Sen. Mark Begich and a Koch brothers’ funded group are in a battle over whether or not a television ad falsely characterizes Begich’s position on a carbon tax.
The American Energy Alliance, the political arm of the Institute for Energy Research, both of which are funded partly by the Koch brothers, launched an ad recently in Alaska that says that Begich is in support of a carbon tax, something that the AEA is staunchly opposed to.
Begich says he doesn’t support the tax, and now lawyers are involved.
Begich’s lawyer called on station managers to take the ads down, calling them “false and misleading.”
“For the sake of both FCC licensing requirements and the public interest, your station must immediately cease airing this advertisement,” Begich’s lawyer wrote to the station managers on Sept. 5.
According to the AEA, the station mangers reviewed the ads and declined to remove them.
Begich has said publicly that he opposes a carbon tax. He did, however, vote on a non-binding amendment that said if such a tax were passed, revenue from it would be “returned to the American people in the form of federal deficit reduction, reduced federal tax rates, cost savings or other direct benefits.”
The vote would not have created or defeated a carbon tax, Begich’s lawyer wrote.
However, the AEA says his vote was a vote for the tax. Further, Begich voted against an amendment that would have required a vote of three fifths of the Senate to approve a carbon tax.
“That you felt the need to attempt to suppress the advertisements with threats and intimidation from your lawyers rather than publicly disclaim your past support for a carbon tax is telling,” said President of AEA Tom Pyle in a scathing press release.
“The American Energy Alliance would welcome a public apology to your constituents for your earlier votes in support of carbon taxes and your pledge that going forward your voting record will match your rhetoric on this vitally important issue for Alaska’s economic well-being,” Pyle wrote.
There’s more than a year to go before the 2014 election. Expect much more of this in the future.
Below is the AEA press release in full:
WASHINGTON — The American Energy Alliance responded today to a series of letters from a Washington D.C. law firm representing Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) who complains that a current advertisement sponsored by AEA “mischaracterizes” the senator’s past support for carbon tax legislation and threatens legal action for the continued airing of the ads. On Sept. 5, 2013, attorneys with Perkins Coie, LLP, notified station managers in Alaska that continued airing of AEA’s ad, entitled “Games,” could be cause for “loss of [the] station’s license.” Attorneys for the American Energy Alliance responded to the charges, and the Alaska stations were satisfied that the AEA advertisement did not run afoul of federal laws that prohibit “false, misleading or deceptive advertising.” All Alaska stations continue to run the AEA ad.
In his response letter, AEA President Thomas Pyle addressed two primary claims made by Senator Begich’s attorneys and campaign staff, namely that Begich has not supported a carbon tax and that AEA represents outside interests interfering in the state.
“That you felt the need to attempt to suppress the advertisements with threats and intimidation from your lawyers rather than publicly disclaim your past support for a carbon tax is telling,” Pyle wrote. “The American Energy Alliance will continue our current advertising initiative to inform Alaskans . . . of the impacts of harmful energy policies emanating from Washington and the role you play in shaping them. Moreover, we will seek additional opportunities in the future to do the same.”
Pyle took issue with Begich’s characterization of AEA as an “outsider group,” noting the senator’s willingness to host other “outsiders” who are opposed to economic development in Alaska — so long as those “outsiders” were raising money for the Begich re-election effort.
“Your campaign hosted a recent fundraiser in Fairbanks, charging guests as much as $120 per person to meet Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), [who was there] to help raise money for the Alaska Democratic Party and Alaska’s junior senator . . . Your willingness to invite an ‘outsider’ like Senator Cantwell to help swell your campaign coffers, all the while knowing of her well-documented history of championing legislative efforts to limit the development of Alaska’s vast natural resources and drive up the cost of energy for your constituents, exposes the height of hypocrisy that corrodes our system of representative democracy and always, eventually returns to haunt public officials.”
Pyle pressed further: “You certainly know your record, Senator. And you certainly know that elected officials are held to account more for their recorded votes than for their campaign rhetoric or the threatening missives and petty litigious needles threaded by their Washington-based lawyers. In any event, your record stands, and Alaskans are better informed citizens when organizations like the American Energy Alliance remind them of it.”
Pyle’s letter concludes: “The American Energy Alliance would welcome a public apology to your constituents for your earlier votes in support of carbon taxes and your pledge that going forward your voting record will match your rhetoric on this vitally important issue for Alaska’s economic well-being. Be assured that we will not be intimidated into backing away from our mission to foster an informed electorate of the voting records of their elected officials and call for engaged democratic participation in the American political tradition.”
To read Pyle’s full letter to Begich, click here.
To read the threatening letter from Begich lawyers to Alaska TV stations, click here.
To read the response letter from AEA attorneys, click here.
To view the AEA carbon tax ad currently running in Alaska, click here.
To read the fact sheet supporting the AEA ad, click here.
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