How much does Begich support and listen to women? Ask Murkowski.

It’s nice to be a woman right now. Every time we turn on the television or open up the computer, someone’s telling us how important we are to the political process, and how we must take charge of our own destiny and vote for the man who will best listen to us, not distort what we say, and look out for our interests. It’s great to be in such a position of power. It might, in fact, make some of us feel as important as, say, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the most powerful female politician in the state. I mean, what she does and what she says matters, right?

Except, apparently, when it doesn’t, and except when a certain man decides that it doesn’t. I’m talking about Sen. Mark Begich’s staunch refusal to discontinue using a picture of him and Murkowski for campaign purposes. Murkowski’s office even sent a legal order and he still refused. When GOP challenger Dan Sullivan asked about it at a forum, Begich said that Murkowski “shouldn’t be ashamed” that the two of them work so well together and besides that, the only reason she wanted it taken down is because “she didn’t like the photo.

Murkowski called the comments “belittling.” To the camera, she said, “No means no.” In an interview with me later, she called the comments sexist. ‘I’m not some prom queen who’s worried about the way she looks,” she said.

Murkowski has repeatedly said that in fact, she and Begich don’t work well as a team, and anybody who has watched closely the way their offices work together over the years can attest to this fact. They might vote together 80 percent of the time, but as Begich is quick to point out when he’s defending his record of only getting one bill passed during his tenure to name a federal courthouse, legislation is only a small part of what’s done in D.C. The vast majority of time spent representing Alaska is working with all those federal agencies that have so much control over Alaska’s lands and its economic future. And this is where they’re pulled in opposite directions.They have to be. For better and for worse for Alaska, they’re in different parties, and belong to different tribes. Murkowski wants someone in her tribe. She wants a new partner. Last I heard she gets to decide what’s working and what isn’t, not him.

I’ve always admired Begich’s seemingly unequivocal support for women and for women’s issues. (That, however, began to wane some when I heard how involved he was in putting Bill Walker, a pro-life Republican candidate, on top of the Democratic-Party endorsed governor’s ticket, kicking downstream two widely known pro-choice candidates.)

But Begich’s recent comments about Murkowski are more than a little disturbing. Within them are the misogynistic seeds that have done women, including this one and nearly everyone I know, great harm throughout the ages: You shouldn’t be ashamed. We work well together. I know you better than you know yourself.

Let me be clear: To the Republicans who have been appalled that more hasn’t been made of Begich’s comments: You all are skating on thin ice here.

Much of the GOP’s stance on women’s issues is unacceptable, and I take particular exception to the way that Republicans generally, and GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan in particular, praised the Supreme Court’s decision to give certain companies permission not to cover certain types of birth control. The potential consequences around that decision are huge. There has been no greater economic driver for women than the ability to control their own reproduction. Women have advanced by leaps and bounds since the 1960s, when birth control became widely available. That Sullivan and others don’t seem to fully grasp how profound that Supreme Court decision was for women is astounding.

However, it’s arguably more disturbing  when men give lip service to our causes, and then undermine us and take away our agency  in less overtly political, but arguably more demeaning and insidious ways: by telling us how we feel, by saying that we like something, when we don’t.

We’ve heard a lot about how Sullivan might treat women if he gets to be a U.S. Senator. But we haven’t heard much about how Begich treats the real women, or woman, right in front of him, right now.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


37 thoughts on “How much does Begich support and listen to women? Ask Murkowski.

  1. Anonymous mom


    I think you’re missing two major points here: One, Mark Begich is not only saying “I know Lisa Murkowski better than she knows herself” in his comment that she “doesn’t like the photo,” but he is also belittling her to the level of a vain and petty teenager who might not like the photo because of how she looks. That is the implication. The only other reason why she would not like the photo is because she does not like Mark Begich, which he isn’t going to admit. His refusal to stop using the photo for his political gain, just like his initial refusal to stop running the Jerry Active ads that were flat out lies, show what an immoral and dishonest man he is. WHy would you support him? Why would anyone support him? He is showing that he will do anything to win, even lie and dishonor one of his colleagues. If it were Frank Murkowski who told him to stop using that photo, he surely would have stopped. He does not respect her and it shows that in reality, under all that political babble, he doesn’t respect women. Period.

