Archive for the ‘Alaska politics’ Category

Et tu, Begich?

Weekly Clips May 16, through May 30, 2013

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-AK

Et tu, Begich?

The Tundra Drums: ’ve been accused of growing up somewhat sheltered in terms of Alaska politics – I was raised in a little leftist bubble, you might say, that encompassed Bootlegger’s Cove, Chugach “Optional” Elementary School, and, that hotbed of young liberalism, Steller Secondary School.

I remember when then-city assemblyman Mark Begich visited the Steller auditorium to explain (somewhat sheepishly, I thought at the time) why he supported a new teen curfew inAnchorage. Begich, you see, was one of our own – Steller class of 1981 – so we all felt a little betrayed. It wasn’t that all teens were bad, I remember him saying, it was just that a curfew would let police officers stop the bad teens from being out late doing nefarious, perhaps gang-related, things. That would make everyone safer. If good teens were punished in the process, if the scope of what they were allowed to do was limited, that was just the unfortunate byproduct – basically, our freedom was being curtailed for everyone’s safety.

It was my first realization that even a sympathetic politician – even one of your own – will sometimes sell you out if it’s expedient for a higher goal. I was reminded of this when the votes on the Manchin-Toomey amendment came out.

I know Alaskans love their guns. We love our Second Amendment rights. In addition to being a red state overall, we have a healthy share of hunters, survivalists and Libertarian-minded individuals. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where we’d ever give up the right to possess enough firepower to hold off an invading army.

But many of the most ardent gun advocates also seem to think that if the FBI won’t let a person buy a gun at a shop due to, say, killing innocent people previously with guns, they shouldn’t be able to hit up a gun show with a credit card and brash impunity. That’s just inconsistent. It’s apparently not just my liberal bubble denizens that think so. A recent poll conducted by Public Policy Polling seems to indicate that many Alaskans – 60 percent, according to the poll – support expanded background checks.

That Lisa Murkowski voted the amendment down was no surprise. But Begich?

Begich, of course, is up for re-election soon, and I imagine he is feeling a little nervous about looking too blue for Alaska’s Republican-leaning constituents (not our majority, but the largest bloc of voters registered with any political party). When he spoke of his stance against the expanded background checks he said “there are common-sense things we can do to keep our communities safe, but we must do them without undermining our Second Amendment rights… Unfortunately the bill on the Senate floor today would have done just that.”

Perhaps Begich doesn’t believe he should vote yes on anything with even a whiff of gun control about it. Perhaps the NRA has him in their pocket. Perhaps he really believes what he says. Perhaps he’s just making sure that felons and the mentally ill retain their Second Amendment rights. I don’t know.

But when I was in high school, Begich told me that safety would have to be at the cost of freedom. Today, apparently, freedom must not be curtailed by safety. Both times I wondered what end he was working toward. It’s just the opposite, and more of the same.

Victoria Barber is the editor of the Anchorage Press, former editor of The Tundra Drums and the Seward Journal.


Tea Party’s Joe Miller: Off but running in Alaska

Juneau Empire: The controversial, ultraconservative Tea Party activist who upset Alaska’s Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the 2010 GOP primary, and then lost to Murkowski in the general election, has filed papers to run for the Senate in 2014.

Joe Miller has filed a Federal Election Commission form stating he intends to run against Democratic Sen. Mark Begich.  Given Miller’s low poll ratings, that’s potentially very good news for Begich.


Controversial Tea Party-backed Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller.


The form, disclosed in Politico, states that the Fairbanks-based Miller plans to run for the Senate as a Republican, and that Citizens for Joe Miller in his campaign committee.  A more conventional Republican, Lt. Governor Sean Parnell (“lite governor” to the Alaska Ear column of the Anchorage Daily News) is also exploring the race.

Alaska is a very red state.  Yet, its fractious Republicans have fought over control of the state party.  Wasilla, Alaska, Mayor Sarah Palin upset incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski in the 2006 GOP primary.  In 2010, Palin supported Miller against Lisa Murkowski, who was appointed by her father to the U.S. Senate.

Miller imploded in 2010 when his controversial views became known.  He wanted to phase out Medicare, privatize Social Security, wondered whether unemployment insurance was constitutional, and said he would not fight to bring federal dollars to Alaska.  A reporter critical of Miller was detained against his will by the candidate’s “security” detail.

