Gov. Mike Dunleavy is raising the stakes on his effort to attract media coverage Outside and elevate his status in right-wing circles for his next campaign.

He has extended his no-bid contract with Virginia image polisher Mary Vought to May 2022, pushing the eventual cost to Alaska to $100,000.

The Alaska Public Interest Research Group acquired the original contract and its extension, the latter signed March 23.

Dunleavy has been paying Vought $4,000 a month to improve his image for more than a year, while never explaining why the state’s communication employees in Juneau or Anchorage aren’t doing the work.

In addition to her monthly check, the revised contract gives Vought $6,000 for travel expenses “associated with performing the work.”

The “work” is to spread the claim that Dunleavy is doing a great job and get right-wing media outlets to interview him and print ghost-written columns under his name.

Vought is supposed to “highlight policy wins and achievements the governor and his staff have secured for the people of Alaska.”

Vought signed a letter in late 2019 opposing the recall and falsely claiming that Dunleavy had cut the state’s budget deficit by 40%. She is married to Russ Vought, who headed the Office of Management and Budget during the latter part of the Trump administration.

As I wrote here in February, the Dunleavy contract with Vought may have started as a way to thank her with state money for opposing the recall.

“For keeping his promises, Gov. Dunleavy is being rewarded with a recall effort. Conservatives around the country oppose this effort,” read the letter Vought signed in her capacity as executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund.

Mary’s main employer, the Senate Conservatives Fund, has “a long track record of working against incumbent Republican senators, challenging them from the party’s right flank,” Roll Call reported.

Mary recently backed Sen. Josh Hawley for supporting the Trump insurrection.

“The junior senator from Missouri’s decision to object to the election results showed tremendous courage. It brought him instant scorn from the media and even a public rebuke from his own Senate leader,” Vought wrote in an appeal for money.

“The progressive left may think they have defeated us, but millions of Americans believe in limited government, economic freedom, and traditional values,” said Vought.

Nothing says “limited government” more convincingly than collecting an easy $100,000 from the state of Alaska.

Dermot Cole is a longtime Alaskan, an author of several history books and a former Daily News-Miner staff columnist who now writes an occasional column on Alaska politics and history at Reporting From Alaska, www.dermotcole.com. His email address is dermotmcole@gmail.com.

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