Dem Super PAC Drops $3.5 Million on Alaska Senate Race

Money funneled from Steyer, unions, Hollywood execs through ‘local’ front group

Mark Begich
Mark Begich / AP
July 15, 2014

Alaska Democratic Sen. Mark Begich’s reelection effort is getting a massive boost from a top D.C.-based Super PAC with ties to top national Democrats as Begich touts his supposed independent streak and attacks his likely opponent as an outsider.

Senate Majority PAC, a Democrat-aligned group backed by some of the nation’s most wealthy liberals, gave more than $3.5 million in the second quarter of 2014 to Put Alaska First, a group supporting the reelection of Begich.

The contributions, disclosed in a Monday filing with the Federal Election Commission, more than quintuple Senate Majority PAC’s financing for the group during the current election cycle.

As its name suggests, Put Alaska First presents itself as a local group. However, it is almost entirely funded by Senate Majority PAC, the leading group working to elect Democrats to the U.S. Senate.

First quarter contributions to Put Alaska First bring Senate Majority PAC’s total financing for the group to more than $4 million.

During the first six months of 2014, Senate Majority PAC support comprised more than 97 percent of all contributions to Put Alaska First.

That could complicate the narrative that Put Alaska First and the Begich campaign have attempted to create in the race, which is expected to be one of the nation’s most competitive and could decide control of the U.S. Senate.

Begich is a native Alaskan, a number of Put Alaska First ads have claimed, while his likely Republican opponent, former state attorney general Dan Sullivan, is an "outsider."

The group released an ad last week claiming that former state attorney general Dan Sullivan, a Republican running to unseat Begich, is not "actually from Alaska." The charge was leveled in the ad by a Minnesota native.

The ad was financed, indirectly, by some of the nation’s most wealthy liberals, labor unions, trial lawyers, and Democratic Party leaders.

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg gave Senate Majority PAC $2.5 million last year. Environmentalist moneyman Tom Steyer put aside $5 million for the group. Jon Stryker, whose sister is a member of the secretive Democracy Alliance, has chipped in $400,000.

Unions representing autoworkers, government employees, teachers, operating engineers, construction workers, air traffic controllers, sheet metal workers, electrical workers, and journeymen and apprentices have all contributed to Senate Majority PAC since last year.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D., Nev.) Searchlight Leadership Fund gave the group $100,000 last year. Reid has additional ties to the PAC: former staff members have gone on to work for the group, and Reid has personally pitched donors on contributing to it.

Hollywood bigwigs have also donated heavily to the PAC. DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzengerg gave the PAC $200,00 last year, and director Steven Spielberg gave it another $100,000.

The massive influx of cash into the Alaska Senate race by way of Put Alaska First was revealed only a day after Begich decried the "deluge of political ads" in the state.

"In terms of ad dollars per registered voter, we’re looking at one of the most expensive races in the country," Begich said in a fundraising email.

"And it’s all because Dan Sullivan and his special interest buddies—mostly Karl Rove’s Crossroads groups and the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity—think they can buy themselves a Senate seat."

The Begich campaign did not respond to questions about the consistency of that position in light of Senate Majority PAC’s activity in the race.