Miller is serving up the same old red meat.  In an April letter to potential supporters, the Fairbanks lawyer declared:

“With the reelection of Barack Obama, our very way of self-government is in peril.  Though I was labeled an ‘extremist’ by the likes of Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich for telling the truth, both of our sitting senators now routinely engage in such ‘extremist’ rhetoric with respect to federal overreach, government spending and entitlement reform.”

Murkowski staged a comeback in 2010, becoming the first U.S. Senate candidate in 54 years to win in a write-in campaign.  Miller contested the write-in count every step of the way.

At least one Tea Party group has urged Palin to make the Senate race, prompting a wicked putdown from Sen. Murkowski, who implied that the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate no longer lives in the state.

A Republican pollster, Harper Polling, found in a survey earlier this month that 49 percent of those polled had an unfavorable opinion of Miller, while just 34 percent had a favorable opinion.  Seventeen percent had no opinion or had not heard of Miller.

Begich upset longtime (1969-2008) Republican Sen. Ted Stevens in 2008 by a 3,700-vote margin.  Stevens had been convicted of federal charges, having to do with payment for a remodel on his Girdwood, Alaska, home.  But the conviction was later vacated due to misconduct by Justice Department prosecutors.  Stevens was later killed in a light plane crash near Bristol Bay.


Zuckerberg’s Big Step Into Politics Is Pushing Tech Friends Away

San Francisco Gate: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s bipartisan political organization is losing friends.

The group backed by technology millionaires and billionaires, called, began advocating in April for changes to U.S. immigration law. Within weeks, surprised some of its members by setting up partisan offshoots and airing ads promoting Democratic Senator Mark Begich’s support for oil drilling and RepublicanSenator Lindsey Graham’s backing of the Keystone XL pipeline.

It’s a strategy intended to give political cover to some senators who may support an immigration bill by reminding uneasy voters of the lawmakers’ other policy priorities. Yet the tactic angered some pro-environment donors and sparked a social-media campaign against Zuckerberg.

“The right way to accomplish political objectives is to argue issues on the merits,” Elon Musk said in a telephone interview. The billionaire co-founder of PayPal and chairman of electric carmaker Tesla Motors Inc. stopped participating with earlier this month. “We want a political system that is less cynical over time, not more,” Musk said.

Technology entrepreneur Anil Dash, who declined to join the group, was more blunt, writing on his blog, “If we’re finally moving past our innocent, naive and idealistic lack of engagement with the actual dirty dealings of legislation, then let’s try to figure out how to do it without losing our souls.”

With the Senate planning to begin debate on immigration the week of June 10, the feuding with risks diluting the strength of and sapping energy from organizations seeking to promote the bill’s passage.


High Stakes


The stakes are high, as the technology industry for a decade has sought more temporary visas for skilled employees, saying there aren’t enough qualified Americans to do such jobs as software engineering. Labor unions dispute that, arguing that Silicon Valley companies want to deflate wages by importing cheaper workers.

Introducing in an April 11 essay in the Washington Post, Zuckerberg wrote that would focus on immigration and also help on issues such as improving science, technology, engineering and math teaching in schools and increasing funding for scientific research.

As a social-welfare group, isn’t required to reveal its donors and is limited in the amount of political work it can do. lists 36 founders and major contributors on its website, without disclosing how much money they’ve given or the group’s total budget.


Political Background


The backers are a who’s who of the digital age. Among them: Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill GatesLinkedIn Corp. executive chairman Reid HoffmanNetflix Inc. chief executive officer Reed HastingsYahoo! Inc. CEO Marissa Mayer andGoogle Inc. executive chairman Eric Schmidt.

Some of them are seasoned political contributors. Schmidt, for example, is a top donor to President Barack Obama and Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican and tech advocate.

Zuckerberg, 29, is newer to politics, having never written a check to Obama or any other federal candidate, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, based in Washington.

In April, the offshoots spent more than $1 million on a trio of TV commercials which aired for about a week in home states of senators.

In one TV spot, Graham, a South Carolina Republican, says he wants to build the Keystone pipeline to transport tar-sands oil from Canada. In another, a narrator reminds viewers that Begich, an Alaska Democrat, wants to drill for oil in a wildlife refuge. Neither commercial mentions immigration.


