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Please begin with an informative title:

Here's some good news:


An amendment to require labeling of genetically engineered salmon, introduced by Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, and co-sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 20, for a vote on the Senate floor.

The amendment to the Agricultural Appropriations bill would allocate $150,000 to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to implement a requirement to label GE salmon.

"It's high time this bill to prevent this imposter from disguising itself as the real deal is debated in front of the Senate," Begich said. "These fake fish are a serious threat to the health of American seafood lovers and consumers have a right to know what's on their dinner plate." - The Cordova Times, 6/20/13

Here's a little more info:


The amendment was offered during a Senate Appropriations meeting by Sen. Lisa Murkowski. It passed on a 15-14 vote. Sen. Mark Begich also voted in support.

Members of Alaska's congressional delegation have opposed any effort by the Food and Drug Administration that would clear the way for the approval of a genetically engineered salmon for human consumption.

Murkowski on Thursday said the genetic engineering, which would allow the fish to grow twice as fast as normal, is "messing with Mother Nature in a very serious and big way."

If the fish is approved for human consumption, Murkowski says, at a minimum, it should be labeled. - Fort Mill Times, 6/20/13

Begich has long been pushing to get this amendment pushed through the Senate:


Members of Alaska's congressional delegation, as well as the state Legislature, have opposed any effort by the Food and Drug Administration that would clear the way for the approval of a genetically engineered salmon for human consumption. FDA released a draft assessment last year, finding that approval of the salmon, also known as "Frankenfish," would not jeopardize the continued existence of U.S. populations of Atlantic salmon or adversely affect their critical habitat.

An FDA spokeswoman said Thursday that there is no timeline for when a final decision might be released.

Murkowski said the genetic engineering, which would allow the fish to grow twice as fast as normal, is "messing with Mother Nature in a very serious and big way."

Past efforts, such as trying to pull funding from FDA for approval of the fish, were unsuccessful, she said. If the fish is approved for human consumption, Murkowski said, at a minimum, it should be labeled. It's a view that Begich has echoed.

The amendment would provide $150,000 for labeling.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who supported the amendment, said the public has a right to know what it's eating. He said he thinks it would be impossible to ensure that the genetically modified fish would remain segregated from wild populations. - Anchorage Daily News, 6/20/13

Begich has long been an adamant supporter of GMO labels and has been fighting hard to stop genetically engineered salmon like Frankenfish from being approved by the FDA.  This is one of many reasons why I'll be supporting Begich's re-election campaign.  Here's another reason why he has my support:


Building on his strong record of fighting for greater transparency and to help ensure Alaskans’ constitutional right to privacy, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich co-sponsored legislation limiting the government’s authority in the Patriot Act.

“The Patriot Act needs a better balance of protecting national security without undermining our privacy,” said Begich. “In addition to other legislation I have co-sponsored, this bill will help shed light on the collection of communications so Alaskans don’t have to wonder if their privacy has been jeopardized.”

The bill would require federal intelligence agencies to demonstrate communications records are in some way connected to terrorism or other intelligence activities. This limits existing authority under the PATRIOT Act which currently does not require intelligence agencies to provide any justification or demonstration to collect Americans’ records.

Begich fought to include declassification of court rulings in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) extension bill in December. Because of lingering concerns about privacy, Begich voted against the FISA extension and the PATRIOT Act.

Begich also signed onto a letter with several of his colleagues in July of 2012 requesting more information about the number of Americans’ communications secretly collected by the U.S. government under section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. - Political News, 6/20/13

Begich has been very critical of the NSA surveillance program and has been talking a lot about it with the press:


MELISSA BLOCK: The head of NSA, Keith Alexander, told the Senate yesterday that dozens of terrorist events were thwarted because of NSA surveillance. Does that argument sway you in any way?

MARK BEGICH: Well, I guess, you know, I'd want to know - as you remember some of the questions that came in from the panel, he couldn't answer them because they had to be in a confidential setting. And he even noted that maybe there's some information that could become more public and transparent, which is exactly what we want to know because I think more people want to understand how this process works.

