilton, president of Alaska Christian College; and Alfred Tagmani Sr., a  former state employee and member of the board since 2006.

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