The National Republican Senate Committee is airing two new commercials that target Sen. Mark Begich’s time as mayor of Anchorage. Both star real Alaskans, such as Anchorage Assemblyman Chris Birch, Alaska Pasta Company owner Hope Nelson, Alaska Family Action’s Donald Ross, Downing Electric’s past president and shareholder Aaron Downing, and Gary Bader. All focus on how much Begich spent during his tenure as mayor, statements that have been disputed by Begich’s campaign. (See those ads here and here).
Crossroads GPS, the Karl Rove controlled super-PAC, also released an ad on Monday focusing on Begich’s time as mayor. It’s spending $850,000 to air it statewide. See that one below.
On Monday, the Begich campaign defended his time as mayor:
In 2003 Begich inherited a $33 million debt, which he turned around by working with the Anchorage Assembly and city employees. Begich’s financial stewardship earned Anchorage a “AA” bond rating and put the city in a strong position to withstand the nationwide recessions and stock market crash that devastated cities across the country.
Standard and Poor’s did give the city a AA bond rating and said that in 2008, the city, under Begich, had been well managed. However, it also relied on the state’s overall economic condition, which was largely unscathed from the “stock market crash that devastated cities across the country.” The city did lose millions in savings. But because oil prices were going through the roof, an oil tax reform bill that was passed by Gov. Sarah Palin made sure the state was richer than it had ever been.
Begich had a lot of fans when he was mayor. But he faced a torrent of criticism and accusations of wrongdoing from his critics when he left that position in 2009 to become a senator. During the last months of his term, he pushed through the 2009 city budget and long-term labor contracts that critics say were too generous. Only a few weeks after he left, acting Mayor Matt Claman announced, to the surprise of much of the public and some members of the Anchorage Assembly, that the city was facing a $17 million budget shortfall.
Some accused Begich of fraud for not informing the Assembly of the city’s budget woes when passing the budget and the contracts. However, an independent report requested by the Assembly released in 2010 found that there was “no evidence whatsoever that there was any indication of fraud” or “diversion of funds,” according to news reports at the time.
However, the report, conducted by Florida-based MRW, said both the Begich administration and the Assembly failed to practice “prudent fiscal management” in 2008. It said, according to the ADN, that Begich’s administration failed to produce monthly financial reports to the Assembly, and it said that the Assembly shouldn’t have been making decisions without those reports.
It also said that Begich’s administration “dramatically overestimated how much money would be available in city savings accounts at year-end.”
Correction: The original article said that Gary Bader in the ad was the Alaska Retirement Management Board CIO. That’s incorrect. This is a different Gary Bader.
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