Writing about campaign disclosures isn’t sexy, but how a campaign deals with its reporting can paint a colorful picture about the candidate running for office and about the candidate’s campaign as a whole.
Campaign finance regulation covers rules on contribution and expenditure limits, the reporting and disclosure obligations of electoral contestants to provide information about the origins of received contributions, the nature of incurred expenditures, and the enforcement of campaign finance rules by an oversight body. In Alaska, the oversight body is the Alaska Public Offices Commission or what we affectionately refer to as (APOC).
Arguably, the Bronson campaign has done an abysmal job accurately and timely reporting its campaign disclosures with APOC. APOC has already twice fined the campaign. In comparison, this year’s mayoral race is Forrest Dunbar’s third APOC-regulated campaign. None of Dunbar’s campaigns have ever filed a late report nor incurred a penalty.
Nearly a month after Stacey Stone, counsel for the Bronson campaign, promised that Bronson’s APOC reports would be cleaned up “expeditiously,” the Bronson campaign miraculously managed to file significant amendments to three of its major reports on Election Day, but not until after the polls closed.
According to Dunbar Treasurer Paula DeLaiarro, these amendments were filed at 9:50 pm, 10:15 pm, and 10:54 pm on May 11, 2021, and the amendments made by the Bronson campaign tell a much different story than has been reported thus far.
The amended reports: Year Start, 30 Day, and 7 Day now show substantial debt where previously the campaign listed minimal or no debt at all.
|Year Start||30 Day||7 Day||7 Day Runoff|
Source: APOC Bronson Campaign Disclosures
Since April 6, 2021, Bronson has amended his reports ten times, but inconsistencies remain despite the campaign’s sudden flurry of amendments. Take note of the original amount of debt owed to Hackney & Hackney and Axiom Strategies.
The original amount of the Hackney & Hackney debt incurred on September 20, 2020, varies from $95,000 to $150,000. Likewise, the Axiom Strategies debt incurred on February 4, 2021, fluctuates from $20K to $80K then down to $60K.
|Report||Date Incurred||Original Amount||Bal. Remaining|
|Hackney & Hackney||Year Start||9/20/2020||$95,000.00||$95,000.00|
|Hackney & Hackney||30 Day||9/20/2020||$95,000.00||$76,750.00|
|Hackney & Hackney||7 Day||9/20/2020||$150,000.00||$67,250.00|
|Hackney & Hackney||7 Day Runoff||9/20/2020||$95,000.00||$12,250.00|
|Axiom Strategies||30 Day||2/4/2021||$20,000.00||$20,000.00|
|Axiom Strategies||7 Day||2/4/2021||$80,000.00||$15,815.00|
|Axiom Strategies||7 Day Runoff||2/4/2021||$60,000.00||$40,000.00|
Source: APOC Bronson Campaign Disclosures
Bronson’s campaign has not refunded over $5,000.00 from donors who gave over the $500 limit in 2021, and it appears the campaign has grossly underreported credit card fees on their 7 Day Runoff Report, reporting just $381.80 in fees for over $192,000.00 in credit card contributions.
According to its APOC reports, the Dunbar campaign listed ANEDOT fees for the same timeframe as $8,114.81 for a total of $190,745.27 in contributions. The Bronson campaign also uses ANEDOT.
According to Dunbar Campaign Treasurer Paula DeLaiarro, when reached by email and asked about the difference in reported credit card processing fees, the Dunbar campaign is charged 4% of the amount contributed plus $.30 per transaction. DeLaiarro says for $192,000.00 in credit card contributions, she would expect to see the Bronson campaign report over $7,700.00 in fees — substantially more than the current reported fees of $381.80.
The same report by the Bronson campaign lists some contributions made by credit card and others, many of them, by electronic funds transfer (EFT). Assumably, the Bronson treasurer uses these categories interchangeably even though EFT for contributions implies a wire transfer or an electronic transfer between the donor’s and the candidate’s accounts.
Certainly, Bronson’s newly amended reports paint a very different financial picture than what the campaign originally portrayed. For many months, it was unclear who was even managing Bronson’s campaign.
Based on the Bronson campaign’s early reports, it appeared that Axiom Strategies, an American Republican political consulting firm founded in 2005 by Jeff Roe, Senior Strategist and campaign manager of Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign, was handling the campaign’s mailers and doing general consulting. We now know from the APOC reports that Axiom was calling the shots, handling messaging, strategy, guidance, and polling.
It’s not clear if the Dunbar campaign would have changed their campaign approach had this newly amended information been accurately reported months ago. Still, it likely would have been helpful information to know in the final weeks of March that the Bronson campaign had over $90,000.00 in debt instead of the previously reported $5,000.00.
Bronson’s Republican opponents might have found that information useful as well.
Dunbar campaign manager Claire Shaw said in the press release:
“Unfortunately for Anchorage voters, this dishonest behavior is entirely consistent with how the Bronson campaign has conducted itself over the course of this election.. The timing of these updates confirms that the campaign intentionally misrepresented its finances right up until the point voters could no longer use this information to inform their decision. We will never know how voters would have been influenced if Bronson had been held to account when our campaign requested an expedited hearing weeks ago. It is shocking that a campaign in an election of this significance would be so corrupt in its dealings.”