Tested Strategy


The Graham ad reflects a time-tested political strategy, said Haley Barbour, an adviser to’s Republican group and Mississippi’s former governor.

“It’s very appropriate to remind people of his judgment so that, as voters learn about immigration, they listen to him,” Barbour said in an interview. “It’s a proven concept, used in all kinds of advertising. And for good reason — it’s logical.”

Musk and another former donor,David Sacks, who founded business networking site Yammer Inc., concluded otherwise and quit Zuckerberg’s group. Sacks declined to comment through Yammer spokeswoman Belinda Wong.

At the time those ads were airing,’s Silicon Valley- based president Joe Green, was pitching other tech entrepreneurs for support. After having lunch with Green, Dash and Josh Miller, a founder of startup company Branch, both wrote online essays expressing their reservations.


Silicon Outrage


The group’s approach, “though pitched as ’pragmatic’ and ’smart’ by Beltway insiders, is typically only practiced by large pharmaceutical companies, gun manufacturers, and the like,” Miller wrote in an essay posted to the website

Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla has more sharply criticized, asking May 5 in a Twitter message why the the group was willing to “prostitute climate destruction & other values to get a few engineers hired & get immigration reform?”

Keith Rabois, a partner at Khosla Ventures, is a contributor to The company didn’t respond to requests for comment.

In addition to the Graham and Begich ads, Zuckerberg’s group is running radio and TV spots that emphasize the “tough” aspects of the immigration plan.


Limbaugh Ads


A minute-long ad airing now on the national talk-radio shows of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity begins: “Our immigration system is a joke, and the whole world knows it.”

It goes on to say that Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, andRepresentative Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, “are working on plans to change that. It all starts with real border security, more fencing, more manpower and high- tech surveillance.”

Of those ads, Rob Jesmer, the campaign manager, said, “There’s a lot of conversation about immigration happening on talk radio. We’d be foolish not to get our message out over that medium.”

Opponents of’s tactics recently started using some of the same social-media sites that made the group’s backers wealthy.

Some environmental and Democratic-leaning groups, including the Sierra Club,League of Conservation Voters, CREDO and have banded together to criticize through a Facebook page and Twitter account.


Tumblr Dance


The coalition created a Tumblr last week to take aim at Mayer — whose company just purchased that micro-publishing outlet for $1.1 billion.

“We’d like this Yahoo! gif better, and do this dance, if Marissa Mayer dropped,” the Tumblr concludes, showing a dancing animation.

“These are the people who should be helping us figure out how to have a better democracy, and yet they’re just using old, broken D.C. strategies,” said Becky Bond, political director of CREDO, a super-political action committee started by a mobile phone company. “They have built their careers on communities of millions of users. We just want to make sure those users know what they’re doing.”


–With assistance from Alan Ohnsman in Los Angeles. Editors: Jeanne Cummings, Robin Meszoly


To contact the reporter on this story: Julie Bykowicz in Washington at


To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at



Categories: Alaska politics Tags:

Tracking Mark Begich March 7 to 21

Weekly Clips from March 7, 2013 through March 21, 2013

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-AK

Photo: Begich watchers

Juneau Empire: April 5: Erin Shine, left, Yasmine Habash, center, and Debra Higgins, all staff to Rep. Craig Johnson, R-Anchorage, watch as Alaska Sen. Mark Begich arrives for his annual speech to a Joint Session of the Legislature on Monday.


Debate over Alaska Native voting may be a preview of 2014 Senate race

Alaska Daily News: March 10: The sparring over whether U.S. Sen. Mark Begich was correct in his assertions last week that the Parnell administration and some legislators seek to suppress Native voting may foreshadow a larger battle in the 2014 election.

That conflict would follow a story line of the 2012 presidential election: Did some Republican-governed states attempt to place roadblocks in front of traditional Democratic voters, such as the elderly and minorities, to tip the field in favor of Mitt Romney? That question ended up in several courts before the November election and was seized as an issue by President Barack Obama’s supporters.

And now the issue appears to be coming to Alaska.

In his annual address to the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, Begich said he and other Alaskans were concerned “about recent trends in our state making voting more difficult,” especially for Alaska Natives and the growing Hispanic communities. He criticized the administration of Gov. Sean Parnell for trying to get a section of the U.S. Voting Rights Act declared unconstitutional, as well as legislators who are backing a bill to impose new identification requirements for voters, such as a photo ID.

