GOP Candidate Challenges Alaska Hopefuls to Put Outside Money on Ice

Dan Sullivan, the leading candidate in the Alaska GOP Senate primary, wants to put an end to outside money in the 49th state’s general and primary Senate elections. He’s calling the proposal the "Alaska Agreement.”

Sullivan said all that’s needed to stop money coming into Juneau from places like Arlington, Va., and Washington, D.C., is to have all of the candidates join him in signing the agreement.

Sullivan’s closest GOP opponent, Mead Treadwell, and Alaska’s incumbent junior senator, Democrat Mark Begich, are refusing to sign.

Millions of dollars have been flowing into the bank accounts of Alaska’s races from third-party special interest groups. The Center for Responsive Politics website, opensecrets.org, shows Alaska to have the eighth-highest total of outside political spending in the 2014 Senate election cycle, with more than $3.8 million coming in from Outside – as Alaskans tend to capitalize the word.

North Carolina has seen the most outside spending on any of the Senate races in the U.S., $10.6 million. Hawaii has seen the least, just $1,374.

Of the outside, third-party dollars spent on political advertising in Alaska, the biggest chunk, $1.9 million, has been spent on ads critical of Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, $1.2 million more than has been spent on advertisements attacking Democrats.

“Third-party special-interest groups with unlimited spending capability have committed tens of millions of dollars to this race, shattering previous records and crowding out Alaskan voices,” Sullivan said. “It should be Alaskans driving the conversation on where this state needs to go and what kind of leadership it will take in the U.S. Senate to get there.”

It’s hard to disagree with the Alaska-First, Outside-Never attitude, especially when most of that third-party money is coming from Washington, D.C., and Arlington, Va., 3,900 miles away from Juneau, the state capital of Alaska.

But Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell does. It’s not that Treadwell is in love with Outside money. It’s just that he doesn’t trust Sullivan, a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve, former commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, state attorney general and George W. Bush appointee.

Good credentials, but Sullivan was born in Ohio. That’s Outside Alaska.

“This offer failed Scott Brown in Massachusetts,” Treadwell said, “and now Dan Sullivan is trying it here. It’s just a publicity stunt. Dan can’t run away from the Outside money that bankrolls his campaign. Alaskans see through it.”

The Begich campaign called the Sullivan “Alaska Agreement” idea a “strange, but not surprising turn of events.”

Susanne Fleek-Green, the campaign manager for Alaskans for Begich, pointed out that Sullivan endorsed the Citizens United court case.

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling allows for unlimited anonymous spending to influence elections and declared that corporations are expressing free speech through donations the same as people.

Sullivan is currently the largest recipient of support from outside spending in the competitive Republican primary. Groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads and the Koch brothers have already spent millions supporting Sullivan.

“Sullivan again tried to tell Alaskans one thing, but then quickly revealed the truth today – he supports allowing corporations to engage in unlimited spending in our elections,” said Fleek-Green.

Sullivan did confirm his support for the Citizens United ruling during a conference call with reporters June 10, and that support was backed up with a tweet following the conference call.

However, Sullivan said Begich has repeatedly called for an end to special-interest money in Alaska politics, and the Alaska Agreement would accomplish that.

“So I hope he will put action to his words and join me in actually doing something about these third-party special-interest groups,” said Sullivan. “All it takes for this plan to work here in Alaska is for Senator Begich to sign his name next to mine on the dotted line. I call upon Mark to be as ‘independent’ as he claims and join me in this pledge.”

Treadwell said the Sullivan challenge rings hollow if only because 75 percent of Sullivan’s contributors come from outside Alaska.

“Alaskans are independent people; we will pick our senator here, not in D.C. or Ohio,” said Treadwell.

"Our challenge to Dan Sullivan is that he fund his campaign with money solely from Alaskans rather than from Outside special interests. It's time that this race returns to discussing issues that matter most to Alaskans. They expect and deserve debates and the opportunity to get to see and know their candidates.”

Rhymes aside, Treadwell is in trouble.

PPP's most recent Alaska poll, released May 13, shows the Republican primary for Senate becoming increasingly less competitive. Sullivan has a 14 point lead with 40 percent to 26 percent for Treadwell, 14 percent for Joe Miller, and 3 percent for John Jaramillo.

Neither Miller nor Jaramillo commented on the Alaska Agreement proposal

The race has been moving more and more in Sullivan's direction in Public Policy Polling surveys over the last nine months.

Treadwell led Sullivan 33 percent to 25 percent in July 2013. However, since then Sullivan's support has moved from the 25 percent mark last summer to 30 percent in February and now 40 percent.

Meanwhile, Treadwell dropped from 33 percent in July to 25 percent in February and is now pretty much holding steady with his 26 percent mark.

The general election is another matter.

The May 2014 PPP survey shows Begich leading all of his potential Republican opponents, but the matchups are pretty close across the board.

He's up 42 percent to 37 percent on Sullivan with third-party candidates combining for 7 percent.

Begich has a 41 to 33 percent lead on Treadwell with third-party candidates combining for 9 percent, and he's up 43-27 on Miller with third-party candidates combining for 6 percent.

Voters are closely divided in their feelings about Begich with 44 percent approving of him and 45 percent disapproving.

The Real Clear Politics Average, which includes PPP and Rasmussen Reports — Rasmussen Reports did not have survey results available for the GOP Senate primary — shows Begich and Sullivan are locked in a dead heat, with each showing 42.3 percent support.

The Real Clear Politics Average covers polling from March 19 through May 11.

(For complete 2014 midterm coverage, get your campaign fix on The Grid.)