This story originally published in the Peninsula Clarion.
Nikiski Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly candidate John Quick’s campaign manager, Paul Huber, has resigned after it was reported during an Alaska Public Offices Commission hearing that Huber has been communicating with Alaska Yes Inc — a local nonprofit supporting Quick’s campaign through post shares on their Facebook page.
The commission’s Thursday hearing was in regards to a complaint, filed by Kenai resident Todd Smith against John Quick, that was expedited Wednesday afternoon. The complaint alleges Quick is coordinating with Alaska Yes, Inc — which Quick helped establish in March, and which Quick said he resigned from also in March.
The Alaska Yes Inc organization is running ads against Quick’s opponent, Jesse Bjorkman, and other assembly candidates. A candidate coordinating with an independent expenditure group is in violation of campaign law. According to its website, Alaska Yes Inc is an independent expenditure group, however, the entity has not filed with the state commission as such.
At Thursday’s hearing, Quick was represented by attorney Stacey Stone. Immediately after the hearing, when it was reported that Huber was involved in email correspondence with Alaska Yes, Huber resigned from Quick’s campaign, Stone told the Clarion. Stone said Quick was not aware of Huber’s involvement with Alaska Yes Inc.
“Mr. Quick wants to move forward with a positive campaign,” Stone said.
In a Thursday afternoon Facebook post on his official campaign page, Vote for Quick, Quick said he accepted Paul Huber’s resignation effective immediately.
“Paul is a good guy with a big heart,” the post read. “During a hearing today before the Alaska Public Offices Commission, I learned for the first time that Paul was in communication with Alaska Yes, an independent expenditure entity, via email. I was not copied on these emails, nor was I aware that Paul was copied on this emails. I was familiar with this entity as I was previously affiliated with the same.”
During Thursday’s hearing, the commission asked if Quick could get Huber on the phone to testify. Huber did not answer when Quick and Stone reached out to him during Thursday’s hearing. Huber did not respond to calls and voicemails from the Clarion Thursday afternoon.
Alaska Yes, Inc is incorporated as a nonprofit and is filed with the commission as an entity. The alaskayes.org website identifies AlaskaYes LLC as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit “established to provide independent expenditures for conservative political candidates and to advocate for conservative issues throughout the State of Alaska.” The Alaska Yes Facebook page, which includes a link to alaskayes.org, says the site was paid for by AlaskaYes, and certifies that “all ads are not authorized, paid for or approved by candidates.”
Wayne Ogle, Peter Zuyus, Kathy Toms and Nona Safra are listed as board members of Alaska Yes Inc under the entity’s most recent commission filing. Phone calls from Zuyus and Toms were not returned as of Thursday afternoon.
Alaska Yes, Inc, through its Facebook page, is supporting Quick’s campaign through post shares from Quick’s campaign Facebook page. Alaska Yes, Inc’s Facebook page has also posted video endorsements from Mayor Charlie Pierce and Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, in support of Quick. An endorsement message from Pierce was no longer on the Alaska Yes Facebook page as of Wednesday evening. Quick posted a different endorsement video from the mayor on his own campaign Facebook page Wednesday afternoon.
AlaskaYes has purchased advertising in local news outlets and has posted signs in opposition to Kenai Peninsula Borough Proposition 1.
On its Facebook page, Alaska Yes, Inc has posted ads against Tyson Cox, Bjorkman and Brent Johnson. A website dedicated to opposing Cox — which includes a disclaimer saying it was paid for by Alaska Yes — also includes negative allegations against Cox.
In a Sept. 5 filing of Alaska Yes Inc’s entity paperwork, Quick is listed as the organization’s director. This listing is a mistake, Quick said at both Wednesday and Thursday’s hearings.
Quick said Wednesday during the initial hearing and to the Clarion that he resigned March 25 and has had no involvement with the organization since. Quick said at the Thursday hearing he helped incorporate Alaska Yes Inc March 5 with Zuyus and Blaine Gilman, to establish an organization that would seek to champion various issues in Alaska, including private property rights. Quick said at Thursday’s hearing that he resigned March 25 as the director of the group after the organization focused their efforts in another direction he was less passionate about.
Toms, the Alaska Yes Inc treasurer who filed the Sept. 5 entity paperwork, told both the Clarion Wednesday and the commission in their Thursday hearing that the inclusion of Quick’s name in the filing was a mistake. At Thursday’s hearing, Toms said she had only been involved with Alaska Yes Inc for three weeks, and was asked to join Alaska Yes Inc by board members Nona Safra and Peter Zuyus because of her accounting expertise.
When asked by the commission on Thursday what she does for Alaska Yes Inc, Toms said she is working on accounting, setting up QuickBooks and will be doing more filings as required. Toms said Thursday at the hearing that Alaska Yes Inc advertisements are emailed to “everybody,” and suggestions, comments and approvals of those ads are made via email correspondence.
When asked by the commission who “everybody” was, Toms listed Huber and Alaska Yes Inc board members Wayne Ogle and Nona Safra. Thursday afternoon, Ogle told the Clarion that he has had no involvement with the creation or reviewing of ads for Alaska Yes Inc. At Thursday’s hearing, Toms said she did not know who Paul Huber was, only that she was “carbon copied” on email responses from him in regards to Alaska Yes Inc business.
The commission confirmed that since Aug. 6, Huber was listed as Quick’s candidate chair in official candidate commission filing. Quick confirmed Huber’s role as candidate chair at the Thursday hearing, but said he was not aware of any correspondence between Huber and Alaska Yes Inc.
“I’m not aware of any emails he’s on as it relates to Alaska Yes,” Quick said. “However, if he is on those emails, he will be relieved of his duties.”
Toms and Quick testified to the commission that they did not know each other.
Smith filed a complaint to the commission Wednesday morning after he noticed the ads Alaska Yes Inc was posting to their Facebook page. At Wednesday’s hearing, he said wanted to learn more about Alaska Yes, Inc. He said he checked the commission’s records, and found that Alaska Yes, Inc filed as an entity on Sept. 5, and Quick was listed as the organization’s director. He also found that Quick was an incorporator for the organization.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Quick provided the commission with his resignation letter from Alaska Yes Inc, as well as the entity’s Domestic Nonprofit Corporation Initial Biennial Report, filed on Sept. 6, which does not list Quick as a director or board member of the organization.
Toms said the clerical mistake on the Sept. 5 filing came about when she was searching state records. She said at the hearing she used the members listed on the original incorporation documents.
“The only thing on there at the time was the same original organization papers, so I just copied it off of that,” Toms said at the Thursday hearing.
The commission — the state entity for campaign disclosures — has one day to make a conclusion, staff at the commission said. One of three conclusions can be made: a cease order of the activity, dismissal of the complaint, or referral of the complaint to commission staff for a full investigation.