On May 4th, the Alaska Democratic Party's State Central Committee voted unanimously to endorse Senator Mark Begich for re-election. Alaska Democrats' Chair Mike Wenstrup sent the following letter to party activists explaining why this election is so important and why Alaska Democrats chose to endorse early in this election cycle:
This weekend the Alaska Democratic Party’s Executive Committee and State Central Committee voted unanimously to endorse Senator Begich for re-election. We aren’t just trying to defend a Democratic Senate seat: We are fighting for Alaska sovereignty and self-determination.
While Parnell-Treadwell Republicans oppose civil rights for gays and lesbians, Mark Begich helped repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and supports marriage equality.
While the Parnell-Treadwell administration has liquidated our resources with the oil giveaway and legislation which degrades Alaska fisheries, Mark Begich has been the Senate leader to stop Frankenfish and defend our resources.
While Parnell-Treadwell Republicans have cut classroom funding and attempted to replace our public education system with vouchers, Senator Begich has a perfect voting record on public education, including opposition to vouchers, and has rejected “teach to the test” systems like No Child Left Behind.
While the Parnell-Treadwell administration and state Republican majority have attempted to define “medically necessary” abortions with SB 49, Senator Begich always has stood up for women’s right to choose, consistent with the Alaska Constitution.
While the Parnell-Treadwell administration shut down the Sub-Cabinet on Climate Change and have denied climate science, Senator Begich consistently has supported efforts to understand, mitigate, and adapt to climate change in a manner that protects Alaska’s interests.
While the Parnell-Treadwell Administration has attempted to grease the skids for Pebble Mine, Mark Begich has said that science should inform permitting decisions and has rejected Parnell-Treadwell attempts to cut the federal government out of the process.
While the Parnell-Treadwell Administration has litigated against the Voting Rights Act, eliminated early voting and closed polling places in rural communities, Mark Begich has supported the Voting Rights Act and introduced legislation to extend Violence Against Women Act protections to Alaska Native communities.
While the Parnell-Treadwell Administration rejected Medicaid for 40,000 Alaskans, Mark Begich voted for the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare and has worked to lower health care costs for Alaskans. The Affordable Care Act not only will provide health insurance for millions of Americans but also is the single most important vote Congress has taken to reduce the federal deficit.
We face a simple choice in 2014, both with Senator Begich’s re-election and with state races. Do we control our resources, or do we hand them over to Outside interests? Do we protect Alaskans’ voting rights or take them away from the first Alaskans? Do we give Alaskans the chance to purchase affordable health insurance or give up control to Outside insurance companies? Do we bend the arc of history a little closer toward justice or allow reactionaries to delay realization of marriage equality? Do we invest in public education or give away public money to unaccountable, private, for-profit schools?
The 2014 election will determine the balance of the US Senate and Alaska’s power of self-determination. Alaska Democrats support the principles enshrined in our national and state Constitutions: protection of personal privacy and investment in education and economic development. Mark Begich doesn’t always vote the national party line, but he always reflects our Alaska values and has built up clout in the Senate to protect our values. We need his strong voice in Washington for another six years.
For the next 545 days the Alaska Democratic Party will be working to elect Democrats up and down the ticket, and we’re proud to support Mark Begich. He was there for us when he voted for the Affordable Care Act, the most important progressive legislation since passage of Medicare. Stand with us as we build a campaign to win in 2014.
Chair, Alaska Democratic Party
Thank you to everyone who voted in the Anchorage Assembly and School Board races on April 2nd. Thanks to you, the more progressive candidates won in every race except in one that is too close to call.
Progressive candidates who won:
Tim Steele beat incumbent Cheryl Frasca for West Anchorage Assembly. Cheryl Frasca had help with endorsements and fundraising from Mayor Dan Sullivan, Senator Lisa Murkowski, and Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell, and with insider connections raised significantly more money than Steele. However, that establishment support could not overcome popular opposition to the policies that she supported.
Bettye Davis, former Democratic State Senator, beat incumbent Don Smith for at-large School Board.
Eric Croft, former Democratic State Representative, beat two other candidates for the other at-large School Board seat on the ballot.