Begich’s speech was soon followed by a statement from the author of the voter ID bill, Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, that he was “shocked” that Begich could conclude his measure would make it harder to vote for rural residents, whom the state even allows to drive without picture identification.

Two days later, Alaska Elections Director Gail Fenumiai asked Begich to correct “two misconceptions” in his talk and denied that the state’s two-prong legal attack on the 1965 U.S. Voting Rights Act was an assault on minority voters.

“I strongly dispute your assertions that the division makes it more difficult to vote here or that the state has imposed any obstacles to voting,” Fenumiai wrote in a letter to Begich released by her staff.

Begich answered that he “stands firm” on the points in his speech and that rural Alaska Natives had come to depend on the Voting Rights Act “to protect themselves from barriers at the ballot box.”

An Alaska Democratic Party official followed up with examples backing Begich, citing attempts by the Elections Division to shut down village polling places and to fail to provide assistance to speakers of Yup’ik and other Native languages until ordered by a federal judge in Anchorage. That case, before U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess, a George W. Bush appointee, only concluded in 2012.

“This is really an issue of national importance,” said the official, Zack Fields, communications director for the state Democratic Party. When voting is less restrictive, he said, Democrats do better.

Republicans say that when voter identification rules are lax, ballot fraud becomes a problem.



The 2014 election holds big stakes in Alaska. Begich, a Democrat in a Republican-leaning state, is up for re-election, a race that could determine whether Democrats keep control of the U.S. Senate. While centrist Democrats like Begich have shown they can win a statewide election here, the contests are usually close.

Republican Gov. Parnell is also standing for re-election — unless he chooses to run against Begich. Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, the state’s top election official, has already announced that he is exploring a run against Begich.

The Alaska Redistricting Board, which remade the legislative map for the 2012 election, is under orders by the Alaska Supreme Court to redraw at least some districts by 2014. Under the 2012 map, Democrats ended up with small minorities in both houses of the Legislature, and two Native legislators and the sole African-American legislator were replaced by whites.

Most of the issues related to Native voting — the village poll closings, voter identification, preserving legislative districts where enough voters are Native that they would have strong influence on the outcome, election material made available in indigenous languages — are tied to protections under the Voting Rights Act. Alaska is one of nine states — most are in the South — that are subject to Justice Department supervision under Section 5 of the act. That means that any change to voting procedures must be cleared by the Justice Department before it can be implemented.

Native American Rights Fund Attorney Natalie Landreth, a specialist in the Voting Rights Act in Anchorage, cited the example of the small Prince William Sound village of Tatitlek, where in 2008 the Division of Elections proposed to shift its polling place 33 miles away to Cordova. No road connects the two communities.

Fenumiai, the election official, said the division proposed the Tatitlek consolidation and others were proposed because of the difficulty in finding poll workers.

“Every election cycle we struggle to find poll workers in those communities, even reaching out to the tribal council offices for names and not getting any success there,” she said. The division alerted the Justice Department to the change, and said it would accommodate the villagers with absentee ballots.

The Justice Department responded with a “MIR” letter — more information requested.

“It would’ve taken the division a very long time to answer that and we were butting up against the election, so we just made the choice to withdraw the request,” Fenumiai said.

To Landreth, that was one of many examples of how Section 5 helped villagers, assuring them of the same fundamental voting rights held by urban residents. To the state, it was an example of federal interference.

The Parnell administration is fighting the Voting Rights Act on two fronts. It has joined a challenge to Section 5’s constitutionality brought by Shelby County, Ala., next door to Birmingham, where the infamous Public Safety Commissioner Bull Connor loosed police dogs and fire hoses on unarmed demonstrators in the 1960s — a direct cause of the civil rights legislation that followed. And it filed its own lawsuit in Washington, D.C., seeking an order removing the state from Section 5 oversight.

“Section 5’s preclearance requirement is onerous and time-consuming, creates uncertainty and delay, and places Alaska’s elections at the mercy of Department of Justice attorneys in Washington, D.C.,” the state said in its complaint. “Alaska cannot make the smallest change to its election procedures, even those that do not affect minority voting, without prior permission of the Department of Justice.”

