Show me the money: Outside PACs bankroll municipal campaigns
Voters in Anchorage have had nearly three weeks to cast their ballot in the April 2 municipal election. There are two school board seats up for grabs, 11 propositions and five assembly seats, two of which are uncontested.
Some of the more contentious measures and races have received more attention and campaign fundraising than others. To give you an idea of which campaigns and candidates have raised the most money, KTVA compiled data from the online campaign financial disclosure forms provided to the Alaska Public Offices Commission as of March 27.
The data shows money raised for the school board seats, three assembly seats and groups with Proposition 9, a proposed 5% alcohol tax aimed to help homelessness in Anchorage.
PROPOSITION 9: ALCOHOL TAX
The campaign group "Alaskans Against Unfair Alcohol Taxes" has raised the most money by far during this municipal election cycle. The group is against an alcohol tax, and wants people to vote no on Proposition 9.
The group reported $328,883 in its campaign financial disclosure forms with APOC as of March 27. More than half of that, $180,000, was donated by the Alaska Beer Wine and Spirits Wholesalers Association. Other large contributors include alcohol beverage companies like Anheuser-Busch contributing more than $24,000 and MillerCoors donating $10,000.
Local bars and breweries like Twister Creek LLC, King Street Brewing Co., and Reilly's Alaska also donated to the issue with close to $10,000 in donations.
With this type of fundraising power, the group was able to afford the services of Hackney & Hackney, a media consulting group, to purchase radio, television, mail and canvassing for its advertising and marketing. According to the American Association of Political Consultants, the company has led several Republican campaigns, including for Congressman Don Young. "Alaskans Against Unfair Alcohol Taxes" has spent $199,000 for the group's services.
Opponents say Proposition 9 comes loaded with potential for unintended consequences that could make homelessness worse in Anchorage.
The group "Yes for a Safer Anchorage" is campaigning in support of an alcohol tax and as of March 27 reported to APOC a total of $22,116 in campaign contributions. A large portion of that donation came from the political action committee, International Association of Fire Fighters at $10,000. Recover Alaska, another PAC, donated $5,000 while the Anchorage Police Department Employees Association (APDEA) donated $2,500.
Online record show "Yes for a Safer Anchorage" received a last-minute donation of $10,000 from Brown Jug on March 29. "Alaskans Against Unfair Alcohol Taxes" also received a last-minute donation of $6,150 on March 28, from Distilled Spirits Council US, reported to APOC. Those donations are not represented in KTVA's graphics.
Supporters of the alcohol tax say it’ll help to raise about $13 million to fight homelessness and addiction in Anchorage, with minimal impact to voters' wallets — about 40 cents more for a six-pack of beer, 50 cents for a $10 mixed drink, or $2 for a $50 bottle of wine.
SCHOOL BOARD: SEAT A
School board candidate Kai Binkley Sims has raised more than $59,000 during this municipal election as of March 27, based on her campaign disclosure forms filed with APOC. A large majority of her donations were made from individuals.
Binkly-Sims participated in KTVA's election survey, where she discussed her stance on Gov. Mike Dunleavy's proposed cuts to education and other concerns.
Margo Bellamy has raised more than $46,000 during this election. She's a professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage and explained in her KTVA questionnaire that if the governor's proposed education cuts are approved, they would have a devastating impact to public education.
SCHOOL BOARD: SEAT B
Candidates Starr Marsett and David Nees have both raised a comparable amount of money during this campaign. Online records show candidate Ronald Stafford reported zero donations to APOC as of March 27.
Marsett most recently served as the chair of the Anchorage School District board. She's raised $12,830 thus far. David Nees raised $10,700.
Ronald Stafford did not respond to KTVA's candidate questionnaire.
WEST ANCHORAGE ASSEMBLY SEAT
Kameron Perez-Verdia, a candidate for West Anchorage, has reported the most money raised with APOC according to online records. He's raised nearly $69,000 with donations from unions like Public Employees Local 71, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers PAC, International Association of Firefighters PAC Local 1264 and APDEA PAC.
Liz Vazquez has raised less than half of Perez-Verdia, at about $23,000. Some of her big donors according to online campaign disclosure forms include $3,000 from the Alaska Republican Party and $1,500 from the Anchorage Republican Women's Club.
Online records show Vazquez received $2,000 in last-minute donations from individuals reported to APOC on March 28 and 29. This amount is not shown in KTVA's graphics.
Candidate Dustin Darden reported zero donations to APOC.
Vazquez did not respond to requests to complete KTVA's 2019 candidate survey.
MIDTOWN ANCHORAGE ASSEMBLY SEAT
Candidates for the midtown assembly seat Meg Zaletel and Christine Hill are close in their fundraising amounts. Zaletel has raised more than $46,000 and Hill has reported more than $44,500 with APOC's online records.
Zaletel reported several donations from PACs including NEA-Alaska PACE, AFL-CIO, Laborers International Union Local 341, Planned Parenthood Votes, APDEA and International Association of Firefighters.
Hill received donations from the Alaska Realtors Political Action, Valley Republican Women of Alaska and Anchorage Home Builders Association.
According to online records, Ron Alleva reported zero donations to APOC.
EAGLE RIVER/CHUGIAK ASSEMBLY SEAT
Crystal Kennedy has raised more than $35,000, as of March 27 according to online campaign disclosure forms with APOC. Candidate Oliver Schiess has raised nearly $33,000.
More than 20% of Schiess's donations are from PACs and unions including APDEA, Alaska AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood Votes and NEA-Alaska PACE.
Some of Kennedy's donors include Anchorage Home Builders Association, Anchorage Republican Women's Club, Alaskan Republican Assembly, Valley Republican Women of Alaska and Midnight Sun Republican Women's Club.
Candidate John Weddleton is running unopposed for the South Anchorage seat, as is Forrest Dunbar for his East Anchorage seat.
Another, Proposition 10, seeks to allow municipal code enforcement officers to assist with calls for junked and abandoned cars, freeing up APD officers to respond to more pressing crimes. The measure has support from Mayor Ethan Berkowitz's office, APD and the Anchorage Police Department Employees Association.
Voters must have their ballot postmarked, returned to an Accessible Voting Center or at any of the 16 secure ballot drop boxes by 8 p.m. on Election Day, April 2.
Correction: This article has been edited to correct that the Alaska Beer Wine and Spirits Wholesalers Association donated more than half of the total campaign contributions reported with "Alaskans Against Unfair Alcohol Taxes" not one-third, as of March 27.
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