Dick Traini, incumbent Assembly member from Midtown, beat Andy Clary. Although Traini has run as a Republican in the past, recently he has worked with progressives on the Assembly. Traini opposed Sullivan's Assembly Ordinance 37 and opposed Sullivan/Frasca/Hall efforts to shut down public testimony.
There are still ballots outstanding in the race where Nick Moe ran as a write-in candidate against Ernie Hall, and the two candidates appear to be separated by fewer than 100 votes. Nick Moe only announced his write-in campaign two weeks before the election, and his strong showing is a testament to public opposition to Sullivan's agenda.
Mayor Dan Sullivan has been the driving force behind the secret drafting of Assembly Ordinance 37 and the weakening of Title 21. Sullivan opposed the candidacies of Steele, Traini, and Moe.
On March 20th, 11 Alaska Senators voted to sink Alaska’s future by giving Governor Parnell and his old friends in the oil industry a larger share of our wealth with nothing but empty promises in return. Senate Bill 21 only passed because two ConocoPhillips employees, Kevin Meyer (R-Anchorage) and Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna), were allowed to vote for the bill despite their clear conflict of interest. Other Senators supporting SB 21 were Click Bishop, Pete Kelly, John Coghill, Charlie Huggins, Mike Dunleavy, Lesil McGuire, Anna Fairclough, and Cathy Giessel.
SB 21 eliminates the progressive price structure of Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share (ACES), which has been in place since 2007. Those progressive taxes have provided $15 billion in additional revenue to Alaskans, which has been used to pay off old debts, save $12 billion in the Constitutional and statutory budget reserve, and make large investments in capital projects. During that period, we have seen oil exploration, oil sector capital investment, and oil sector employment grow substantially. The legislature threw this out for nothing in return.
SB 21 doesn’t guarantee a drop of new oil in the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Senator Kevin Meyer, who works for ConocoPhillips, said the bill was a “crapshoot” when it came to new oil production. In testimony before the legislature, industry representatives said they couldn’t commit to a single new project as a result of SB 21. Never in Alaska history has the legislature stolen so much money from the public for so little in return.
Under Alaska’s Constitution and the terms of statehood, the public owns resources like oil and the legislature is mandated by Article VIII Section 2 to ensure “maximum benefit” for the public from resource extraction. SB 21 violates this Constitutional principle and is a knife in the heart of Owner State principles.
Our Democratic legislators fought tooth and nail against this giveaway. Senators Ellis, Hoffman, Wielechowski, French, Olson, Egan and Gardner not only voted against the bill but offered targeted amendments and impassioned speeches in defense of our oil wealth. Republican Senators Stedman and Stevens joined them in opposing SB 21.
Passage of SB 21 inaugurates a new era for the Alaska State legislature. Eliminating some 10% of state revenue will deepen an existing deficit and force deep budget cuts. In order to offset the revenue lost through SB 21, the legislature would have to eliminate all state transportation spending or all state education spending. Since the Republican legislature has made it clear they do not intend to replace lost revenue, deep cuts are on the way, as well as deficits which will threaten our states long-term fiscal solvency. Sean Parnell will go down as the most reckless fiscal manager in Alaska history, but Alaska residents are the victims of his profligacy.
Parnell and his former employers in the oil industry, tired of having a Bipartisan Senate ask questions about his proposed oil giveaways, pushed an unconstitutional redistricting map that resulted in a pliant legislature.
While giveaway advocates have cleared a major hurdle, this bill is not a done deal. It still must pass the House, and if the House changes it will need to be re-passed by the Senate. It is imperative that we all continue to make our voices heard in opposition to SB 21. Click here and call your legislator now.
We can’t stop here. SB 21 and bills like it will continue to threaten Alaska’s Constitution and our way of life until we have a new legislative majority and a new Governor. If you’re outraged, do something about it by volunteering, contributing or running for office. We can’t afford another four years of state control by legislators who are stealing from the public and giving our resource wealth to their own companies.
Alaska Impacts of Sequestration:
As sequestration takes effect, some examples of the $130 million impact on Alaska this year alone are:
Teachers and Schools:
- $1.5 million in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 20 teacher and aide jobs at risk. In addition about 2,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 10 fewer schools would receive funding.
- $6 million cut from Anchorage School District.
- Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for approximately 100 children in Alaska, reducing access to critical early education.