The Voting Rights Act would likely prevent Rep. Lynn’s voter ID bill from ever becoming law in Alaska, as long as Section 5 remains intact, Landreth said.



Before the current legislative session began, Lynn, the chair of the House State Affairs Committee, had vowed to hear the bill as one of his committee’s first orders of business. Nearly two-thirds through the session now, that hasn’t happened. The Supreme Court will decide the Shelby challenge by the end of its term in June, so the legislature will know whether Section 5 still exists in its 2014 session, in time to pass the bill before the election.

Lynn’s bill would require a photo ID to vote — the first time Alaska has had such a requirement. The bill says a voter could also use two pieces of non-photographic evidence, such as an original or certified birth certificate or a government license. That replaces the current identification requirement, which allows for a single form of identification that could include a bank statement, utility bill or government or payroll check showing the name and address of the voter.

In his speech to the Legislature, Begich said that requirement would disenfranchise elderly village voters, including the grandparents of two of his staff members. They’ve never gotten an ID, he said. “I’m going to tell you right now, they’re not getting one. But they vote, and they participate in their villages.”

Begich also accused the Parnell administration of opposing Native language ballots.

Fenumiai responded that the division currently provides assistance to speakers of several Native languages as well as Tagalog for voters from the Philippines living in Kodiak, and Spanish.

But the division and the city of Bethel were sued by the Native American Rights Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union for failing to provide language assistance in the Bethel region. The Elections Division lost that case, first under a temporary restraining order issued by Judge Burgess in 2008, and then the final order in 2010.

Until the lawsuit, Fenumiai said, “The division never realized or was told that there were any problems or issues with the language assistance that was being offered.”

Landreth said there are still language access problems in rural Alaska that have yet to be resolved. \


Begich to Bureau of Land Management: Stop Lollygagging on Legacy Wells

Alaska Native News: Sen. Mark Begich pressed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to step up their measures to plug legacy wells and requested that Bud Cribley, BLM Alaska state director, formally and personally reassure Alaskans that BLM has a workable plan for the wells.

“I trust you are well aware of the widespread desire in Alaska to see these legacy wells addressed as soon as possible,” stated Sen. Begich in his letter. “Given that pressure, what options are available to your agency to expedite the FHPA review for all the wells at one time? What resources are available to your office to move the review quickly and at the least cost to taxpayers?”

Sen. Begich pledged to assist BLM while making it clear that the agency was ultimately responsible for clean-up efforts. “While I stand ready to assist from my position on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, Alaskans expect better results on the legacy well issue than they have seen to date,” stated Begich.

The full text of the signed letter can be read here.


Begich Takes VA to Task for Inefficiency, Failure to Deliver Benefits

Alaska Daily News: At a hearing today of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC) U.S. Sen. Mark Begich grilled officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on the backlog of disability claims preventing veterans everywhere from receiving critical benefits they earned for their service in the U.S. military.

During the hearing, Begich highlighted the outdated and ineffective system by explaining that the most common request his office receives from constituents is to assist a veteran in claiming their benefits.

“Today’s hearing confirmed what I hear from veterans in Alaska every day – the VA is mired in paperwork, they don’t have a process to deal with it, and our veterans are paying the price,” said Begich. “This is totally unacceptable and I will be staying on top of the VA to make sure we get this bureaucratic mess straightened out and that our veterans get the benefits they have earned and deserve.”

Begich also pressed the VA to report back on moving electronic records between DOD and VA to cut down on wait time for service men and women transitioning out of the military.


Begich Calls Out National Democrats for Misguided Letter on Revenue Sharing, Arctic Development

Alaska Daily News: Senator Mark Begich took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to respond to a letter sent by eight senators to the Senate Energy Committee excluding Alaska from the oil and gas revenue sharing enjoyed by southern states along the Gulf of Mexico.

“I take exception to my colleagues—especially colleagues on my side of the aisle,” said Begich. “As this letter is laid out, it’s really just about opposing offshore development of any kind. These folks just don’t like oil and gas. That’s how I read it.”