    Secondly, and most importantly, I wholeheartedly disagree with you about the Supreme Court decision and I am a woman. That decision was not about a women’s right to birth control — as you all like to spin it. And not all women support your spin or your side. The decision justly protected It was an employer’s right to his/her conscience and not being forced to pay for CERTAIN — not all — abortive types of “birth control.” In the land of abortion on demand and at any stage of a baby’s development — in some European countries, you can’t have an abortion past the first trimester — it the height of injustice to force taxpayers and employers or anyone else to pay for the consequences of your choices. Birth control is NOT medically necessary. It’s a choice for people to have sex inside or outside of marriage. It’s a behavior. It’s meant for the union of a man and woman in marriage. If you choose to have sex, you pay for the consequences of your choices. It’s just ridiculous that you and other women think your opinion speaks for the majority of women on this Supreme Court decision. And the spinning of the facts and implications of the ruling is outrageous. Again, only certain types of birth control were included in the Hobby Lobby ruling that employers cannot be forced to pay for it. I applaud the Court for having some common sense about it. I would have ruled no birth control should be on the shoulders of the employer. If you to have sex, pay for your own birth control. If you want to drink or smoke or do anything else that brings you pleasure, you pay for it. So, why would you expect the taxpayers or your employer to pick up the tab for you to prevent getting pregnant? And for those who can’t afford birth control, there natural ways to avoid getting pregnant if a woman really is opposed to having children, without endangering a woman’s health.

    You were spot on with Mark’s disrespect and misogynistic comments about Murkowski and his dismissal of a woman’s “no,” that underlies it. But, the jab against republicans for supporting a just Supreme Court decision is way off. Don’t speak for me or it puts you in the same camp as Mark Begich.

  2. Anonymous

    Ms. Coyne,

    I think you are saying that true conservatives have no anchor in any religion, and possibly upon seeing the fiscal mess that Congress and the White House have begotten, believe that abortion should be much more common. Women should not see a pregnancy as a way to gain income from the welfare state, and the other part of that deal is that women should be able to independently decide what is going on with their own bodies until a child is born. I get that. Government should not decide that. No society needs unwanted children.

    At the same time I think that people who begin and run their own business, and people who purchase a business, deserve complete autonomy in the pay and benefits they feel each employee deserves. I hope you understand that.

    We can and quite likely we do disagree on whether from time to time any democracy should revisit the issue of whether women should be allowed to drive on public highways.

  3. Amy Carroll

    Those who stubbornly insist that the Hobby Lobby case is somehow discriminatory against women confuse me. The court only decided that an employer of a closely held corporation didn’t have to pay for a female employee’s contraceptive of choice over sincerely held religious convictions. This is not anti-woman. The decision just recognizes that sincerely held religious beliefs are an exercise of First Amendment rights. The court didn’t say that an employer could keep a woman from looking elsewhere for funds to support her use of contraceptives.

    No employer ever paid for any of my contraceptives and I would never have thought to demand that any should. Sullivan’s support for the Hobby Lobby decision simply shows he understands the Constitution rather more than does the Constitutional scholar in the Oval Office.

  4. Vicki

    Great article and thought provoking. Some of thje comments here are ill-informed if not absurd, particularly the rubbish spread by Sam Abney. This guy sounds like a horses ass and his facts are wrong. He sounds like an empty headed liberal.

  5. Straitlaced Radical

    Pat Race,

    Thank you. I should have been more precise. The Hobby Lobby decision that Amanda referenced, as I understand it, was not about banning birth control entirely, but was about forcing employers to pay for certain forms. In my view, it would be disingenuous to extrapolate an entire worldview of women’s rights based on one’s stance on that narrow issue. I am not anti-birth control, but i do believe that life is sacred from conception, and am morally opposed to intentionally ending that life in most cases. Others are free to hold a different view, under our constitution. Regardless of worldview, the government should not attempt to force one to purchase something on another’s behalf that violates one’s conscience, especially when there are other alternatives available.

  6. Kate

    Birth control and Viagra aren’t equivalents. The female equivalent of Viagra/Cialas/Levitra- which is a medication prescribed when sex is not possible secondary to a chronic medical condition- would be Premarin Cream (which is covered, btw). Since the dawn of employer-sponsored insurance, individual employers have the ability to make carve-outs to cover or not cover certain medications. Some insurance plans don’t cover all forms of anti-depressants. Some don’t cover all forms of cardiac medications or all forms of pain medication. The Supreme Court mandate simply applies the same standard to birth control.

  7. Pat Race

    Aside from the gender issues being discussed here, I’m interested if Murkowski has any actual legal footing. Isn’t it exactly the same as Sullivan sticking a Mark Begich picture next to Obama and saying they vote together 99.9999% of the time?