I can't tell you if that one single - and I don't think he said that that one single act of a phone tap thwarted that terrorist act. He said they thwarted dozens of terrorist potential attacks, but that was through multiple means. It wasn't just this issue. So I want to see how much this weighs in. But even he noted yesterday that they should review and maybe there's additional information that would be public.

And that's what I'm looking for is what's the right balance here between privacy and protecting an important part of what makes our country great, at the same time recognizing we do have security risks that we have to deal with and creating that right balance. And I think he even was starting to lean in to say those comments in his testimony. - NPR, 6/13/13

He's also been demanding that President Obama be transparent on this issue:


Democrats in Congress are expressing their concern that President Barack Obama and his administration’s previously effective crisis management techniques are no longer assuaging public concerns. After more than a month of successive scandals, the image the president actively cultivated as being reliably cool under pressure is beginning to unravel. Some Democrats told POLITICO that they do not think the administration is responding confidently to the myriad scandals plaguing his administration.

“The president or his people need to be more forthcoming,” Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) told POLITICO’s Glenn Thrush and Jennifer Epstein. “Look, we understand the need for secrecy, I get it, but the fact is we also need a lot more transparency on the process.”

“I’m not sure people are confident that the administration has this totally under control,” he told POLITICO. “It seems that there’s something new every day — the IRS, this — and that’s giving people lack of confidence in government. … This is the kind of stuff people used to only see in the movies, that the government can listen to everybody’s calls.” - Mediaite, 6/12/13

And Begich has also been playing a role with the immigration reform bill:


Democratic National Convention 2008: Sen. Jon Tester speaking with Wall Street Journal editors at The Wall Street Journal Press Tent at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado, on August 28, 2008..Joe Fornabaio for The Wall Street Journal
On June 18 the Senate voted unanimously (94-0) to approve a tribal amendment to the S.744 Immigration reform bill that will add four tribal government officials to the Border Oversight Task Force that was established originally in the bill.

This amendment was offered by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) and cosponsored by senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mark Begich (D-AK), Patty Murray (D-WA), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Border Task Force established in S. 744 which included representatives from local government and law enforcement, civil rights groups, business, private land owners and the Border Patrol, will now have input from tribal representatives from the Northern and Southern regions.

When introduced for a vote on the Senate floor, Sen. Tester lauded the potential contributions of tribal representatives toward the security of our countries borders.

“This amendment will include tribal representatives from the DHS Border Task Force. In this country, within 100 miles of the border we have 13 Indian reservations, some of them right on the border. If we really want to make sure our borders are secure on the North and the South, Indians need to be part of this conversation, our Native American friends.

“They have a unique government-to-government status and their input is critically important this amendment will not cost anything, it has bipartisan support and it will add to tribal representatives, two in the north and two in the southern region,” Tester said. - Indian Country Today Media Network, 6/19/13

Begich has also been looking out for Alaska's Coast Guard:


The news the U.S. Coast Guard is making good progress on its plans for homeporting Fast Response Cutters (FRC’s) in Southeast Alaska and improving shore and waterfront facilities in Ketchikan to support the new vessels was welcomed Wednesday by U.S. Senator Mark Begich (D-AK).  

The United States Coast Guard plans on building a 405-foot floating pier and a new 3,000 square foot support building in Ketchikan. The Coast Guard intends to homeport 2 FRC’s in Ketchikan by 2015, and add a third FRC in Juneau by 2020.

“I’m pleased the Coast Guard is making good progress on its plans for new patrol vessels and facility improvements,” said Begich.  “Nowhere is the Coast Guard more important than in Alaska.  In addition to creating new jobs during construction, this project will enhance protection for individuals and communities throughout Southeast Alaska, and will help fill the void in capability created by the decommissioning of the Acushnet in 2011.