Begich referenced the Alaska Adjacent Zone Safe Oil Transport and Revenue Sharing Act, the bill he introduced on January 31, 2013 to secure a share of federal revenues from offshore oil and gas development. These revenues would be directed to the State of Alaska and Alaska’s coastal communities in the same manner it is provided to Gulf Coast states from drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. It will provide support to state, local and tribal governments for public-sector infrastructure required to develop the resources, address the impacts in affected communities and, if necessary, respond in terms of emergency.

Additionally, Begich’s bill requires oil and gas from the Chukchi and Beaufort seas to be brought to shore through a pipeline. “The pipeline is safer than tanker transport and ensures future through-put for the Trans-Alaska pipeline that feeds this country.”

The measure breaks down stakeholder sharing by providing Alaska with 37.5% of the federal bonus bids and royalty share from any energy development, fossil or renewable. Of that 37.5%:

25% is directed to local governments;

25% is directed to Alaska Native village and regional corporations;

10% is directed tribal governments;

40% goes to the State of Alaska. The bill also dictates that:

15% of the federal share of royalties is directed to the Land and Water Conservation Fund

7.5% of the federal share is dedicated directly to deficit reduction.

The complete speech can be viewed in our video section.


Does Alaska have a voter fraud problem?

Alaska Dispatch: March 14:  A voter ID bill that drew sharp criticism from U.S. Sen. Mark Begich on his recent visit to the Alaska Legislature is moving forward, with its sponsor denying the senator’s claims about the bill.


Alaska voter ID proposal under fire in Legislature

Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, said his House Bill 3 was the victim of “misinformation” spread by Begich, D-Alaska.

“Nothing whatsoever in House Bill 3 prevents anyone from voting if they are registered and motivated to vote,” he said Thursday, while chairing the House State Affairs Committee hearing his bill. Those who don’t have photo ID can present other forms of identification or cast questioned ballots, he said.

Compared to a poll tax

Stricter voter ID requirements was the focus of Begich’s remarks – and his criticisms were reinforced at a hearing Thursday by Jeffrey Mittman of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska and Joy Huntington of the Tanana Chiefs Conference.

Mittman likened the cost of getting an ID to an unconstitutional “poll tax” that would likely be overturned, if challenged, in court. Begich has stood by his comments as well.

Huntington said she didn’t get a photo ID until age 20 when she got her drivers’ license. Before that, she only drove four-wheelers around the village. Many Native elders don’t have photo IDs either, she noted. But Elfin Cove’s Travis Lewis supported the bill, and said it was needed –even in his small Chichagof Island community. It wouldn’t make legitimate voting more difficult, he contended.

“I can’t imagine anyone in this day and age who doesn’t have proper identification,” he said.

Despite numerous comments saying there was no voter fraud problem to address, Lewis said he’d seen what looked like it in Elfin Cove.

“We have people from other states with voter registration cards who are voting in our community,” he said. Those people may well be voting elsewhere as well, he said.

Aimed at fraud

Supporters of the bill, such as co-prime sponsor Lynn, call the proposed regulation necessary to protect elections against the possibility of voter fraud.

“Even one case of voter fraud is one case too many,” said Forrest Wolfe, a member of Lynn’s staff.

Other committee members expressed skepticism that the bill’s goal was worth the risk it could inhibit legal voting.

Rep. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, said she was uncomfortable with the bill, even if it only disenfranchised the few people who got by without photo ID.

“It’s a handful of people in the state, but I don’t care if it is only one person, their vote has value and they shouldn’t be disenfranchised,” she said.

Vice-chair Rep. Wes Keller, R-Mat-Su, the bill’s other prime sponsor, urged the committee to pass the bill on to the Judiciary Committee, so questions about its legality and constitutionality could be addressed. He assured them that allowing it to pass out of committee was not an indication of support, though he did note that he personally supported it.

While some committee members expressed skepticism, only Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, said he was opposed, calling the bill an attempt to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

“I feel it flies in the face of reality as far as there being an actual problem,” he said.

The move to Judiciary, the bill’s second and final committee in which it will be heard, may look much much like its first committee.

The bill’s two prime sponsors, Lynn and Keller, reverse their roles from House State Affairs when it goes to Judiciary. There, Keller is the chair and Lynn is the vice-chair.

