JUNEAU — This year’s U.S. Senate race in Alaska is the first major race here in the super PAC era. Independent expenditure groups, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, and other outside groups are running ads or reserving air time ahead of the Aug. 19 primary.
In the lead-up to this year’s elections, The Associated Press will publish an occasional list featuring the positions of the highest-profile Alaska U.S. Senate candidates on different issues. The subject this time is the outside money being spent on the race.
All the campaigns contacted — Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich and Republicans Joe Miller, Dan Sullivan and Mead Treadwell — agreed to participate.
The campaigns were asked via email what impact they thought independent spending would have, whether they would refuse backing from outside groups and what they’d do as a senator to address campaign finance laws. Their responses have been edited for length.
Sen. Mark Begich, first-term incumbent: “Independent, individual Alaska voters will decide our future, not these Outside groups back by billionaires. As Alaskans, we value actually knowing our elected officials. That’s why I love having impromptu town halls at Andy’s Hardware in Anchorage, Foodland in Juneau, the corner gas station or wherever Alaskans meet as I travel around our state. Unfortunately, Citizens United has opened the flood gates to a new tidal wave of Outside, corporate money that is trying to mislead and divide Alaskans along strong partisan and ideological lines. (Recently), Outside groups that can’t tell the Brooks Range from a gas range dropped $9.5 million on TV time in Alaska to attack me. Groups supported by the Koch brothers have already spent $2.5 million on false attacks in a desperate attempt to distort my record of fighting for Alaska.
“We need to stop the corrosive money being plowed into elections permanently. My belief is so strong I’ve sponsored a constitutional amendment to reverse the Supreme Court’s shortsighted ruling. I’ve also supported legislation to require the money in politics to be disclosed to increase transparency.”
Joe Miller, Republican nominee in the 2010 U.S. Senate race won with a write-in campaign by Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
“The unprecedented level of money committed to Alaska’s race from corporate and special interests is just another indicator that the DC Establishment views our senate seat as their ‘cheap seat.’ They think they can buy us. Unfortunately, some voters will be swayed by the big money interests. Let’s hope the majority recognize it for what it is, a shameless attempt to buy our election.”
“To answer your question of whether I would accept money from third-party groups, I think it all depends on the nature of the group, whether we have a philosophical alliance with respect to public policy, and whether I believe the group is seeking to buy access or wield influence to get something beyond good government in return.”
“The Supreme Court’s decision to make corporations equivalent to natural persons for purposes of protected political speech is a legal fiction. If this ‘corporate personhood’ is not reversed, steps must be taken to prohibit 1., any foreign funding through multinational corporations and 2., any federal funding through federal contractors and other corporations on the federal dole. To reduce the effects of unlimited corporate political funding in our state, it is also important that the limits on individual political donations be removed to give Alaskans a chance to play a larger role financially, as long as there is full disclosure of who’s giving to whom.”
Dan Sullivan, most recently served as Alaska’s Natural Resources commissioner: “Sen. Begich has had more than five years to address the influence of outside groups in elections, including two years where his party had full control of Congress. Instead of voting to fix what he now describes as ‘dark money,’ his legislative priority was to be the deciding vote to implement Obamacare. He has failed to act because he knew that his re-election prospects would hinge on being one of the largest beneficiaries of Harry Reid and Michael Bloomberg’s money. Until he stands up and repudiates the millions of dollars his candidacy has received from liberal special interests, Sen. Begich’s hope for change is all talk and nothing else.
“The federal laws which Sen. Begich has done nothing to reform during his time in office are clear, candidate campaigns are barred from coordinating with political action committees. What we are left to control is our own campaigns. I am dedicated to visiting every corner of our great state to debate the real issues face to face with Senator Begich because Alaskans deserve to hear directly from us, not campaign ads.”
Lt. Gov. Mead Tread-well, elected in 2010.
“I predict there will be more money spent in our Senate race by super PACS than there will be by campaigns. Voters should beware, here and around the country: candidates are not responsible for many of the messages you hear about them. One of the biggest issues in this race is Washington, DC’s huge overreach.”
“To blunt the impact of huge outside money, I will demand more face-to-face debates between candidates.”
“Most of our contributors come from Alaska. Our opponents have raised most of their money Outside. I tell Alaskans, ‘Remember, this is your vote, and your decision, not Karl Rove’s, not Harry Reid’s, not Mayor Bloomberg’s, not the Department of Justice’s.’”
“I support our constitutional guarantee of free speech, and the Supreme Court has upheld the right of these groups to advocate for issues and for or against candidates’ positions.”
“Most of the spending by these groups I can’t control. When contributions arrive from the kind of PACs that can contribute to a candidate, they must undergo a two-prong test from my campaign. First, is the contribution legal? Second, is the group asking for something in return that is illegal or improper? A ‘no’ to either of these questions means I won’t accept it.”