“These actions will replace an aging patrol fleet in Sector Juneau that is nearing the end of its service life, improve the USCG’s mission  readiness and capabilities, and improve our operational safety risk,” wrote Captain G.G. Bonner in a recent letter to Senator Begich.  

Senator Begich was able to use his leadership position on the committee and his personal interest in furthering projects that benefit Alaska to assure that the USCG reauthorization bill adequately funded both the vessels and the Ketchikan support facilities. - Sit News, 6/13/13

And Begich scored another victory with the Department of Homeland Security:


U.S. Senator Mark Begich was pleased to learn that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) heeded his request to transfer 14 C-271 aircraft from the U.S. Air Force (USAF) to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) in order to maintain mission readiness while achieving up to $800 million in savings that could be used to invest in Arctic communications infrastructure, deep water ports, or a new polar ice breaker.

In a letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano in May, Sen. Begich noted that if a minimum of 14 aircraft are transferred, the Coast Guard will be able to avoid up to $800 million in total ownership costs for the planned C-144 and C-130J aircraft.  The C-27’s would replace the C-144s and C-130Js in the service’s recapitalization efforts.

“This is another example that if we are willing to do the work, we can find responsible and creative ways to reduce federal spending,” said Sen. Begich.  “The C-27J’s are well suited to Coast Guard missions and will enable us to maintain our current capabilities while saving hundreds of millions in extra training, maintenance and operations.” - Seward City News, 6/20/13

Begich has been proven to be an effective Senator for Alaska and I hope the voters remember that next year.  By the way, the Alaska Senate Race made some news this week:


Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R) announced Tuesday that he will officially challenge Sen. Mark Begich (D) in 2014, transitioning from an exploratory committee to a full-fledged campaign.

“This intense exploratory effort has convinced me that I have the support necessary to build a winning campaign,” Treadwell said on his Web site. “Today I’m taking the next step by announcing that I will not seek re-election as Alaska’s lieutenant governor and have begun to file documents required as a candidate for the United States Senate in 2014.”

Treadwell launched his exploratory effort in November. When Gov. Sean Parnell (R) announced recently that he would not run for the Senate seat, it was expected that Treadwell would run.

Treadwell trailed Begich by eight points in a February automated poll from Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling and by 10 points in a January poll from GOP automated pollster Harper Polling. Part of that deficit likely owes to the fact that Begich is more well-known. - Washington Post, 6/18/13

Treadwell has long been speculated to challenge Begich next year.  Tea Party groups have been trying to jumpstart a movement to draft Sarah Palin (R. AK) to run against Begich.  But as I wrote a while back, who needs Sarah Palin when you have Mead Treadwell:


Here are eight things voters should know about Treadwell:

1. He loves drilling. A founding member of the Yukon Pacific Corporation, the company that began the Alaska gas pipeline project. His 2010 campaign for Lt. Governor focused on a platform of “fighting the feds” to get more oil into Alaska’s pipeline, building a gas pipeline, and expanding exports. He complained that the federal government denies Alaskan drillers legal access to oil and gas sources purely because of “visual impact.”

2. He denies climate-change science and dismisses its dangers. In seeking the endorsement of the Conservative Patriots Group (an Alaskan Tea Party organization), Treadwell said he is unconvinced CO2 emissions drive climate change: “I challenge the argument that man made CO2 emissions are causing significant global warming and I will oppose any costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumer prices and weaken the nation’s global competitiveness.” Treadwell cheers the “accessible arctic” that would come from melting ice and suggests that declining cultural traditions are a bigger concern — telling a Republican group: “If you think climate’s changing in Alaska, glaciers are receding, sea ice is opening up, and all of that, one of the things that to me is very dramatic is that there are many, many Alaskan native youth today who do not speak the language of their grandparents.”

