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In video, Young says Begich takes too much credit

Nathaniel Herz

A new video from Alaska Rep. Don Young hits at ads supporting Sen. Mark Begich's re-election campaign, saying that Begich is claiming credit for accomplishments of the entire Alaska delegation.

The video, hastily filmed at the Fairbanks airport, was quietly released Tuesday on Young's campaign YouTube page. The 21-term Republican congressman is shown wearing sunglasses and a bolo tie as he strides around the end of a small plane and delivers a 50-second attack on Begich, the Democrat who is nearing the end of his first term and facing a tough re-election fight.

"I don't appreciate the ads that are being run on his behalf right now," Young says. "Don't take credit for something you did not do. And when we do something together, say, 'We did it.' I think it would be a lot better."

The filming was orchestrated by Art Hackney, a veteran Anchorage political consultant who works with Young, Hackney said in a phone interview Thursday.

Hackney also works as a spokesman and strategist for American Crossroads, an independent political action committee based in Washington, D.C., that's been running ads attacking Begich -- including a spot launched Wednesday that will get $450,000 of air time.

Hackney said the Young video and his work for American Crossroads, a so-called "super PAC," are "two different things," and that the idea for the YouTube spot arose organically.

"Don had made a statement to me that he was ticked off," Hackney said. "And I don't know who said it first, but I said, 'We can put it up on the website.'"

Young's remarks, Hackney added, are "typical, extemporaneous Don."

The video, which was first reported by political blogger Amanda Coyne, was shot as Young returned from a trip to the Interior community of Chicken. In it, he cites what he says are three examples of Begich claiming sole credit for projects -- claims that Young said deserve more scrutiny.

Those projects include "the road" -- an apparent reference to a Begich ad about a road project to improve access into the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska that was delayed while it waited for approval from the Army Corps of Engineers.

"It took five years, but I got the road approved," Begich says in the ad.

Young, in his own video, objects to that assertion, as well as to claims in another Begich ad about the senator's role in the construction of Anchorage's Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center and in a safety project at the city's Merrill Field airport.

"The road? Nah. Let's look at it," Young says. "The Denai'na Center? Nah. Merrill Field? I don't think so."

"'We, we, we, we.' Not 'I, I, I.' When you start saying 'I, I, I,' I think people ought to start looking at that," Young added.

A spokesman for Begich said that "we are happy with our ads and the content in them."

"We wouldn't run them if we weren't, and we're happy there are so many results Sen. Begich has been able to deliver for the state," said the spokesman, Max Croes.

In a follow-up email, Croes referred to a February newspaper story that gave Begich credit for pressing regulators to approve the road project, "in spite of environmental objections."

As for the Dena'ina Center, Croes cited a pledge from Begich's 2003 inauguration as Anchorage mayor that he would revitalize downtown with a new convention center; it ultimately was built by 2008, before the end of Begich's tenure.

And Croes said Merrill Field received $5.5 million in funding from the 2009 federal stimulus package -- a measure that Begich was the only member of the Alaska delegation to vote for, he added.

Young's video comes after statements he made in January to a Washington, D.C., publication in which he praised Begich for doing a "great job of, very frankly, representing the people."

In a follow-up story later that month in Alaska Dispatch, Young said he got a lot of flak for those comments, but he nonetheless stood by them and added Begich had been "good in the energy industry" -- though he noted Begich had "made bad votes," too.

In May, however, Young told attendees at the state Republican convention that they needed to be "100 percent behind" the candidate that wins the party's primary to challenge Begich.

Asked if Young's comments in the YouTube video represent a shift, campaign spokesman Matt Shuckerow said: "I don't believe that's necessarily the case."

He added the stories earlier this year had quoted Young selectively.

"In recent weeks, the congressman has been asked his position on Sen. Begich and some of the things that he's been saying and taking sole credit for," Shuckerow said. "He wanted to get it out there for those to see."

Shuckerow and Hackney said there were no plans to distribute the video more broadly.

Reach Nathaniel Herz at nherz@adn.com or 257-4311.

 


By NATHANIEL HERZ
nherz@adn.com