Gov. Dunleavy’s office signs contract with former aide who’s also being paid to help with his re-election
By Nathaniel Herz
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has signed a consulting contract with longtime ally Brett Huber, who will simultaneously work for the governor’s office on a “statehood defense” initiative and consult for a Republican group that’s seeking to boost Dunleavy’s campaign.
Dunleavy’s office has hired Huber’s consulting firm, Strategic Synergies, under a six-month contract capped at $50,000, which was obtained by the Daily News in a routine public records request last week.
Huber, Dunleavy’s 2018 campaign manager and a former aide to the Republican governor, is being paid to work on an administration initiative that seeks to reduce the federal government’s influence and authority over Alaska lands.
Strategic Synergies is also working for “A Stronger Alaska,” a group funded by the Republican Governors Association, which seeks to elect and re-elect GOP candidates to their states’ top offices. A Stronger Alaska reported an $80,500 debt to Huber’s firm dating back to April.
Alaska law bars independent expenditure groups like A Stronger Alaska — which, like super PACs at the federal level, can accept unlimited sums from corporations and unions — from coordinating their work with candidates. That prohibition is aimed at guarding against corruption, with a landmark U.S. Supreme Court opinion, Citizens United, holding that the risk of trading official favors for campaign support is reduced when wealthy donors are barred from directly communicating with the candidates they support.
Huber’s supervisor, under his new contract, is Dunleavy’s chief of staff, Randy Ruaro.
As of Tuesday morning, Huber was still listed as a deputy treasurer for Dunleavy’s re-election campaign.
But the campaign removed him later in the day, after Dunleavy critics questioned Huber’s role on social media. And Huber, in a phone call, said he had not done any work for the governor’s campaign since being hired by A Stronger Alaska.
Huber said he moved from a full-time state job to contract work because it makes the most sense for him as he goes through a “personal transition” following the death of his father.
“It makes sense for the state, saves them some money and I’m abiding by all the rules and regulations in providing this service to the state,” he said.
Huber is one of three Dunleavy allies who are working for the governor’s state office and re-election campaign in parallel.
Jordan Shilling, a former aide to Dunleavy, has his own contract, capped at $50,000, to work on renewable energy and Division of Motor Vehicles policy. At the same time, he’s helping to lead Dunleavy’s re-election campaign, though Shilling said he’s currently working on a volunteer basis.
And Andrew Jensen, a communications aide in Dunleavy’s state office, works as the governor’s campaign spokesman, though also on a volunteer basis, he said.
Jensen, in a phone interview during his lunch break Tuesday, said he takes unpaid leave from his state job any time he’s working for Dunleavy’s campaign, and files leave slips documenting his time off.
Jensen said he also filed a formal document disclosing his campaign work with the governor’s office’s ethics official, which was met with no objection.
A Daily News public records request for the ethics disclosure is pending; in response to a request for Jensen’s leave slips Tuesday, the governor’s office released copies of two of them from when Jensen took unpaid time off in December.
Jensen often takes aim at the governor’s critics on social media, where he’s an aggressive defender of the governor’s agenda. But in the interview, Jensen said he separates that activity from his state job and keeps his personal social media activity outside of work hours.
A brief review of Jensen’s recent tweets shows that he posts mostly late at night, with the earliest one coming after 4:30 p.m.
“As long as you’re putting in unpaid leave and you’re doing things after hours, you don’t check your First Amendment rights when you take the job,” Jensen said. He added: “I’m confident that everything I’m doing is in line with the law.”