3. He opposed Obamacare and student loan reform, because he believed they created “death panels.” Echoing Palin’s widely-debunked claim, Treadwell widely mischaracterized President Obama’s health care reform law and student loan reform. At a 2010 debate, he argued: “Government’s job is to protect our liberties and to protect our property, not to take our rights away. It’s also to our job to come in and tell you, if you’re a doctor ‘you’re now a utility and whatever you charge and decide to do is subject to government regulation.’ Some other things in that bill [were] entirely nuts. They had a plan to try to reduce the cost of student loans by getting the banks out of the way, as middlemen. Instead they said, ‘no, let’s keep the same price, throw the banks out of business, and use that as a tax to help pay for this thing.” Noting his late wife’s struggle with brain cancer, he said “thank goodness there were not death panels… Sarah Palin was right on blowing the whistle on that issue.”

4. He opposes not just marijuana legalization but even medical marijuana. Though he claims to be an advocate of privacy and a “liberty agenda,” Treadwell takes a hard line on even medical marijuana. At a 2010 debate — two years before Colorado voted to legalize and regulate marijuana — Treadwell criticized it and other states that allowed those with a medical need to access the drug. “I believe we should have solid drug laws,” he argued, “I don’t like the situation in CO and CA right now that has basically meant you can get pot in a store as easily as you can get a pizza. I don’t think that makes sense.”

5. He opposes all new revenue, but pushed for more government spending. Treadwell signed Grover Norquist’s iron-clad oath against ever increasing taxes of any kind. In a 2010 debate, he pushed other candidates to do the same. While he opposing ever seeking new revenue, he boasted of his efforts to “dramatically” increase Alaska’s infrastructure through “joint federal and state investment in sanitation, health, and energy facilities.” Last month, he actually criticized the draconian Paul Ryan House Republican budget plan for not balancing the budget quickly enough.

6. He opposed an bill that made ballot initiative funding more transparent, citing his support for parental notification legislation. In 2010, Alaska’s Republican-controlled legislature enacted HB 36, the Open and Transparent Initiative Act, to make it easier for votes to know who is behind ballot initiatives and who is paying for them. As a 2010 Lt. Governor candidate forum, Treadwell explained that he would have opposed the law. His reasoning was that “the constitution did set up a process that hasn’t really happened with the legislation. You go around, get lots and lots of signatures, they made it harder to get the signatures, and the legislature is supposed to respond.” He then complained, “I’m also very sad and upset that we have to go to a ballot initiative to keep the rights of parents to know what their daughter is doing,” as the legislature did not enact a law preventing pregnant minors from obtaining an abortion without parental notification.

7. He loved the late Sen. Ted Stevens because he was “anti-Communist” and brought home pork. In a memorial post for the National Review, Treadwell wrote that the late Senator was a hero: “Stevens was labeled a big spender; conservative circles hung a “bridge to nowhere” around his neck in the year or so before he left. But he was a staunch anti-Communist when it counted, and he supported Ronald Reagan’s efforts to bring down the Soviet Union. He constantly pushed back against environmental extremism, but was a realist about supporting science and technology to address environmental and health problems. … Even conservatives fail us sometimes: Stevens’s natural allies in pushing to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, for instance, were often the same folks who broke with him when he sought to replace a national icebreaker fleet that can hardly handle the reduced conditions of the Arctic. Thus, in his latter days, just as he’d accrued the seniority to guide appropriations, Stevens’s practice of ‘earmarks’ became a target. Since Congress wouldn’t let us drill for new oil, we were told, we had decided to ‘drill’ in the federal budget.” Treadwell, who once served as a page for Stevens, continues the late Senator’s push for federal money for icrebreaking ships.