Contact Pat Forgey at pat(at)



Categories: Alaska politics Tags:

Tracking Mark Begich in media March 21 through April 4

Weekly Clips from March 21, 2013 through April 4, 2013

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-AK

Alaska Sen. Mark Begich Endorses Gay Marriage—Again

Today BuzzFeed reported that Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat, now endorses marriage equality, citing a statement the website procured from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Other news organizations like The Huffington Post have picked up on the news, heralding it as another position switch by a leading national politician. But the Begich endorsement of same-sex marriage is not new.

In fact, Begich endorsed gay marriage last year, in a statement to HRC as the group gathered information to create its congressional scorecard of the 112th Congress, which has been online for months. “HRC included members’ position on marriage equality as part of our 112th Congress scorecard,” said an HRC spokesman to TIME on Tuesday. “Last year when we were assembling scores and statements, Sen. Begich’s office indicated he supported our statement on marriage equality.”

In a TIME article Monday on Senator Mark Warner’s new endorsement of gay marriage, eleven other Senate Democrats were named as non-supporters of same sex nuptials. Begich was not on the list.

HRC’s website has crashed due to an extraordinary amount of traffic as the Supreme Court debates California’s Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage. You can, however, find the HRC’s 112th Congressional Scorecard here.

Update:  A HRC spokesman told TIME, “We got confirmation from Begich’s staff on July 31, 2012.”


Mead Treadwell eyes Mark Begich seat

POLITICO: Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who is weighing a challenge to first-term Sen. Mark Begich, questioned the legitimacy of Begich’s 2008 election Thursday and accused the Democrat of having taken his seat in a “bloodless coup.”

Begich defeated the late Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, a former president pro tem of the U.S. Senate and one of Alaska’s founding fathers, in a narrowly decided race. Stevens battled a federal corruption indictment during the election and was convicted of making false statements to investigators – only to see the convictions later voided due to prosecutorial conduct after he lost to Begich.

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In an interview with POLITICO, Treadwell questioned the legitimacy of Begich’s win: “I’ll put it this way: a great applause line in a speech right now to Alaskans is, ‘Let’s decide this one ourselves and not let the Justice Department do it.’”

“It was astounding that you could have this process happen, that would take the third-most powerful guy in the government out of the government, unjustly, and then just say ‘oh, never mind,’ ” Treadwell said. “It was a bloodless coup that is just a very, very sad chapter in our history.”

A Begich spokesperson declined to respond to Treadwell’s comments.

Treadwell sat down with POLITICO reporters during a meeting of the National Lieutenant Governors Association in Washington; he is currently a member of the executive committee of the Republican Lieutenant Governors Association.

In an extended conversation, he outlined his thinking on the 2014 race that could be one of the most competitive Senate elections in the country. Treadwell formed an exploratory committee late last year but said he will defer to Republican Gov. Sean Parnell, who has not yet announced his plans for 2014.

In the meantime, Treadwell said he has met with several sitting senators, as well as officials from the National Republican Senatorial Committee and third-party players who could invest heavily in the race.

Should Treadwell seek the Senate seat, he would likely face a competitive Republican primary. Joe Miller, who defeated Sen. Lisa Murkowski in a 2010 Republican primary only to see her win the general election as a write-in candidate, has said he is considering another run.

Treadwell said he respects Miller as a potential competitor and shares much of his conservative agenda, but questioned the activist’s viability.

The lieutenant governor also revealed that he voted for Murkowski over Miller in the 2010 general election, explaining that her seniority was critical to the “Alaska agenda.”

“I voted for Lisa Murkowski in the primary and in the general, and I think Alaskans made the right decision,” Treadwell said. “That’s not to say I agree with everything Sen. Murkowski does. There are caucuses within the Senate that, if I became a senator, I’m sure I would be involved in, that she’s not involved in. But on the Alaska agenda, I think she’s carrying that … very well.”

As for a possible Miller 2014 campaign, Treadwell shrugged: “I believe that I would be a more attractive candidate across the board than Joe.”

That’s not to say that Treadwell views himself as any kind of middle-of-the-road establishment candidate. A deep-voiced, 57-year-old Yale graduate, and former head of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, Treadwell said he subscribes to “the liberty agenda” – protecting privacy, federalism and gun rights – and aggressive fiscal conservatism.

“I’m enthused about Paul Ryan’s plan on balancing the budget, except that I’m not enthused about the idea of 10 years,” he said, referring to the time frame in which Ryan’s spending plan balances the budget. “I think he’s done a very good job, especially given what Republicans have to promise the country, which is on entitlements we’re not going to send people over a cliff.”

