JUNEAU — Federal elections regulators are set to decide whether to adopt a draft advisory opinion that would allow Joe Miller to use campaign funds to pay a legal judgment in a case stemming from his unsuccessful 2010 U.S. Senate run in Alaska.
During Thursday’s meeting the Federal Election Commission could also opt to make changes to the opinion. Public comment is being accepted in the lead-up to the meeting.
State court Judge Stephanie Joannides in May ordered Miller to pay more than $85,000 in legal costs to the Alaska Dispatch, which was among the media organizations that sued during the 2010 campaign to obtain records from Miller’s personnel file from his time with the Fairbanks North Star Borough.
Joannides found Miller’s conduct in the case caused unnecessary delays and costs for the Dispatch and Fairbanks North Star Borough. She also found there were significant matters at stake in the case, with the records emerging near the end of the 2010 campaign. Miller lost the race to incumbent Lisa Murkowski, who mounted a write-in campaign after losing the GOP primary to Miller.
Miller was a part-time borough attorney for seven years. He was disciplined in 2008 for using work computers for political purposes, information revealed in his personnel file.
He is appealing Joannides’ ruling and through an attorney, asked the FEC whether campaign funds could be used as a cash deposit that would be held while Miller appeals the judgment against him. Miller also asked if he could use campaign funds to pay the judgment if his appeal fails, a request the opinion suggests should be granted.
D. John McKay, an attorney for the Dispatch, told the commission’s general counsel in August that the largest chunk of the judgment stemmed from personal claims raised by Miller and that no one involved in the case during the course of the litigation believed campaign funds could be used for the claims pursued after the election.
According to the draft advisory opinion, lawsuits involving campaigns are often litigated after an election, “and the Commission has never barred the use of campaign funds to pay for legal expenses on this temporal ground.”
The draft finds the post-election timing of some of the litigation “has no bearing on Miller’s ability to use campaign funds for his cash deposit.”
Miller, a tea party favorite during his 2010 run, has announced plans to seek the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Mark Begich. Other Republican challengers include Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and former state Natural Resources commissioner and attorney general Dan Sullivan. Begich plans to seek re-election next year.