Tag Archives: super pacs alaska

A super PAC primer for the upcoming U.S. Senate race in Alaska

Four years ago today, the United States Supreme Court issued its Citizens’ United decision, opening the way for unlimited spending by corporations and unions to political committees that don’t coordinate directly with a candidate.

Ironically, the first election to take advantage of the new law and create a so-called “super PAC” was created in 2010 to help Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s write-in bid against Joe Miller, who had won the Republican Senate primary. More ironic yet, one of Miller’s advisers, Floyd Brown, was responsible for taking the Citizens United case to the Supreme Court in the first place.

Supposedly the case will forever change the way that politics is conducted in the country, and supposedly Alaskans will have a first-hand view of that change in the upcoming U.S. Senate race.

Below is a primer on the groups that are already here, and those that will likely be coming.

Alaska super PACs:

  • Put Alaska First reported spending more than $168,000 in December on behalf of Sen. Mark Begich, one of the Democrat’s most vulnerable 2014 incumbents.
  • Freedom’s Frontier super PAC is backing the Senate candidacy of Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, a Republican. That group hasn’t yet reported an expenditure.
  • Alaska’s Energy/America’s Values run by Art Hackney, to help former DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan, who is a Republican. The group has spent roughly $16,000 so far on the race.

In 2012, according to the Wall Street Journal, super PACs spent a whopping $127 million on Senate races across the country.  We don’t know how much or whether all the groups below will get involved in the race, but here’s a look at how much the top super PACs in the country spent on the 2012 Senate races:

  • Majority PAC: Spent more than $37 million ensuring that the Senate stayed in the hands of the Democrats.
  • Club for Growth Action: The ultra conservative group spent nearly $15 million in races to support candidates who were against raising taxes, and opposed those who weren’t.
  • Freedomworks for America: This tea-party aligned group spent more than $13 million on the Senate races. It’s said that this group is in disarray, but that could change on a dime.
  • America Crossroads: This group gets its stroke from Karl Rove’s name.  In 2012, the group spent a fraction of its total 2012 spend, only just over $5 million, on Republican candidates for Senate.
  • Americans for Prosperity: The Koch brothers’ funded group has already begun airing ads attacking Begich on his vote for ObamaCare. In 2012, the group spent tens of millions, mostly against Obama.

Other so called super PACs that will more than likely have a presence in Alaska:

  • The League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund, which would likely support Begich.
  • American Bridge: A Democratic research PAC that spent more than $12 million in 2012.
  • American Rising: The Republican answer to American Bridge, this one is a new super PAC formed by Matt Rhoades, 2012 Romney for President campaign manager. Joining him is former RNC research director Joe Pounder and spokesman Tim Miller.

According to Art Hackney, who runs Alaska’s Energy/America’s Values, equally important are groups that advocate for a candidate without explicitly doing so. These groups, so called “nondisclosures,” typically thank candidates for voting on a particular bill or championing a particular issue. He said that Begich will have many of those kinds of groups. Indeed, you can hardly click on a website page without the National Association f Realtors popping on your screen, thanking Begich for his support on a housing bill.

It’s also worth noting that these groups can start, and disappear, in a flash. Stay tuned.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Super-PACs: will they play in the governor’s race?

Citizens United, the seminal Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates for so-called super PACs to raise unlimited campaign funds, has been associated with corporate greed and everything else that the political left considers evil. Indeed, in Alaska’s state elections in 2012, the narrative that big oil was going to buy itself a Republican-controlled state Senate as a result of the decision was repeated so often, including by this writer, that it turned into an unassailable truth.

But when the numbers were crunched after the election, it turned out that unions raised twice as much as the combined amount of the two main business oriented super PACs in Alaska.

The narrative has similarly been flipped in the rest of the country. An analysis conducted by the Center for Public Integrity found that during the last election cycle, pro-Democratic groups, many associated with unions, outspent their Republican counterparts by more than $8 million in 38 states.

Gov. Sean Parnell, who is running for reelection in 2014, should take note. Word is that he’s working hard at fundraising and having success at doing so. However, Alaska’s campaign contribution limits dictate that individuals are only allowed to give $500 to a candidate in a calendar year. per election cycle. In a state as small as Alaska, that makes it nearly impossible to raise the kind of money you need to raise to run a competitive campaign.

Enter super PACs. Though it’s too early to say who, and which ones will get involved, they likely will. And unions will likely take part.

The Parnell administration has never been considered a friend of labor. But neither has it gone out of its way to antagonize it. Parnell might have done so recently, however. Earlier this fall, when he was considering appointment to the Alaska Gasline Development Corp., many thought that he would appoint a representative of labor to one of the seats. Whatever you think about unions, they will be involved in the building of the pipeline and having them involved in the groundwork would only make the project go more smoothly. Too, it was the politically smart thing to do. Two labor leaders who submitted expressions of interest were Joey Merrick of the Laborers Union and Rick Boyles from the Teamsters. Either would have made a strong statement to labor. Neither got the nod.

And if it looks like Mayor Dan Sullivan, who is no friend of the unions, is going to be added to the ticket as lieutenant governor, you have the dynamic and motivation for labor to fund a super PAC.

Parnell also hasn’t made friends recently with another potentially politically powerful force in Alaska: the Alaska Native community. His administration seems to have gone after tribal sovereignty with a vengeance. Most recently, the state announced that it is seeking to overturn a decision regarding subsistence made recently by the Interior Department that involves the landmark Katie John case. The state is fighting the feds, and the Alaska Natives, over who controls navigable waterways.

The Alaska Federation of Natives co-chair, Tara Sweeney, called the state’s action “an assault upon the people of Alaska who depend upon hunting, fishing and gathering to feed their families.”

Those are words not spoken lightly and they shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Then there was Parnell’s decision not to expand Medicaid. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium lobbied hard for Medicaid expansion, which would have provided much needed funds to the Alaska tribal health systems at a time of sequestration and federal budget cuts.

That he decided not to accept the funds was seen as yet another slap.

The Alaska Native community, along with its moneyed corporations, were able to rally around a politician only one time in recent memory. In 2010, when Joe Miller beat Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the Republican primary, the corporations got together to form a super PAC to support Murkowski’s write-in ticket. It was the first one in the country to test the Citizens United decision, and it won. So did she.

Democrat Byron Mallott is running against Gov. Sean Parnell. Mallott is an Alaska Native leader, and is union friendly compared to Parnell. He also has deep ties to the business community in Alaska, notwithstanding his support to repeal SB 21, the oil tax reform bill. And, his lieutenant governor will likely be Alaska state Sen. Hollis French, a good friend to the unions.

It’s unclear if Mallott is making efforts to rally unions and the Alaska Native community.

If those two interests end up combining, they’d provide the foundations for a formidable super PAC force.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com