My Turn: Politicians don't need Outside money to look silly

My dad used to call it “trickle-down stupidity.”


As the third of six kids with 13 years separating us, he would often observe that the oldest children typically acted like the youngest and he had “six 5-year-olds instead of six 18-year-olds.”

(His other favorite one as we’d squabble around the dinner table was to compare it to a zoo, but always with the immediate correction that, “no, a zoo is a nice place to visit.”)

I couldn’t help but think about my dad’s theory about trickle-down stupidity on June 10 as Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dan Sullivan and incumbent Sen. Mark Begich’s campaign traded more barbs about Outside money in their race.

Sullivan is attempting to blunt the criticism he’s receiving based on the vast amount of Outside money coming into the state attacking Begich and some that is supporting his candidacy even before he faces his GOP opponents in the Aug. 19 primary.

There is plenty of Outside money — largely from slimy Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s SuperPAC — supporting Begich and attacking Sullivan, but Democrats don’t have a problem with billionaires unless they spend their money in a fashion the nanny-staters don’t approve of.

So Sullivan did one of those silly “challenge my opponent to sign a pledge” moves, asking Begich to agree to match him with charitable donations based on ad buys by Outside political groups against the other.

Begich, naturally, didn’t take the bait. For one thing, agreeing to do something your opponent demands is not typically how you win a campaign, and the second and best reason is that Begich isn’t going to hamstring his own campaign that in the first quarter was outraised by Sullivan.

To be sure, the ads being run by Outside groups against Begich, and some claiming to be Alaskans supporting Begich, are nothing short of the worst political ads: misleading, off-base and insulting to intelligent people.

The bobbleheading, cartoony ads of Begich, Reid and Nancy Pelosi are pretty terrible, as are those claiming Begich hasn’t addressed issues at the VA (he has, but only locally, where it matters for reelection) and the Inspector Gadget-worthy stretch that he supports a carbon tax.

There is some basis to all the charges (Begich is a Democrat who votes with Reid 87 percent of the time after all), but all the ads share the common trait of being created by people who don’t have a clue about Alaska and who look stupid trying to tell us what Begich is doing wrong.

The same is true of the ads attacking Sullivan, such as those claiming he’s not an Alaskan, or the truly awful one running now featuring Sam Cotten saying Sullivan wanted to take Alaskan voices out of the permitting process through House Bill 77. That’s a flat-out lie but Democrats don’t seem to have a problem with lies told on their behalf.

When Anchorage Chamber of Commerce president Andrew Halcro told a reporter he was “mad as hell” about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce running ads in the state, the Begich campaign put out a press release that in the first sentence claimed the Anchorage Chamber was “refusing to endorse Dan Sullivan” after the U.S. Chamber ad buy.

Of course, the Anchorage Chamber doesn’t endorse any candidates; it only takes positions on issues and Halcro explained that to Begich’s campaign the day before. That didn’t stop Begich’s people from putting out a blatantly dishonest press release implying the chamber wasn’t going to endorse Sullivan because of an Outside ad buy.

It just goes to show you don’t need Outside money to look dumb, or to attempt to mislead Alaskans. Maybe we should call it “trickle-down dishonesty.”

• Andrew Jensen is managing editor for the Alaska Journal of Commerce. He can be reached at


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