Home Statewide Politics New Pro-Begich PAC Plans to Push Back Against Americans for Prosperity

New Pro-Begich PAC Plans to Push Back Against Americans for Prosperity

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Late last month, the conservative group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) dumped nearly $40,000 into an Alaska media blitz that may have backfired. The television advertisement, currently playing on local stations, features a presumably-Alaskan woman lamenting Obamacare in her presumably-Alaskan kitchen. “Senator Begich didn’t listen. How can I ever trust him again? It just isn’t fair. Alaska deserves better.”
The woman avoided directly instructing voters to cast their ballots against Begich, instead asserting that he ignores you, you can’t trust him, and you deserve better.
The ad also avoided using an actual Alaskan. As Alaska Dispatch’s Laurel Andrews pointed out, the woman in the video is an actress from Maryland.
The story bounced around national media outlets. The dozen or so comments left on AFP’s youtube page definitely took issue. But there’s a reason why the national conservative group has dumped $3.5 million into this national ad campaign, going after vulnerable Democrats up for reelection next year: they work.
The video has managed over 35,000 views, and still holds a commanding presence on local television stations. AFP’s Alaska chapter has over 5,000 likes on Facebook. And because AFP is not technically a political action committee (PAC) – they’re a 501(c)(4) non-profit that engages in political advocacy – loopholes allow them to accept independent expenditures anonymously from SuperPACs. No limits, no disclosure, deep pockets.
Now, it appears as though Americans for Prosperity will face competition on the airwaves.
A new ad began making the rounds on social media last week. Another presumably-Alaskan woman. Another presumably-Alaskan kitchen.
“I’m not an actress. I live here. And I trust Mark Begich,” Megan Collie says into the camera. “He’s trying to fix the health care law…. We’d be better off with a few more senators like Mark, and a few less paid actors twisting the truth.”
The new ad comes courtesy of a new PAC called Put Alaska First. They describe themselves as “a nonpartisan political action committee that supports candidates that place Alaska’s interests ahead of partisanship.” And they started off this week with a loud statement.
An FEC filing posted Monday shows that Put Alaska First has dropped $98,460 on television advertising, hinting that soon that nice Maryland actress will have a lot more company in between scheduled programming.
Put Alaska First is headed by political strategist Jim Lottsfeldt, whose advertising firm has offices in Anchorage, Juneau, and Portland, Oregon. Lottsfeldt is also a registered lobbyist for the IBEW, the Alaska Professional Fire Fighters Association, Alaska Communications Systems, the Anchorage Library Foundation and other local efforts. With decades of experience working for candidates in Alaska, his client list includes Senators Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski, and Governor Sarah Palin, among other candidates.
The PAC filed with the Federal Elections Committee as a 527, tax exempt organization. They are a non-connected political action committee, meaning they are allowed to collect unlimited funds from the general public to produce “independent expenditures” (read: campaign ads) supporting federal candidates. They cannot coordinate with or donate to any campaign directly, but can spend unlimited funds on content that serves a supportive role.
“We’re required to disclose who gives us money and where its spent,” Lottsfeldt said in a phone interview last week. When asked whether he intended to limit donations to Alaskans, he flatly said that he’d take money from anywhere he could get it. “The priority should be that you care about Alaska.”
If the name sounds familiar, it’s for good reason. Only seven letters separate Put Alaska First from another PAC, familiar to Alaska politicos: “Putting Alaskans First.” The latter is a labor-backed PAC that has had a significant presence in state and municipal elections over the past few years. Its past treasurers have included Alaska AFL-CIO President Vince Beltrami and Alaska AFL-CIO Director of Operations Joelle Hall, and its current treasurer is Alaska AFL-CIO Communications Director Megan Collie.
(Yes, the same Megan Collie from the ad you’re about to start seeing a lot of.)
“I couldn’t stand how this Outside group would try to influence Mark’s election, and that they didn’t even use in-state groups to do it,” she told me.
Both Jim Lottsfeldt and Vince Beltrami denied that there had been or would be any coordination, saying the name was purely coincidental. According to Lottsfeldt, he received a call from Beltrami informing him about the similarities after he had filed the paperwork with the FEC.
Collie echoed the same sentiment, saying it hadn’t crossed her mind. She intends to remain the treasurer for the state-level PAC during the midterm elections.
As bad as 2010’s midterm elections were for casual political observers just trying to watch the evening’s newscast, it’s going to get worse. And worse. The way that the Supreme Court has moved the goal posts on campaign finance laws, from the Buckley v. Valeo decision in 1976 through to 2010’s Citizens United case and the DC Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Speechnow.org v. FEC, has resulted in a brand new political landscape, flush with more and more groups raising more and more money trying to get us to do what they want. We need to be aware of that.

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