Monday, September 08, 2014
In Alaska, The Slime Erupts - And Backfires
Politics has never been a profession for the fainthearted, and negative ads come and go on both sides of the political divide. But even the most negative ads tend to have at least a crumb of fact and truth in them..exaggerated, falsely applied, used to gloss over other, more pertinent and important facts perhaps, but they're seldom constructed totally of outright lies, nor do they contain outright slander. This stuff is to easy to check on nowadays.
The Alaska senate race appears to be moving towards Republican challenger Dan Sullivan,and one reason is because of an obscene ad put out by Democrat incumbent Mark Begich that crosses these lines.
Begich is one of those senators who is a victim of Harry Reid's strategy to win or hold red-state Senate seats. It involved running Left wing Democrats who claimed to be conservative, anti-Washington, and in sync with local interests . It worked fairly well in 2010 and along with Michael Steele's buffoonery is why Harry Reid is majority leader today.
This house of cards collapsed, of course, when people saw how these supposedly moderate Democrats were voting. In Begich's case, once Alaskans saw that he had voted 97% of the time for President Obama's agenda a lot if them realized they'd been had, especially when they saw Begich's voting record onthe Obama administration's nonstop assaults on Alaskan fishing, mining and drilling.
As it was, Begich barely won election with 48% of the vote because of GOP senator Ted Steven's corruption conviction that was later thrown out of court, and an independent in the race who siphoned off GOP votes.
The Democrat's strategy to try and hold this seat is to throw money at the race - Senator Reid's Senate Majority PAC is funneling millions to a local PAC (carefully named "Put Alaska First") - and indulge in wholesale trashing of Dan Sullivan's character.
And that's where things went over the line.
Begich ran an ad showing a man who is is supposedly a retired Anchorage detective standing in front of an apartment building, discussing the recent murder of two seniors and the sexual assault of their young granddaughter. He then blames Dan Sullivan for the crime, because Sullivan as the state’s attorney general okayed a plea bargain that gave the criminal a light sentence which allowed him to get out of jail early and murder and rape again.
Except that's not how it happened.
Sullivan countered this with some incontrovertible facts. When the original crime was committed in and tried in 2009 he was still serving in the Marines ( he served a tour in Iraq) and was not yet Attorney General. And the plea bargain itself only happened because of a clerical error that took place before Sullivan became attorney general.
Sullivan also was able to cite his impressive record as attorney general when it came to sex crimes. He actually lowered the number of sexual assaults as Alaska's attorney general, created and publicized Alaska's ‘Choose Respect’ Campaign to stop all violence against women and children, toughened sentences for sexual assault offenders and increased services and pro bono legal representation for victims and their families. And as Attorney General Dan Sullivan mandated that even in plea deals, those charged with sexual assault still had to register as a sex offender.
Alaska's current Attorney General Michael Geraghty said in a statement that Begich’s ad had “no basis in fact.”
“The State is actively prosecuting the person who has been charged with those crimes,” he said. “Drawing publicity to the case in a political ad, and highlighting the home where a family suffered such a horrific tragedy, is inappropriate and offensive.”
Bad as the ad was, what followed was even worse.
The attorney representing the family of the victims contacted both campaigns and asked them to take down the ads — partly out of compassion for their suffering and partly from a desire to avoid poisoning the jury pool.
The Sullivan campaign pulled their ad down immediately. The Begich campaign continued to run theirs until they received an actual cease and desist letter from the attorney.
“The family directly and without question has told your campaign they want no part of this,” wrote the lawyer, Byron Collins. “You are tearing this family apart to the point that your ad was so shocking to them they now want to permanently leave the state as quickly as possible. Again, to be perfectly clear, it was your ad that shocked them.”
To put it bluntly, Begich was willing to keep running the ad regardless of whom it hurt until he realized that it had boomeranged on him politically, with even the local newspapers taking shots at him.This is a man so desperate to get re-elected that he was willing to indulge in blatant slander and put a family through the horror of what happened to them again and again.He has yet to even apologize.
This goes beyond politics. It strikes at the core of Mark Begich's character and decency.
The polls, which were edging slightly towards Sullivan before Begich ran this ad have now tipped measurably in Sullivan's favor.
I'm not surprised, having spent some time in Alaska. The state has its share of Lefty wack jobs, but by and large most Alaskans tend to be decent folks with a strong streak of independence who have small tolerance for liars.
Anything can happen in politics, but Mark Begich deserves to lose his seat for this alone, and to crawl back under the rock he came from.