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Alaska Democratic party gets boost from affiliate in Washington, D.C.

  • Author: Nathaniel Herz
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published July 22, 2014

The Alaska Democratic Party is getting a boost from a group in Washington, D.C., that's dedicated to preserving the Democrats' fragile majority in the U.S. Senate.

In the past two months, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is aiding Alaska Sen. Mark Begich's re-election effort, has transferred more than $400,000 to the state party, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

That's more than half of the $570,000 that the Alaska Democratic Party reported receiving during that period. And it's up from the $100,000 transferred by the DSCC to the Alaska Democratic Party in March and April combined.

FEC filings show much of the Alaska Democratic Party's spending in June went toward wages for about 60 people, up from about 25 people on the party's payroll in April.

Begich spokesman Max Croes did not directly respond to a written question about the roles of the Alaska Democratic Party employees, but he said in an email that the party "has played a role in opening Democratic Party offices" in support of Begich, gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott and local candidates.

The offices, Croes said, "give volunteers an opportunity to reach out to their friends and neighbors about the upcoming election."

"We work with the Alaska Democratic Party to promote Sen. Begich, who regularly hosts and attends Alaska Democratic Party events," Croes said.

A spokesman for the Alaska Democratic Party did not acknowledge a request for an interview.

"We welcome contributions and support from groups and individuals supportive of Mark Begich, Byron Mallott and all our local Democratic candidates," said the spokesman, Zack Fields, in an emailed statement. "We're 100 percent behind Sen. Begich and took the unique step of endorsing Sen. Begich as early as last year. We've been building a grassroots campaign ever since, and we're proud to have the financial support of thousands of Alaskans who help give us the resources necessary to win."

Out of more than 300 individual donors who had made the maximum single-installment contribution of $32,400 to the DSCC in the latest two-year election cycle, one was from Alaska.

A spokesman for the DSCC did not acknowledge requests for an interview.

"We support Sen. Begich because he's a fighter for Alaska who works to create jobs, supports equal pay for equal work and defends women's rights," the spokesman, Justin Barasky, said in an email response to an interview request.

The transfers to the Alaska Democratic Party are not unique. In the two-year election cycle ending in 2008, when Begich was first elected, the DSCC transferred $1.6 million to the Alaska Democratic Party, according to federal filings, including $420,000 in October 2008 alone.

The DSCC also transfers money to other state parties. Croes said he did not know how much more money the DSCC would contribute to the Alaska Democratic Party before the November election.

The Alaska Republican Party, in contrast, has received no money from national affiliates in the current two-year federal election cycle.

The Republican National Committee, however, recently hired an Anchorage-based communications director, Kyle Kohli, who did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

Alaska Republican Party Chairman Peter Goldberg said he expects the RNC to ultimately have seven to nine field staff working in the state before this year's general election. He said he anticipates the RNC will focus its efforts on the Senate race.

The RNC has opened offices in Anchorage, Wasilla and Fairbanks, and may open another, Goldberg said.

He expects the RNC employees to coordinate and work with volunteers, he said.

"They're making a lot of phone calls," he said. "They're working with the districts."

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has also spent more than $2.2 million to reserve television air time this fall.

Much of the spending in this year's Senate race has occurred outside the typical party and candidate infrastructure.

The Center for Responsive Politics has tallied nearly $5.5 million in spending so far by independent groups, almost all of it by super PACs, which are not allowed to coordinate with candidates.

Some $3.5 million in spending has come from Put Alaska First, a super PAC that supports Begich, with $3.1 million going to attack Dan Sullivan, one of the three leading candidates in the Aug. 19 Republican primary.

Some $7.7 million in television time following the August primary had been reserved by groups supporting Republican candidates, between the NRSC's $2.2 million and another $5.5 million from independent group American Crossroads.

On the Democratic side, the DSCC's independent expenditure arm earlier this year began reserving $3.5 million in airtime starting in September. Put Alaska First has said it's reserving more than $4 million in the eight weeks before the November election.