    Maybe that particular photo has a copyright issue but it seems like it could be defended under the doctrine of fair use.


    Funny you should mention that – a friend of mine was just bitching about it. He’s covered through SOA Blue Cross and Viagra is not covered, no copay. 20 pills cost him $765 out of pocket at Walgreens.

  9. Pat Race

    @Straitlaced Radical – “No one is trying to let employers take away those other forms, just not forcing them to pay for it.”

    You made a false or misleading statement. Perhaps unintentionally.

    According to this article, 12% of North Carolina thinks the state should be able to ban birth control. Here it may be a few points lower… Or higher.

  10. Straitlaced Radical

    I will say 2 things, Amanda.

    One, thank you for sharing this perspective and calling it like it is.

    Two, I will respectfully disagree with your assessment of the birth control issue. If an employer pays for something like 16 methods of birth control, but not a handful of others that violate his or her conscience, that does seem an intellectually honest justification to claim economic repression of women. No one is trying to let employers take away those other forms, just not forcing them to pay for it. I fear what happens to society and the economy if employees are able to demand their employers pay for services related to any and all life choices and the full force of government backs them up. If starting a business and employing other Alaskans means I will be forced to use my resources to pay for something that violates what is supposed to be constitutionally protected belief system, even when I provide a reasonable alternative, then I will choose not to start a business. And so will many others.

  11. Care Clift

    There is another candidate for Governor (actually two more). I am the candidate who has been endorsed by the Alaska Women for Political Action. Sure, my resume would say that I am not a politician and not a lawyer, I am a retired educator. My leadership style is different from my major opponents and I don’t pretend to know everything about everything… that’s why I will hire the experts The best part about electing me is that I owe no political favors to anyone, and I will not compromise my principles to get elected. I don’t have to pretend to endorse or favor anyone from my own political party, either.

  12. Samuel Abney

    Defenseless people: The state mental health budget took a huge hit with F. Murkowski and has since been on a shoe string budget until Parnell virtually gutted it with his $8.3 million cut. Someone tell me how CHOOSE RESPECT and a massive cut like that to the mental health system correlate. (I would be happy to elaborate on this.) Numerous full page ads have been bought in the ADN by correctional officers and their families to expose his gross and inhumane mismanagement of the Spring Creek and Lemon Creek. Correctional facilities inadequacy largely hinges on Parnell’s low budgets which don’t allow for enough guards to staff the facilities or careful screening of guard post applicants.

    His refusal to expand medicare. Do you know how many people stand to benefit from that expansion? Maybe the federal money will or won’t last, but it alleviates a lot of suffering for the time being. Does he have better ideas to see those people get care? No. He wouldn’t allow more poor sick children and pregnant mothers to qualify for Denali KidCare because of an Alaska Supreme Court ruling that said that the program had to pay for “medically necessary” abortion related services. He redefined “medically necessary” to his liking, but refused to allow more children and fetuses to qualify for Denali KidCare. He’s done nothing to address our abysmal statewide child hunger problem.

    Police (state troopers): Ever watch Alaska State Troopers? Do you know how overburdened and spread thin they are? Those working closely and on the ground with law enforcement in rural Alaska begged his legislature to expand and enhance the VPSO program. He did, but not nearly enough to anyone who knows the rural needs. Bush Alaska is overrun with meth, dv and homicide.

    Firemen: Again, the budget, the budget, the budget. In 2008 municipal revenue sharing took yet another hit from a Republican governor (Parnell). Localities struggle to maintain adequate fire protection. Keeping open fire houses became an ongoing problem while under his watch and, in major part, as a direct result of his fiscal policy. Firemen now respond with understaffed teams to emergencies as a result.

    Teachers: Parnell’s “Education Session” of the legislature secured trivial funds for school buildings. However, teachers are being laid off, much needed raises and support staff are off the table in the Parnell-created education fiscal crisis. School districts have had to eliminate vocational and other elective programs from schools because of his exclusions in block grants. Class sizes are burgeoning. The long and hard fought for 30 min. teacher workless lunch exists only on paper. Teachers are compelled more and more to bring food and school supplies for needy students paid for out of their pockets. They’re also doing their own janitorial work. In many places in the state many teachers are doing custodial work like daily maintenance.

    CHOOSE RESPECT, my a#%!

  13. joe blow

    I still do not understand how ‘women’s health’ equates to ‘free birth control forever.’ We all know that exercise is healthy but I don’t expect the govt to pay for my gym membership.