The Republican characterized Begich, on the other hand, as “very much a part of [the Obama] administration,” however the senator seeks to distinguish himself from the White House.

“If they’re going to give him a pass until 2014 is over, what does that mean about beyond 2014?” Treadwell asked.

And while Treadwell said he would fight hard on Alaska-specific issues, such as energy production and missile defense, he stopped short of endorsing the bring-home-the-bacon approach to legislating that has defined numerous Alaska politicians – starting with Stevens.

“I think the idea of earmarks is behind us,” said Treadwell, who aligned himself with less spending-intensive parts of the Stevens legacy.

“Ted helped write the Alaska Statehood Act, before he was even in the Senate. The Statehood Act gave us a lot in the way of self-determination. Ted wrote the 200-mile limit bill [governing offshore fishing rights] with Warren Magnuson that gave us a multi-billion-dollar fishing industry in our state,” he said. “None of that was earmarking and bringing money home. That was bringing power home.”

Added Treadwell: “The idea that, you know, you wait your turn to appropriate is not necessary.”

The final decision on a Senate campaign may still be a ways off for Treadwell, who said he expects each candidate will have to raise as much as $5 million for the race. He’s testing the waters on the fundraising front, as well as conducting polling on the race.

As a single father – his wife died of cancer a decade ago – with one child still in high school, Treadwell is gauging whether a campaign would be acceptable for his family.

“I’m prepared to run if the answers are positive,” he said. “We’re working on a business plan. We have not decided to run.”


Dem budget naysayers defend votes

The Hill: March 25: Democrats who voted against the Senate Democratic leadership’s 2014 budget have explained their votes.

All four — Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Mark Begich (Alaska) — are up for reelection in 2014 in states where Mitt Romney beat President Obama in the 2012 presidential race.

Centrist senators not up for reelection in 2014, such as Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.), did vote for the budget, which passed just before 5 a.m. Saturday on a 50 to 49 vote.

The Democratic budget calls for nearly $1 trillion in new taxes, does not balance and uses a baseline that assumes the sequester stays in place.

Hagan over the weekend said she was voting against the budget’s defense cuts.

“[A]s a Senator from the most military-friendly state in the nation, I am concerned that the $240 billion in cuts to defense spending called for in this budget resolution are too deep,” she said. “Our military is already grappling with the deep cuts forced by sequestration this year, and in order to prevent damage to our national security and military communities I strongly believe that any further cuts should only be made in cooperation with our military leadership.”

Hagan said that more needs to be done to balance the budget.

“Our country needs a long-term deficit reduction plan that is balanced and bipartisan, and we must work to balance the budget. I will keep working with my colleagues to get our fiscal house in order while keeping our commitment to seniors and students, to veterans and active duty service members, and to all of North Carolina’s middle class families,” she said.

Pryor said the budget was not enough of a compromise for him.

“This budget fails to strike the right balance between cutting our spending and setting up a path for future job creation and economic growth. Instead of one-party solutions, we should work together to find a balanced approach that will benefit our economy, seniors, and middle class families,” he said in a short statement.

Begich said the budget needed to do more on spending, and that failing to do so passes a debt burden to the next generation.

“While I am happy that Congress is finally talking seriously about our fiscal crisis, this budget didn’t go far enough,” said Begich. “Alaskans expect us to finish the job and make this staggering deficit manageable. Passing this problem off to our children is not an option. We got ourselves into this mess and have a responsibility to get ourselves out.  We can either make the tough choices now or face an even tougher road ahead.”

“I will continue to work with any of my colleagues from either party who are serious about reducing wasteful federal spending, which is what Alaskans sent me here to do,” he said. “These cuts are not only necessary, they are within reach — and I hope more of my colleagues will join me in getting this done.”

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Baucus did not issue a statement.

An aide said that the senator voted against the budget because it was not a “sensible compromise.”

“He was disappointed there was no middle ground — the fact is neither the House plan nor the Senate plan offered a sensible compromise,” the aide said. “And that is what his bosses — the people of Montana — tell him they want to see, a balanced plan that’ll bring us together, gets our economy running at full speed and creates jobs for folks in Montana and across America.”

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