Pro-Begich group goes after Koch brothers -- and GOP Senate challenger Sullivan

From Lisa Demer in Anchorage:

The latest ads by a pro-Mark Begich SuperPAC take on the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers -- and say the Kochs are supporting Republican Dan Sullivan. The Sullivan camp says that's unfair. Sullivan hasn't taken any money from the Kochs, the campaign says. Begich has, according to campaign filings.

The TV ad by Put Alaska First, the pro-Begich group run by political consultant Jim Lottsfeldt, ran statewide over the last week at a cost of $61,000 for the air time. After the Sullivan campaign first began criticizing the ad, the group booked a new round of airings Wednesday for another $100,000. Begich backers say there is nothing wrong with the ads.

"There's no question in my mind they are out there in support of Sullivan," Lottsfeldt said of the Koch brothers. "He is the guy who all the Washington, D.C. SuperPACS on the Republican side have coalesced around. He is their chosen candidate."

For instance, Sullivan is supported by American Crossroads, the SuperPAC former President Bush strategist Karl Rove helped found. His campaign has raised far more money than those of fellow Republicans Mead Treadwell and Joe Miller.

But the ads by Koch-backed groups -- Americans for Prosperity, American Energy Alliance and Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce -- never mention Sullivan. Instead they go after Begich over the Affordable Care Act and whether he's waffled on a carbon tax -- he says he hasn't.

Democrats in Alaska and around the country are railing against Charles and David Koch. The brothers' political activity and money has become a flash point in this year's effort by Republicans to retake the U.S. Senate. Begich's seat is being targeted.


The new Alaska ad by Put Alaska First starts with the closure of the Flint Hills oil refinery in North Pole, which was announced in February and is costing the state about 80 jobs.

"Dan Sullivan remained silent about the jobs being lost here and those same billionaires, the Koch brothers, are supporting his campaign," says the man narrating the ad, Todd Hoener of Ester.

The reference to Sullivan being silent came from a March blog post by political columnist Amanda Coyne but it was on a slightly different angle, about a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee campaign that Republicans were "addicted to Koch."

Sullivan's campaign said Wednesday he wasn't asked directly about the refinery and that he is disappointed in the closure, and loss of jobs. He worked to help the refinery when he was natural resources commissioner by reworking an agreement for Flint Hills to buy state royalty oil, campaign spokesman Mike Anderson said.

Sullivan's campaign notes he hasn't gotten any campaign money from the Koch brothers, unlike Begich, whose Great Land PAC received $5,000 from the KochPAC in 2010, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That's part of this year's election cycle.

"This ad is shameless and false, and the facts are clear: Mark Begich is the only candidate in this race who has taken money from the Koch brothers," Anderson said in a written statement.

Lottsfeldt said the Kochs' support of Sullivan is indirect but not insignificant.

"I will concede the Koch brothers themselves have not written a personal check to him but is it a true statement to say they are supporting him? Absolutely," Lottsfeldt insisted.

Meanwhile, Lottsfeldt's SuperPAC is getting most of its money from the Washington, D.C.-based Democratic Senate Majority PAC, which Bloomberg says is run by advisers to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Reid is a favorite target of Republicans and this year's hot Senate races sometimes seem to be about Reid versus the Kochs as much as whoever is running.

As of the end of March, the Senate SuperPAC had funneled $645,000 into the pro-Begich Put Alaska First SuperPAC, Federal Elections Commission reports show. That's out of total contributions of $790,000.

Anchorage developer John Rubini gave $10,000 to Put Alaska First, Anchorage glass supplier Michael Hammer gave $3,000, a California casino gave $32,500, and a Kirkland, Washington, fishing company gave $100,000. The company, Hillside Jetty Pelagic LLC, is connected to Fishermen's Finest Inc., which operates two factory trawlers that work out of Dutch Harbor.

Reach Lisa Demer at ldemer@adn.com, 257-4390 or on Twitter @lisa_demer.