Complaint, APOC hearing underscore prevalence of Outside money

Election Day is rapidly approaching, and as Alaska voters come closer and closer to deciding the fate of the immensely consequential Yes for Salmon proposal – also known as Ballot Measure 1 – public and stakeholder concern about the Outside money responsible for funding and orchestrating the efforts of Ballot Measure 1’s supporters is growing more pronounced by the day.

Recently, Stand for Alaska-Vote No on One filed a complaint with the Alaska Public Offices Commission alleging that three groups pushing for passage of Ballot Measure 1 are illegally benefiting from “dark money” being funneled into Alaska from out of state.

The complaint, which names Yes for Salmon-Vote Yes on 1, The Alaska Center, and Stand for Salmon, alleges that the three groups are violating campaign law by actively coordinating, by sharing office space, soliciting campaign funds for one another, and having the same leadership while at the same time filing separate financial disclosures.

The complaint also alleges that the three groups “failed to report the true source of the dark money they have received from Lower 48 nonprofit entities that are used to launder large Outside donations.”

Sound familiar?

The initial complaint focuses on $50,000 sent from the San Francisco-based Tides Advocacy Fund to The Alaska Center over the summer – a contribution whose source was not revealed by its recipients. That’s an allegation in need of a close examination by regulators. But the revelation made during the hearing shows that the Tides Advocacy Fund situation is just the tip of the iceberg.

During the hearing, Yes for Salmon campaign director, Ryan Schryver, divulged that his paychecks do, indeed, come from the D.C.-based New Venture Fund – a sort of environmental activist incubator known for fomenting discord in local policy debates by funding advocacy campaigns with Outside money. He maintained that while he is paid by New Venture Fund, he doesn’t answer to them. Rather, he takes his orders from SalmonState – another group named in the Stand for Alaska complaint.

Schryver and his New Venture funders maintained, during the hearing and in email exchanges with the Anchorage Daily News, that the local organizations operate independently and set their own strategy. But that didn’t seem to satisfy Tim Dietz of APOC, who asked pointedly how an average Alaskan could hope to know where the money funding Ballot Measure 1 is coming from if such a vast percentage is coming from Outside agitators like New Venture Fund.

Schryver attempted to deflect, as usual, by asking a question of his own about the funding of groups like Stand for Alaska, which derive their operating budgets from the job creators and economic contributors that recognize the impact the measure would have on development in our state.

Dietz rebuffed Schryver by saying “I’m asking the questions here.”

The hearing also touched on $500,000 in contributions to the campaign from The Alaska Center, with representatives of the complainant noting that it was unclear where around half of that money came from.