Democrats are writing big checks for what they see as their best chance in a generation to topple Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens and Congressman Don Young in the fall elections.
Most of their money is going to Ethan Berkowitz, one of three Democrats competing to take on Young, and Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, who has not formally become a candidate but is expected to run against Stevens.
Federal campaign finance reports covering the first three months of the year had to be sent in Tuesday. Begich, who started his exploratory committee on Feb. 27, reported he brought in $267,090 in just over a month of trying.
But Begich still has much catching up to do in the money race. Republican Stevens remains a fundraising force and reported bringing in $584,659 throughout the first three months of this year. He has a $1.3 million campaign account.
In the House race, Berkowitz raised $276,962 during the first three months of the year. That compares to the $131,575 Young reported for the same period.
Young released a statement saying that he was happy with his fundraising.
"Those who have doubted me had best think again," Young said in the statement. "These latest numbers are incredibly encouraging and show my strength as the standing Congressman and a candidate for the 2008 election cycle."
Young also reported spending $252,293 of his campaign money on legal fees relating to the federal investigation into his activities as Congressman.
It's been an ongoing expense for him -- and one he has refused to discuss -- but the Republican still has a $604,268 campaign treasury.
Berkowitz joined the race in October and has a campaign war chest of $287,306. That's over four times more than either of his opponents in the Democratic primary.
Young's campaign manager, Mike Anderson, said Berkowitz' numbers were striking.
"I think this kind of reflects that the Democrats are kind of marshalling their forces behind one person," he said.
Berkowitz' two Democratic primary opponents said that's not so. Candidate Jake Metcalfe said winning a primary election is about hard work, not who has the most cash. Metcalfe has roughly $20,000 in campaign money in the bank.
"Ethan's always had a lot of money. He runs around in circles with a lot of money, and I grew up poor," Metcalfe said.
The other Democratic candidate, Diane Benson, said she's doubled her donors but doesn't run with the big money crowd.
"As progressive as Democrats are they have a hard time getting behind women candidates -- it takes them awhile," said Benson, who has about $46,000 in her campaign account.
Berkowitz said he's hardly rich and Metcalfe makes more money than he does.
He said he's flattered so many Alaskans wanted to donate. It's not big money politics, he said.
"Look at the number of people from Alaska who have contributed to me, both large and small. They have come from all across the state," Berkowitz said.
Berkowitz said 82 percent of the 1,365 contributors to his campaign have been Alaskans. Other Berkowitz campaign donors included Markos Moulitsas of Berkeley, Calif., founder of the left-leaning Web site Daily Kos, California Congressman Howard Berman's campaign fund and Illinois Congressman Rahm Emmanuel's "Our Common Values" political action committee.
Young's top donors included transportation industry political action committees, Indian tribes, D.C. lobbyists, Anchorage port director Bill Sheffield and the heads of Carlile Enterprises and Alaska Interstate Construction.
Young faces two challengers in the Republican primary. Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell didn't enter the race until mid-March and brought in a quick $26,000. Kodiak state Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux stopped raising money during the recent legislative session but loaned $92,500 of her own money to her campaign and has $153,171 in it.
Stevens has a Republican primary challenger as well, David Cuddy.
Cuddy hasn't started fundraising but lent his campaign money to cover about $60,000 in expenses.
Stevens' campaign didn't provide a detailed account Tuesday of the more than 900 donors who gave to the senator in recent months. That 380-page document will soon be available.
Begich's campaign said he received contributions from 915 separate donors, over 80 percent of them from Alaska. The trial lawyers' political action committee and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's leadership fund also gave.
Ray Metcalfe, who is running for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat, said he hasn't started his fundraising push.
Find Sean Cockerham online at adn.com/contact/scockerham or call him at 257-4344.