The owner of the Mendenhall Tower Apartments has made a big donation to a group backing Mark Begich for governor.
According to a campaign finance report filed Tuesday with the Alaska Public Offices Commission, W. Dean Weidner of Kirkland, Washington, gave $100,000 to “Begich for Alaska” on Oct. 9.
Six days later, according to the same campaign report, Begich for Alaska purchased $100,000 in TV advertising to support the Democratic nominee.
Weidner is the CEO of Weidner Apartment Homes, which owns the Mendenhall Tower on Fourth Street among a broad swath of properties in Alaska. In 2015, a Bloomberg news report referred to Weidner as “Alaska’s hidden billionaire” because of his ownership of more than 38,000 apartment units across the country. The report stated Weidner controls 12 percent of Anchorage’s entire rental market.
Alaska’s campaign finance laws strictly limit contributions to a political campaign or candidate. Weidner’s donation was to a so-called “independent expenditure” group that is allowed to accept unlimited contributions and spend them in support or opposition to a candidate, cause or ballot measure. Independent expenditure groups are not allowed to interact or coordinate with the official political campaign.
The $100,000 donation is the largest single contribution to the IE group supporting Begich and more than doubles the amount of cash available to the group. Before Weidner’s contribution, the largest contribution had been $50,000 from Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii. Through Oct. 5, the group had reported $71,749 in contributions.
The Republican Governors Association, a national group, has contributed $2.7 million to an independent expenditure group known as Families for Alaska’s Future, which has spent more than $1 million on Dunleavy’s campaign so far. Families for Alaska’s Future has more financial backing than all of the independent expenditure groups backing all other candidates combined, and it’s not the only group supporting Dunleavy.
Dunleavy for Alaska, the first independent expenditure group involved in this year’s gubernatorial election, had collected $936,547 in contributions through Oct. 5. About a third of that total has come from Frances Dunleavy, Mike’s brother.
The group backing Walker, called Unite Alaska for Walker-Mallott, had reported just under $1 million in contributions, mostly from unions. Its largest single contributor is another group, called Working Families for Alaska, which is funded by Laborers Local 341.
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