Outside donations pay most of the bills for Alaska's US Senate campaigns

FAIRBANKS -- Most of the money financing the attack ads, the feel-good ads and all other aspects of the U.S. Senate campaigns in Alaska originates with people who will never cast a vote in Alaska.

About $16 million so far has been allocated or spent by groups working for or against Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Begich and GOP nominee Dan Sullivan but not connected to the candidates, organizations with limited publicly-disclosed Alaska connections. But there are also big spenders who don't have to reveal the sources of their funds, which makes tracing some campaign dollars impossible.

It's easier to bring the other sizable chunk of change in the contest into focus -- the money raised by the two campaigns from individuals and groups, funds controlled by the candidates.

Less than 15 percent of the $10 million or so raised and controlled by Begich and Sullivan has come from Alaska, according to summaries posted by the Federal Election Commission, from reports through July -- more than $900,000 for Begich and about $400,000 for Sullivan.

The exact amounts are not known as FEC reports do not include all small donations. And the campaigns handle them in different ways. The Sullivan campaign identifies contributors who give at least $200, which is the FEC requirement. The Begich campaign identifies contributors who donate $50 or more.

Alaska has long been near the bottom of the 50 states in total federal campaign contributions, befitting its relatively low population. So candidates for federal offices have long found it easier to plug into Outside money sources. The emergence in Alaska of one of the most competitive Senate contests in the country -- one with implications for control of the U.S. Senate -- has accentuated the difference in campaign finance geography.

The FEC reports Begich has raised $6.3 million since the start of 2013, with about $3.7 million in itemized individual contributions. Sullivan has raised $4 million since he started his campaign nearly a year ago, with about $3.2 million in itemized individual contributions.


According to the FEC summary, Begich received about $932,000 from nearly 2,900 identified Alaska individuals and organizations. About $630,000 came from Anchorage and communities nearby, while more than $70,000 came from about 300 donors in Fairbanks and vicinity. Close to 400 people in Southeast gave him a combined total of more than $115,000.

His top 20 Alaska contributors, who contributed a total of about $83,000, include Lowell Thomas Jr. and Tay Thomas, Robert Thorstenson Jr., Anand Vadapalli and Prarthana Vadapalli, Andrew Murphy, James B. Taylor, Angela Jimenez, William Snell, Kriss Hart, Robin E. Smith, Deborah Greenberg, Laury Scandling, Rochelle Plotnick, Patricia McDonald, Michael Navarre, Jeanette Wakefield, Karen Hansen, Jim Nordlund and Louise Dawson.

Begich's top 10 sources of funding are Alaska, California, Massachusetts, New York, Washington, District of Columbia, Virginia, Texas and Maryland, Illinois and New Jersey. He raised about $3.4 million in those states.

The summary for Sullivan posted by the FEC lists about $405,000 in Alaska contributions from about 400 people. He raised more than $476,000 in Ohio from about 235 contributors, the document indicates. Sullivan picked up more than half of his Alaska money in the Anchorage area, $219,000, and close to $100,000 elsewhere in Southcentral. He had received more than $50,000 from the Fairbanks area by the end of July, before the primary election.

His top 10 states are Ohio, Alaska, Florida, New York, Texas, Illinois, California, Missouri, Massachusetts and Colorado. He raised $2.3 million in those states.

As of July, 21 Alaskans had given Sullivan the maximum $5,200 contribution for the primary and general elections for a total of more than $109,000: Victoria Hill, Fred Braun, Dave Cruz, Paul Flannigan, Teri Gimple, Scott Griffith, John Hill, Jim Jansen, Laura McLaughlin, Sean McLaughlin, Daniel Navarre, Lawrence Partusch, Dana Pruhs, Deanna Pruhs, Diane Ralston, Joseph Ralston, David Schilling, Michael Schilling, Shannon Schilling, Therese Schilling and Sandra Williams.

Dermot Cole

Former ADN columnist Dermot Cole is a longtime reporter, editor and author.