- In addition, Alaska will lose approximately $1.9 million in funds for about 20 teachers, aides, and staff who help children with disabilities.
- Sequestration is eliminating at least 5% in special education funding.
- Sequestration will reduce Alaska Native Corporation federal contracting income. With $16.7 billion in ANC 8(a) contracts at stake, this is a big threat to Alaska’s economy.
- Around 80 fewer low income students in Alaska would receive aid to help them finance the costs of college and fewer students will get work-study jobs that help them pay for college.
- Slow-downs in federal permitting for energy development.
- Delays in opening National Parks like Denali and Kenai Fjords, and fewer seasonal Park Service job opportunities.
- Alaska would lose about $1.8 million environmental funding to ensure clean water and air quality, as well as prevent pollution from pesticides and hazardous waste.
- In addition, Alaska could lose another $2.1 million in grants for fish and wildlife protection.
- 8 hour per week unpaid furloughs for JBER and other DOD employees: Watch the news report here.
- In Alaska, approximately 5,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $31.8 million in total.
- Army: Base operation funding would be cut by about $78 million in Alaska.
- Funding for Air Force operations in Alaska would be cut by about $12 million.
Law Enforcement and Public Safety Funds for Crime Prevention and Prosecution:
- Alaska will lose about $69,000 in Justice Assistance Grants that support law enforcement, prosecution and courts, crime prevention and education, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, and crime victim and witness initiatives.
- Reduction in DWI and seatbelt patrols
- Reduced staffing for programs to catch online child predators.
Job Search Assistance to Help those in Alaska find Employment and Training:
- Alaska will lose about $337,000 in funding for job search assistance, referral, and placement, meaning around 12,580 fewer people will get the help and skills they need to find employment.
- Up to 100 disadvantaged and vulnerable children could lose access to child care, which is also essential for working parents to hold down a job.
Vaccines for Children:
- In Alaska around 1,400 fewer children will receive vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza, and Hepatitis B due to reduced funding for vaccinations of about $96,000.
- $3.5 million cut in Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium funding
- Alaska will lose approximately $237,000 infunds to help upgrade its ability to respond to public health threats including infectious diseases, natural disasters, and biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiological events.
- In addition, Alaska will lose about $250,000 in grants to help prevent and treat substance abuse, resulting in around 400 fewer admissions to substance abuse programs.
- And the Alaska Division of Public Health will lose about $54,000 resulting in around 1,300 fewer HIV tests.
STOP Violence Against Women Program:
- Alaska could lose up to $13,000 in funds that provide services to victims of domestic violence, resulting in up to 100 fewer victims being served.
Nutrition Assistance for Seniors:
- Alaska would lose approximately $184,000 in funds that provide meals for seniors.
- Reductions in People Mover bus service
The Washington, D.C. based group is spending at least $37,000 on ads which make false claims about Senator Begich's record on immigration policy. You can see the ad here. The group running the advertisement is associated with white supremacist and other extreme groups. It is just the latest in a barrage of anonymously-funded, Outside attack ads which are aimed at the 2014 Senate election.
The Washington, D.C. group called "Americans for a Strong Defense" has spent approximately $20,000 on anonymously-funded attack ads in Alaska in the first month of 2013. These advertisements attack veteran and former Republican Chuck Hagel and, by implication, Senator Mark Begich. The ads may be funded largely by an Outside billionaire who made most of his money from offshore casinos. Read more about the ads here.
These anonymous attack ads only are legal because of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which allowed corporations and individuals to spend unlimited sums of money anonymously. This decision is likely to result in tens of millions of dollars of Outside money being spent to attack Alaska Senator Mark Begich. Alaskans have a right to know who is paying for these ads, which Politifact has called "mostly false."
This ad campaign isn't really about Chuck Hagel. It is about anonymous, Outside money being used to attack Mark Begich. The Washington, D.C. based group that purchased these ads lists itself as "Republican." It is a shame when Outside, partisan groups use the nomination of the Secretary of Defense to score political points.
The Alaska Democratic Party will attempt to track Outside money being spent against Senator Begich in this race. To view all of the ad buy information, visit this folder. If you notice an Outside attack ad in your community, please contact us. It is likely that $45 million dollars or more will be spent on this race, so we'll need all hands on deck to follow the money.