ANCHORAGE - Former Gov. Tony Knowles lost his bid for U.S. Senate, but he won the fund-raising race, slightly beating Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski in contributions collected, according to the latest tallies of campaign finance reports.
Knowles, a Democrat, gathered $5.8 million to fuel his challenge, while Murkowski amassed $5.7 million on her way to winning her first full term in office, according to reports.
The race was considered crucial to both major parties in an election year when control of the Senate hung in the balance, and it was touted as the most expensive statewide contest in Alaska's history.
Murkowski and Knowles spent more than $11 million between them. In comparison, Murkowski's father, Gov. Frank Murkowski, and former Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer spent about $3 million in the 2002 governor's race.
More than 80 percent of Knowles' contributions came from individuals, a category that provided about 60 percent of Murkowski's haul, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan organization that tracks campaign funding.
Political interest groups contributed more than twice as much to Murkowski as to Knowles, the center's analysis shows.
Political action committees gave nearly $2 million to Murkowski and made up 35 percent of her donations. Knowles received $785,000 from such PACs, or 13 percent of his total.
Lawyers and law firms were the most generous industry sector giving to Knowles, contributing a total of about $750,000, according to the center's campaign finance analysis. The former two-term governor also got about $335,000 from retirees and about $275,000 from people and groups in securities and investment.
Retirees gave Murkowski about $235,000, and lawyers and legal firms donated about $202,000 to her campaign. She received $194,000 from people and groups affiliated with the oil and gas industry and another $185,000 from health professionals.
"What money did for Murkowski was to allow her to cut her own swath, both in person and through the media, as an individual distinct from her father," University of Alaska professors Carl Shepro and Clive Thomas wrote in a post-race analysis.
"For Knowles, money added to his high profile in the state and enabled him to compete effectively."
The amounts spent by the candidates don't include millions more expended by the national political parties and several independent political groups, which also bombarded Alaskans with television and radio commercials in the last intense months of the campaign.
Alaska's Senate race is another example of expensive races in rural states, said Steve Weiss, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics.
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