  14. meg

    You are wrong. “Because of the power of this committee and the fact that senators represent entire states, it is considered extremely difficult to unseat a member of this committee at an election.” This is the most powerful committee in the Senate. They don’t hold open seats for senators in tight elections. I find more obnoxious Murkowski’s false outrage and blatant hypocrisy. Look this article should be entitled how much does Lisa Murkowski support and listen to women. Her record, and active endorsement of Sullivan proves that she is less concerned about women’s issues than she is about her personal ambition.

  15. Raven

    Ladies choice? Lisa? Is that anyway to talk about a Senator? Could you be more patronizing? Try again Pander Bear.

  16. Jayme Miller

    Thank you, Amanda. THANK YOU. Exceptionally well done. I admire you for saying what more of us ought to be willing to say, and for you using your platform here to bring these kinds of issues to the front.
    I get so tired of people like Begich who pretend to support women – but who really are paying lip service to women and disrespecting our ability to think for ourselves.
    And thank you, Sen. Murkowski, for holding true to course on this and not letting Begich get away with the way he is disrespecting you.

  17. AH HA

    Apparently, Lisa meant “NO” when she said it.

    Last time I checked, It’s ladies choice.

    Maybe you’re one of those folks who really mean yes when you say no?

  18. Don't Forget Equal Pay


    Can you provide some specifics on this provocative charge: “….Parnell … [is] a brutal, neo-con demigogue who has lead a rain of terror from Juneau on every defenseless person, policeman, fireman and teachers for the last four plus years.”

  19. Samuel Abney

    So why don’t you expound on Sullivan’s ideas for gender equality and women’s rights. Put out just as many words on that as you have about Begich here. Expose him, think critically about who women stand a better chance with: Begich or Sullivan?

    Seriously, Sullivan won’t even say what he would’ve done about the VAWA. Wonder why? He doesn’t have any backbone to make stands he has he knows are unpopular. He’s riding a wave of Obama hate to the Senate.

    My aunt, Pat Abney, served many years on the Anchorage Assembly with Mark. She’s a stalwart, long time pro-choice stateswoman for women’s issues. Her stand and work on these issues are nearly unparalleled in Alaska. What she’s forgotten about Begich few people will ever know. She campaigns vigorously for Mark Begich as do ALL of the Alaskan pro-choice grandames (Jane Angvik, Katie Hurley, Pam Tesche, Georgiana Lincoln, Fran Ulmer and many more). He has the overwhelming endorsement of the Alaska Women for Political Action (used to be Alaska Women’s Political Caucus).


    Begich and the Central Committee want to beat Parnell because he’s a brutal, neo-con demigogue who has lead a rain of terror from Juneau on every defenseless person, policeman, fireman and teachers for the last four plus years. He makes Murkowski look honest and pragmatic.

    Mark has always, unquestionably worked to advance women’s issues in the public sector. Anyone who knows the first thing about him knows this.

    Whatever he said about Murkowski may have come off sexist, but her politically charged and personal ambitious discrediting of Begich is a gross betrayal to him and the work of our delegation to Congress. I’m seeing his sexist comment and her egregious betrayal and I’m seeing Murkowski as being the most injurious by far. I remain a huge supporter of Murkowski.

    Abortion rights are critical to the “personhood” of women. However, the battle for women’s rights for now has shifted to equal pay, contraception, banking, housing, education and safety. Those are the critical issues demanding Begich’s and other legislators’ attention nationwide.

    The general consensus of progressive activists (including Begich and the great pro-choice gradames) in Alaska was smartly and appropriately to elevate the possible (Walker/Mallot) over the perfect (some fire brand pro-choicer) to rightly discredit and unseat our abominable governor. Some times you have to break a few eggs.

  20. Charles Carmichael

    We all recognize that Sen. Begich’s 80% stat is massively misleading, right? If you read the fine print in his ad — which is difficult, probably on purpose — it’s taken from just six months of Begich’s total time in office. It’s also drawn from a period when Sen. Harry Reid was shutting down votes on amendments, and pretty much all other debate, to protect Sen. Begich and his vulnerable compatriots. If you want to take anything from the ad, take away that our current Senators agree on low-level nominations that usually have nothing to do with Alaska roughly 80% of the time. That’s about it — but it certainly isn’t reflective of Sen. Begich’s true record.

  21. Don't Forget Equal Pay

    Begich is apparently a big advocate for equal pay, yet the women in his office get paid less than the men doing the same job.

