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Claim Check: Latest Sullivan attack ad from pro-Begich super PAC

Nathaniel Herz

Claim Check will regularly examine campaign ads through the 2014 election season. 

The ad: “Faith”

Who’s running it: Put Alaska First PAC, attacking Republican Senate candidate Dan Sullivan

First aired: July 9

Spending: Group declines to say

The super PAC supporting Democratic Sen. Mark Begich’s re-election campaign, Put Alaska First, released an ad Wednesday with a new attack on Republican primary candidate Dan Sullivan over an old issue: his support of a pro-development permitting and water rights bill.

The 30-second spot features a commercial fisherman and former Republican state legislative candidate, Joe Faith, saying that Sullivan “tried to give the government more power to take away places where we fish.”

“I usually vote Republican but I just don’t trust Dan Sullivan,” Faith says. “He’s trying to bamboozle people in Alaska.”

The ad, like three others released by Put Alaska First this year, refers to House Bill 77, a measure introduced by Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration in the 2013 legislative session. At the time, Sullivan was the commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources.

The bill was intended to reduce a big backlog of state permit applications. But fishermen, tribal rights activists, and environmentalists strongly criticized the measure, saying it risked protections for rivers and streams, and would put too much power in the hands of developers.

An analysis by the website PolitiFact called one of Put Alaska First’s earlier ads on the bill “half-true.”

But that ad, in contrast to “Faith,” included stronger language about Sullivan’s involvement in crafting the bill, and about its effects on hunters, which needed “clarification or additional information,” PolitiFact said.

Jim Lottsfeldt, who runs Put Alaska First, said his group is sticking to the House Bill 77 message because it’s “an iconic or an ideological marker” for the campaign.

He declined to discuss how his group, which is primarily funded by the Washington, D.C. based Democratic group Senate Majority PAC, had tested the effectiveness of the House Bill 77 attack.

But Lottsfeldt added: “People should conclude that if we’re spending money doing this, it’s because we think it’s effective.”

In an email, Mike Anderson, a spokesman for Sullivan, said: “As we have said before, the legislation referenced in their attack ad focused on cutting red tape and streamlining Alaska's permitting process, and had nothing to do with taking away Alaskans' hunting and fishing rights.”