The Senate campaign of Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell has issued a series of press releases attacking incumbent Mark Begich for allegedly receiving support from Outside politicians working to lock up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and enact gun control, which both candidates oppose. But the Treadwell campaign was apparently unaware that a listed host for a Treadwell fundraiser in Chicago is one of the Senate’s biggest advocates for those same two issues.
The Treadwell campaign, in a November press release, noted that Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington state, helped Begich fundraise last summer. And, she sponsored a bill that would bar oil development in the Arctic Refuge. The press release connects the dots this way: “Senator Begich either has no pull within the Democratic Party or he supports Senator Cantwell’s move to lock up ANWR from future oil exploration.”
What the press release doesn’t say is that Cantwell’s co-sponsor on the ANWR anti-development bill, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, is the lead host named on an invitation to a Treadwell fundraiser in Chicago in July. (One of the other hosts, a Harvard Business School friend of Treadwell’s, posted the invitation on the social network LinkedIn.) Sen. Kirk is also a big supporter of gun control. He was recently the only Republican senator to get an F on the National Rifle Association’s political scorecard. As it happens, the Treadwell campaign issued a press release this week accusing Begich of being in league, indirectly, with people who want to undermine gun rights.
Zack Fields, communications director for the Alaska Democratic Party, says the Treadwell campaign is off base on two fronts.
“It’s hypocritical of Treadwell to wage these attacks when he’s taking money from Mark Kirk, an Illinois senator who has voted for gun control and is an original co-sponsor of legislation to lock up ANWR from oil and gas development forever,” Fields says
And Fields says it’s childish to argue that Alaska senators should only work with colleagues who agree with them on every issue.
Treadwell campaign spokesman Rick Gorka wasn’t with the campaign when the Chicago fundraiser occurred, but he looked into it and says Sen. Kirk did not attend.
“As a courtesy, Sen. Kirk lent his name to be used at an event, and that was the extent of his involvement in this reception,” Gorka says.
Sen. Kirk hasn’t donated to the Treadwell campaign, either directly or through his leadership PAC, according to Gorka. He stands by the accusations the campaign has made against Begich.
The link the campaign has drawn between Begich and gun control is a little fuzzy. It goes like this: Wealthy ex-New York Mayor and gun control fan Michael Bloomberg gave $2.5 million to a political fund called Senate Majority PAC, and the Treadwell campaign maintains that group has aired ads for Begich. “Anti–Second Amendment Billionaire Supporting Mark Begich’s Re-Election Bid” says the Treadwell press release headline. Gorka says his proof is an article in Politico, which reported early this week that the Democratic group has already aired TV spots for a raft of senators, including Begich. But no one seems to know what these pro-Begich ads said or when they ran. Spokesmen for the Begich campaign and the Democratic Party of Alaska say they watch for Begich-related ads and don’t recall seeing any sponsored by Senate Majority PAC. There’s no sign of the ads on the PAC’s website, either.
Gorka says Politico wasn’t the only news outlet to report that the ads exist.
Treadwell’s press release suggests Bloomberg wants to support Begich. “It’s no secret that Michael Bloomberg wants to undermine the Second Amendment and clearly he sees (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid) and Mark Begich as allies in his crusade,” the press release says.
Bloomberg, though, has pledged to spend heavily against Begich, according to a May article in the New Republic, because Begich voted against background checks for firearms last year.
The Treadwell press release calls on Begich to reject any further help from Senate Majority PAC, which is dedicated to keeping the Senate under Democratic control and was founded by Reid’s former chief of staff.
“Mark Begich should make it clear to Harry Reid that he does not want the support of a PAC that accepts funding from Mayor Bloomberg,” Gorka said in an email to APRN. “He should do that publicly. “
But that may not be legal. Senate Majority PAC is organized as an “independent expenditure” group. Federal elections rules say candidates are not allowed to coordinate media plans or strategies with such PACs.
Gorka declined to call anything his campaign did a mistake but says Begich committed a bigger one.
“I think there’s a difference between (using Kirk’s name and) Sen. Cantwell coming to Alaska and actively campaigning for Sen. Begich,” he said.
The Begich campaign says Cantwell, chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, came primarily to visit the disaster site at Galena and Native medical facilities. She also headlined two fundraisers for Begich, in Anchorage and Fairbanks.