  22. Raven

    Murkowski’s self-righteous outrage is a joke-especially when looking at her record on women’s issues. As if her photo appearing in an ad negates all the tangible work Begich has done for women and some how elevates hers. This blog entry reeks of false equivalency and is ironic through and through.

  23. Tom Bodett

    You would rather have a thirty year failure at getting a gas line and someone willing to put his principles on the shelf in order to have a chance at being governor. He is in bed with big union and the democrat party so that he can be governor. Bill Walker is a failure who has taken every opportunity he can to make money while failing to produce a damn thing. Bill Walker is a man desperate to create a legacy that is as honorable as his father’s was, and is willing to do it at all costs to the state that he claims to love. He is a sham. He is a liar. He will never be his father because he will never lacks the character that his father has. The gullible masses who are supporting him will learn this soon enough if he pulls of the victory.

  24. Sallie

    Tremendous article. I never realized this until now. You’re right, Begich talks the talk when its covenient. Other times, I now see is just political rhetoriic and a position of politiical convenience for Mr. Begich. The more I’ve seen Begich this election season, the more turned off I am with his lack of sincerity, negative attacks, political deal-making and willingness to do anything to win. I voted for him 5 years ago and now I’m not.

  25. Reality Check for Meg

    Your comment, albeit well meaning I’m sure, is incorrect. Begich’seat on Appropriations is a majority seat held for someone up for a tight election. Begich fails to tell us that he’ll lose that seat regardless. What’s your credentials for telling us what Begich’s motivation and thoughts are regarding his comments, the obnoxious ones, about Lisa??

  26. Shame on You

    @David: you’re missing the point. This is isn’t about Sarah Palin vs Bill walker the way I see it. You talk about Walker being a one term mayor, have you given the most important thing on Alaska’s horizon any thought? Parnell might be able to pass bills, that’s all he does, but on top of that Parnell has created the most catastrophic budget deficits in Alaska history. We need a doer, not a SPENDER like Parnell. If you get Parnell in again, mark my words the corrupt bastards club aka the Republican majority in the legislature with the incompetent Parnell at its helm will spend the constitutional reserves within the next 5 years, then raid the PFD, and ultimately impose a state income tax. I’d rather take a one time mayor like Walker any day over an incompetent buffoon and spender like Sean Parnell. Instead of rubber stamping everything the Republicans do as OK, why don’t you use some serious critical thinking skills. As a Republican I’m willing to give Walker a chance, at least he talks about sustainable budgets, Parnell not only not talks about it, but lies about 1600 jobs since the passage of SB21. Is that what you want in office a liar and deficit spender, or someone new who might actually bring some sanity to the out of control spending? Hope you make the right choice.

  27. John Smith

    Yeah, but he’s an attorney and has thirty years of experience in the field of not getting a gas line developed. Why in the world would anyone be concerned?

  28. meg

    Mark Begich was joking about her not liking the photo. He was not telling her how she feels, he was pointing out the truth. On issues impacting Alaska, they have similar opinions. On issues impacting women they have similar opinions. It is particularly relevant in a campaign where Sullivan has basically said that Begich shouldn’t be elected because he is a rubber stamp for Obama. It’s not surprising Murkowski does not want her very similar voting record advertised. But, Lisa Murkowski is not endorsing Sullivan because they are more aligned politically. Undeniably, Sullivan and Murkowski will not have and 80% agreement in voting, and on many women’s issues they will vote differently. She wants Sullivan to win because it has a direct impact on her personal power and ambition if Republicans control the Senate. It actually will hurt Alaska’s voice in the Senate because Sullivan will be senator 100. Remember when Knowles ran against Murkowski and she touted her much less impressive (than Begich’s) seniority and committee status as a reason for letting her keep the appointed seat. If Begich loses Alaska will forever loose the rare ability to have two Appropriation seats. It’s a stretch to attack Begich on this comment or his refusal to stop pointing out the truth. I am far more belittled by Murkowski voting against equal pay for women, or her first vote on the Blunt Amendment that allowed employers to opt out of birth control coverage on moral grounds. Her allegiance to her “tribe” is something she promised she wouldn’t do when she needed moderate democrats in her write-in campaign.

  29. David

    Amanda, how about the double standard for female candidates? When Sarah ran for Governor 8 years ago there was all kinds of talk about her inexperience. “Can a 2-term mayor of a small town govern our state?” Now we have Walker, whose entire elected officeholding consists of one term on the Valdez City Council back in the 1970s. Yet because he’s an old white guy we don’t ask him the same experience question. We know he can make rousing speeches – but can he govern? Can he get a bill passed?

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