8. Like Palin, he has connections to the controversial Alaskan Independence Party. In 1990, Alaskans elected Gov. Walter Hickel and Lt. Gov. Jack Coghill on the Alaskan Independence Party (AIP) ticket. Hickel, who had served a term as a Republican in the 1960s, was Treadwell’s “longtime mentor and close friend.” Coghill, who went on to chair the AIP, headlined Treadwell’s 2010 Fairbanks campaign kickoff event. The platform of the AIP under Coghill called for “privatization of government services,” “complete abolition of the concept of sovereign or governmental immunity, so as to restore accountability for public servants,” and “the rights of parents to privately or home school their children and to provide them individually the right to access to a proportional share of all money provided for educational purposes as an unrestricted grant for such purposes.” Historically, the AIP has advocated for a referendum on whether the state should secede from the United States. - Think Progress, 5/2/13

Treadwell is viewed as the establishment favorite and probably to GOP's best choice but he will still have to face Tea Party Wild Card Joe Miller (R. AK) in the primary:


Miller lost in the 2010 general election when he faced off against Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who ran as a write-in candidate after losing the Republican primary to Miller.

Treadwell, referring to Begich, told ABC News that it's time to "replace our senator," saying his campaign would focus on opening up of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, to oil and gas drilling -- a move Begich has supported, as well. Treadwell touted "conservative principals," including limiting spending and "fighting for Alaska."

But, he knows he first needs to face off against Miller, an attorney who now runs a conservative website that also features conspiracy theories.

"Alaska needs a credible candidate that can win 51 percent of the vote," Treadwell said. "I don't want to upset any of his supporters by saying he can't win, but a race this time needs to attract voters to replace the sitting senator, replace the incumbent. I believe we can get a credible Republican candidate. I have a record that I will lay up against Joe [Miller] any day."

Treadwell mentioned the issues he's worked on as lieutenant governor, such as oil and gas, timber and ANWR.

He added that they were "things Joe [Miller], God bless him, has not worked on in his career as extensively as I have."

Treadwell said he has Miller supporters from 2010 who have been volunteering for his exploratory committee.

"I'm convinced we can appeal to conservatives who want a change with the status quo," Treadwell said.

Miller was able to win in 2010 with Tea Party support, something he would need help with again this time around, even in red Alaska. But Treadwell made it clear he, too, would go after that support.

"Government's first job is to protect liberty," Treadwell said, also noting his support for "fiscal sanity."

"I'll go against Joe any day he wants to about that," Treadwell said.

"I think Alaskans want someone with a conservative philosophy working with people that makes things work," Treadwell said. "I'm not a person who burns bridges. ... I go into this with a sense of discipline."

Treadwell added another veiled dig at Miller, saying his candidacy is about "putting conservative views in action and you can't do that by scaring people, you need to do it by doing things."

Miller's campaign said he was unavailable for an interview, instead providing a written statement.

"I welcome Mr. Treadwell to the race," said Miller. "Competition is a good thing. I look forward to a vigorous debate on the issues facing the country, and the great state of Alaska." - ABC News, 6/18/13

Despite Miller's unpopularity in Alaska, Treadwell is not taking him for granted:


Treadwell, who announced his Senate candidacy earlier this week, told The Hill he’s a safe alternative to Miller, the 2010 Republican nominee, who has filed to run again.

“I believe I don't scare people. Joe does sometimes,” Treadwell said in a phone call from Juneau.

Treadwell emphasized his ability to work with others, an implicit contrast with Miller’s iconoclastic reputation. He described himself as the “credible conservative candidate to challenge” incumbent Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska).

“Philosophically, I'm a very strong proponent of personal liberties, protecting our constitution, protecting life, and I believe I give people a serious option who care about those issues,” he said.

“I'm certainly more credible as a candidate — our election record shows it.”

The lieutenant governor is the early favorite to win the primary at this point — he led Miller by 45 to 26 percent in an early May survey from GOP-affiliated Harper Polling.
Forty-nine percent of Republicans held an unfavorable view of Miller in the poll.
But Miller has some loyal Tea Party supporters and more than $400,000 in the bank, enough to do some damage ahead of the August 2014 primary. - The Hill, 6/19/13

Plus there are some factors that could work in Miller's favor and benefit Begich:
"Sometimes, being the only Democrat, if it's good for Alaska, it doesn't matter who's sponsoring [the legislation]. I look for issues that matter to Alaska," Begich said.

