Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and the Republican who wants his job, Dan Sullivan, agree on two things: Alaska has a real problem with violence against women, and too much money is coming into their Senate campaigns from “Outside” Alaska.
What they disagree on is whether Sullivan did enough to fight domestic violence when he served as the attorney general of Alaska.
They are also still at odds over whether Sullivan’s Alaska agreement or a constitutional amendment backed by Begich would be a better way to keep local politics local in Alaska.
The Sullivan campaign is running an ad that says while he was the state’s attorney general, Sullivan did everything he could to battle domestic violence.
Begich did not accuse Sullivan of lying about that. But, he said Sullivan was not telling the whole truth about his record.
This much the two men agree on: violence against women is a serious problem in Alaska. Statistics show they are correct. Domestic violence is worse in Alaska than in most states in the nation.
A 2010 survey released by the University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center showed 37 percent of Alaska women suffered sexual violence. The survey also showed 48 of every 100 adult women in Alaska experienced partner violence, and 59 women of every 100 experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence, or both.
More women are murdered by men, per capita, in Alaska than any other state in the nation, according to the National Council Against Domestic Violence (NCADV).
The NCADV also reported Alaska’s rape rate was more than twice the national average in 2005, and almost 75 percent of Alaskans have experienced or know someone who has been the victim of domestic violence or sexual assault.
Enforcement and treatment of victims are also problems because there are so many remote areas in Alaska where medical facilities and police agencies are not available.
Violence against women is the focus of the ad “Respect,” released by the Sullivan campaign Sept. 12, four days after the nation saw Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice deck Janay Palmer Rice with one punch in a hotel elevator.
Attorney Stacy Walker of Anchorage serves as the narrator of the ad, telling the story of Dan Sullivan’s “tremendous leadership in this area.”
“As Alaska’s attorney general, Dan Sullivan led the Choose Respect Initiative to protect women from domestic violence,” Walker said.
She also said Sullivan led what the ad describes as “an aggressive outreach effort” to provide more free legal services for domestic violence victims and their families.
Begich said the Sullivan ad “doesn’t tell the whole truth” about his time as attorney general. The Democrat pointed out that Sullivan not only sued to prevent tribes from protecting at risk children, but also refused to support the landmark Violence Against Women Act.
“Dan Sullivan’s latest ad doesn’t tell the truth about where he stands on women’s issues including his refusal to support the Violence Against Women Act and the fact that rates of rape and sexual assault remained dangerously high during his tenure as attorney general,” said Susanne Fleek-Green, the campaign manager of Alaskans for Begich.
President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Act renewal into law in March 2013.
Gail Phillips, a former Alaska speaker of the House, told the Peninsula Clarion in April 2014 that while Sullivan was serving as the state’s attorney general, convicted sex offenders were winning reduced sentences from state prosecutors.
“His office defended this practice by saying the department had limited resources and this was not a priority,” Phillips said.
The Anchorage Dispatch News reported the Alaska Department of Law changed its sentencing policy for serious crimes and domestic violence after Sullivan left the attorney general’s office.
The new policy prevented plea bargains involving most serious classes of felony case, along with all sexual assault and domestic violence cases.
Begich and Sullivan are also at odds over the proposed constitutional amendment that would have given Congress and the states power to limit campaign contributions and spending.
“My Republican colleagues decided to play partisan politics rather than do what is right for the American people,” said Begich. “Today’s (Sept. 11) vote means that wealthy special-interest groups, corporations and billionaires will continue to remain anonymous while dumping millions into our elections.”
Mike Anderson, the spokesman for Sullivan for Senate, said Begich evidently wants to limit campaign spending everywhere except Alaska because he refused to sign Sullivan’s “Alaska Agreement” that the Republican proposed during his primary campaign.
However, the Alaska Agreement had nothing to do with the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that would have been countered by the constitutional amendment Begich supported.
Super PACs would still have been able to spend as much as they wanted in Alaska.
However, under the Alaska Agreement if a third-party group ran an ad supporting either candidate, the one who benefited would donate 50 percent of the cost of the advertising buy to a charity of the other candidate’s choosing.
“Dan was proud to put forth the Alaska Agreement, the only plan that news outlets and independent observers have said will combat Outside spending immediately,” Anderson said. “Unfortunately, Mark Begich declined the agreement within hours, choosing to put liberal special interests supporting his campaign before the wishes of Alaskans.”