Anchorage Assembly Chair Felix Rivera is facing a two-pronged attack as one group claims Rivera failed to uphold his duty as chair by continuing an assembly meeting with more people present than COVID-19 emergency orders allowed and a second group is currently suing Mr. Rivera in his official capacity for limiting in-person participation in assembly meetings during the shutdown in August.
In April 2019, Christine Hill ran against Meg Zalatel for the District 4 Assembly seat and was handily defeated 52.4% to 34.1%.
A year later, on April 7, 2020, Hill ran again but this time against Rivera for the District G seat and lost the April general election by 179 votes. Mere months after Mr. Rivera won re-election, he would see an effort to recall him from his seat on the Assembly.
As the Recall Rivera effort moves forward, however, it’s becoming more clear how serious the effort to recall the openly gay Assembly Chair is, as a recent APOC filing shows the enlistment of heavy-weight outside help from the largest general consulting firm in the United States.
Huntington National Bank
Setting aside what some say is the highly unusual use of an out-of-state bank for a local campaign, there is another interesting facet to be found in the recent APOC filing.
The campaign depository/bank account for Recall Rivera listed on the groups APOC filing dated February 16, 2021 appears as The Huntington National Bank (HNB), located in Columbus, Ohio 43215.
Huntington National Bank earned multiple distinctions last year, appearing on Fortune’s “100 Best Workplaces for Diversity.” Huntington also appeared on the Forbes Best Employers for Diversity list for 2020. Also last year, the Human Rights Campaign listed HNB as one of the “Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality” and for the seventh year in a row, Huntington earned a perfect 100 rating for LGBTQ-inclusive workplace policies from HRC.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Huntington National Bank was aware that it is potentially being used to politically attack a hispanic member of the LGBTQ community who has been attacked online with homophobic social media posts and comments.
The APOC filing lists Robert Phillips III as Deputy Treasurer of the Recall Rivera group. Phillips is President over all Axiom Strategies companies.
Axiom Strategies is an American Republican Party political consulting firm. It was founded in 2005 by Jeff Roe, senior strategist and campaign manager of Texas Senator Ted Cruz's 2016 presidential campaign. In 2010, Axiom became the largest general consulting firm in the United States. In 2019, Axiom Strategies hired former Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker as manager of its Clout Public Affairs division.
Presently, Axiom Strategies has offices in Annapolis, Washington D.C., Tampa, Dublin Ohio, Jefferson City, Kansas City Missouri, Lincoln Nebraska, Houston and Austin Texas, Sacramento, Newport Beach, San Diego and Tacoma Washington.
According to the Kansas City Star, Axiom received $2.7 million from Ted Cruz for the work done on his presidential campaign. Axiom's website at the time wrote that the firm worked to target voters in Iowa ahead of the caucuses to deliver Cruz's message across various platforms.
While it’s not known what role the heavy-hitting political consulting firm will play in the Recall Rivera effort to remove the embattled Anchorage assembly member, Axiom Strategies lists general consulting, public affairs, direct mail, media buying, digital services, phone programs, brand building, compliance, field programs, fundraising, and intelligent opposition research as services they provide to clients.
In the fundraising arena, Axiom Strategies has partners at High Cotton Consulting, which specializes in raising money for Republican Members of Congress, candidates, and parties. According to best data available, they raised a reported $19 million for clients in the 2014/2016 election cycles. They raised 12 million dollars for candidates and PAC’s for the 2018 election cycle.
Lynda Blanchard, an Alabama businesswoman and former ambassador to Slovenia in the Trump administration, announced her campaign for the United States Senate this past week. Blanchard’s campaign is being led by Jeff Roe and Ethan Zorfas of Axiom Strategies, who last year guided former college football coach Tommy Tuberville’s successful Senate campaign to unseat Doug Jones, the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Alabama in a quarter-century.
Interestingly, Wikipedia notes on itsAxiom Strategies Wikipedia page that a "major contributor" to its Wikipedia article "appears to have a close connection with its subject," and writes that the Axiom Strategies Wikipedia page "may require cleanup to comply with Wikipedia's content policies, particularly neutral point of view."
Sixteen blog posts written by Suzanne Downing of Must Read Alaska have referenced the Recall Rivera effort since late last year and on September 28, 2020 titled one such post, perhaps aptly, “Assembly recall do-over: Zaletel, Rivera are targets”.
This past week, one Anchorage resident posted on social media that she received two telephone surveys conducted by a Utah-based company, which could not say on behalf of whom the survey was conducted. The survey calls reportedly came from two different numbers identified as (908 282-3195 and (909) 200-3649. Calls made to both numbers disconnected after the first ring.
The Anchorage resident wrote that the “style of questions seemed to be focused on eliciting a negative response towards Anchorage mayoral candidate Forrest Dunbar and Assembly Chair Felix Rivera.”
The Anchorage resident says that some of the questions asked in the survey included information on Rivera's alleged financial problems regarding student loans and paying his car registration.
Interestingly, the same recipient of what sounds like “Push-Polling'' also says both Eagle River Assemblywoman Jamie Allard and the Save Anchorage Facebook group were mentioned in questions by the unidentified Utah-based company. Questions surrounding the Save Anchorage Facebook group asked the Anchorage resident to rate the Facebook group on a favorable/unfavorable scale.
The Anchorage resident said that “most of the questions honed in on the Recall Rivera effort and some were directed towards Forrest Dunbar.”
Another APOC group filing made on February 18, 2021 appears to show “Reclaim Anchorage With Bronson," presumably a group representing conservative candidate Dave Bronson for Anchorage Mayor, is also utilizing the services of Axiom Strategies. Phillips is listed as Treasurer on the group’s filing. The APOC filing also lists Huntington National Bank as the campaign depository.