He added that, unlike Treadwell or Miller, he was born and raised in the 49th state.

"It's been for all my political career something I've strived for: where the common ground is," Begich said. "I think it's being born and raised in Alaska. That's how you grow up. We don't look what party you are from ... we look at what you can do for Alaska."

Ivan Moore, a pollster in the state, noted that post-election polls showed that well more than half of Alaska voters viewed Miller negatively after he lost to Murkowski.

"What that tells you is he is categorically unelectable in a general [election]," Moore said. "Mark Begich is sitting there rubbing his hands at the prospect of running against Joe Miller in the general. He could close his eyes and do it."

In Alaska, Republicans, independents and undeclared voters can vote in the GOP primary.

"There's two uncertainties," Moore said of the GOP primary. "What are Joe Miller's negatives today? Probably not as bad as when he got beat by Lisa [Murkowski] and ... I think the only thing I can assume is Mead Treadwell has done his exploratory committee work with due diligence and found Joe Miller is perfectly beatable in a Republican primary. I think it's going to be tough for [Miller]."

Moore added that the "death knell will come when Republican primary voters become convinced that while they like Joe Miller, he can't win in a general and that will undoubtedly be used by opponents of his."

"Don't vote for him, he's going to lose," is something Moore believes Treadwell and any other opponents will use against Miller.

As for the general election, Moore said, "Mark [Begich] is a good campaigner. He's done this many times before and he'll never be a pushover, but also he's always going to be vulnerable.

"It's a Democrat running in Alaska, so Mead [Treadwell] and Mark [Begich] in a general will be a very well-contested race, and I think when it comes down to it will be close," Moore said. - ABC News, 6/18/13

Begich knows he has a tough race ahead of him but he isn't afraid to stand up for his record in the Senate:


Far from reversing course, Senate Democrats who backed President Barack Obama's health care law and now face re-election in GOP-leaning states are firming up their support for the overhaul even as Republican criticism intensifies.

Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina will face voters in 2014 for the first time since voting for the Affordable Care Act – also known as "Obamacare" – three years ago. They aren't apologizing for their vote, and several are pursuing an aggressive strategy: Embrace the law, help voters use it and fix what doesn't work.

"I don't run from my votes," Begich told The Associated Press. "Politicians who sit around and say, `That's controversial so I better run from it,' just ask for trouble. Voters may not always agree with you, but they respect people who think about these issues and talk about them."

That means, Begich said, reminding voters that as a candidate in 2008 he called for prohibiting insurers from denying coverage based on existing health problems, ending lifetime coverage limits and making it easier for workers to leave a job and still have insurance, an option they'll have under new exchanges that consumers can begin using to buy individual policies this fall.

"There's a lot of good that people will realize as this all comes online," the first-term senator said. - Huffington Post, 6/15/13

Begich's stances on civil liberties, GMO labeling, the public option, cracking down on Wall Street and of course his bold, progressive plan to strengthen Social Security have earned him a top priority in my book and I will be writing a lot about this race.  I know there are some who are still angry over Begich's vote against background checks and I don't want to raise your hopes just yet but Begich might be willing to change his vote on this issue:


Alaska U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, who’s up for re-election next year, may or may not be in talks aimed at reviving gun legislation, according to a weakly-sourced story Thursday from the New York Times. Begich was one of four Democrats who opposed the legislative push in April; Mayor Michael Bloomberg has vowed to retaliate against Begich and the others by persuading Democratic campaign donors to withhold funds next year. The Times speculates that if Democrats strike an accord with Begich that exempts rural and person-to-person gun sales from background checks, then maybe Alaska’s other senator may be persuadable, too. - Alaska Dispatch, 6/14/13
If you would like to donate or get involved with Begich's campaign, you can do so here:

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Originally posted to pdc on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 02:12 PM PDT.

Also republished by The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party and Sustainable Food and Agriculture.

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