Begich clearly is not letting this issue go and he shouldn't. Even with everyone from Karl Rove, the Club of Growth and the Koch Brothers pouring tons of money to defeat Begich, he's still holding strong. And their latest attack is turning out to be bull shit:U.S. Senator Mark Begich today joined a group of senators urging 18 state governors to put aside their political differences and expand Medicaid in their states in order to bring access to life-saving health care and preventive health services to millions of Americans.
"In Alaska, Governor Parnell's refusal to expand Medicaid means denying health insurance to thousands of hardworking Alaskan families," said Begich. "Aside from the obvious health benefits to Alaskans, the state Chamber of Commerce urged the governor to expand the program because it is also the right thing to do for Alaska businesses and the economy. Without the expansion, people who cannot afford insurance will continue to get their health care needs met in hospital emergency rooms across the state-the most expensive way to get health care. Those costs will continue to be passed on and Alaskans' hard-earned tax dollars will continue to be shipped to the Lower 48 instead of staying right here in Alaska."
Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government provides funding to states that wish to expand their Medicaid programs. This funding is then used to pay local hospitals, doctors and other health care providers to administer care. By refusing this federal funding and choosing not to cover millions of eligible individuals, these 18 states stand to lose billions in new revenue with the increased use of health care systems.
The Alaska Chamber of Commerce, the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, the Alaska Hospital and Nursing Home Association, the American Association of Retired People, the Alaska Federation of Natives, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, and other Alaska business and civic groups have all urged Parnell to expand Medicaid. - Insurance News, 6/5/14
And Begich's race is essential for Democrats in order to hold the Senate:Crossroads GPS misuses a quote from Sen. Mark Begich and conflates two separate management problems at the Veterans Administration to insinuate in a TV ad that Begich doesn't take the current VA scandal seriously.
The conservative group attempts to link Begich — who sits on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee — to news reports that some veterans died while waiting for VA medical appointments. The ad quotes Begich as saying, "If there's a problem, they need to fix it," and then asks incredulously, "if there is a problem?" to suggest that Begich doesn't believe there is one. But three weeks before he made that remark, Begich condemned reports of mismanagement at the VA as a "disgrace" and called for an immediate investigation and a national policy to allow veterans to get care at non-VA health facilities.
The ad also suggests that Begich should have known about the current problems at the VA because "four years ago the VA inspector general failed the Anchorage VA office in 13 of 14 areas." But that report concerned the processing of disability claims and was unrelated to the scandal. And Begich did press former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to fix the claims backlog at the time.
The Crossroads ad, which began airing in Begich's home state of Alaska in late May on a $450,000 ad buy, highlights on-screen the headline from a CNN report — "Veterans languish and die on a VA hospital's secret list" — and claims Begich's response was to say, "if there's a problem, they need to fix it."
Crossroads ad: A national disgrace. Veterans died waiting for care that never came. Sen. Mark Begich sits on the Veterans' Affairs Committee. His response? "If there's a problem, they need to fix it."
The leading GOP candidate in the Alaska race, Dan Sullivan, also used that quote in an opinion piece that was published in the Anchorage Daily News on May 20. Sullivan wrote: "Incredibly, Senator Mark Begich, has barely acknowledged that there is a problem. He seems to view himself as a bystander to the crisis facing America's veterans. 'If there's a problem,' Senator Begich said, 'they [the Obama Administration] need to fix it.' "
The quote comes from a May 15 Wall Street Journal story, which said: "Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat facing re-election this year in conservative-leaning Alaska, said that after the HealthCare.gov issues, the administration should be vigilant to correct any problems. 'They should have learned from that — if there's a problem, they need to fix it,' he said."
But Begich's "response" to the VA scandal was much stronger than that. The day after that CNN story, which originally was published April 23, Begich called for an "immediate hearing to investigate" and a national policy to allow veterans to get care at non-VA health facilities. In his April 24 press release, Begich had much stronger words than the May 15 quote in the Wall Street Journal:
Begich, April 24 press release: "Reports of these 'secret lists' are disgraceful and have led to the deaths of our former service men and women," said Begich. "As a government, we should be ashamed of the poor administration of care for our sick veterans who sacrificed — putting their own lives on the line — for our country. I am calling for an immediate hearing to investigate these practices and make sure that no veteran ever has to endure a life-threatening wait like those in Arizona have. Our veteran community and their families deserve justice." - USA Today, 6/4/14
Interestingly, Alaska appears to be the Democrats’ best hope for that November win.
Aside from Begich currently leading “all of his potential Republican opponents” in the latest Public Policy Polling survey, he’s likely to benefit from the fact that Alaska’s primary does not take place until August 19. This contrasts with North Carolina, which settled on Sen. Kay Hagan’s opponent, Thom Tillis, last week, and Arkansas, whose Republicans long-ago coalesced around Rep. Tom Cotton as the candidate to take on Sen. Mark Pryor. And even though Alaska’s former Attorney General Dan Sullivan has recently pulled ahead and become the Republican’s front-runner, it seems unlikely that his opponents, Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell and tea party activist Joe Miller, will go quietly into the night.
Further, inaction by the Republican-controlled state legislature has meant that three left-leaning initiatives (legalizing marijuana, increasing the minimum wage and protecting Bristol Bay) will now be on Alaska’s November ballot, and may end up helping Begich turn out his voters. For as political science research has shown, “states with initiatives on the ballot in midterms have higher turnout than states that do not.” Surely, those national Republicans observing their fellow Alaskans are thinking with “friends like these…” - U.S. News, 5/15/14
Begich also has a proven record of being a hard worker for Alaska in the U.S. Senate:
And Begich has proven to deliver. Like on this:Current members of Congress have passed only 104 bills and resolutions into law so far, which gives the nation’s elected leaders until Jan 3, 2015 (when the current session ends) to pass 180 new pieces of legislation just to be on par with the 112th Congress—the current record holder for least productive congress ever.
While gridlock and inter-party polarity may keep bills from turning into law, it hasn’t kept legislators from sponsoring new ones. They’ve introduced 8,327 bills and resolutions so far, putting them on pace to reach about 11,750 by the end of the session.
But not all congresspeople contribute equally to this tally. The most noteworthy members have sponsored between 69 and 78 bills this session.
Who are they?
According to data collected by research engine FindTheBest, the most productive bill writers are Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Mark Begich (R-AK), David Vitter (R-LA), Harry Reid (D-NV), and Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL). - Time Magazine, 5/23/14
And this:As a retired National Guard member and Veterans Administration employee, I believe that health care for veterans should be a top priority for the federal government. Fortunately, we’ve seen a lot of improvement here in Alaska and we need to keep making progress, especially since Alaska has more veterans per capita than any other state.
Many members of Congress have been trying to reduce the backlog of veterans who are signing up for heath care through the VA. For example, Senators have pushed for more VA funding to reduce the backlog nationally. Fortunately, we’ve actually seen a lot of progress here in Alaska. Our state’s VA backlog has gone down from 900 to 50—that is a huge improvement we can all be proud of.
While reducing Alaska’s VA backlog is a great accomplishment, I’m most excited about new clinics that are accessible to Alaska veterans. In the past, veterans often had to travel great distances, even out of state, to get health care. Just in the last couple years, there are at least 28 clinics that are newly accessible to Alaska veterans.
That is the result of an innovative partnership between the Veterans Administration, Indian Health Service, and other government agencies. Senator Begich proposed this partnership five years ago, and now it is a reality.
As a result of the partnership, veterans can use many IHS clinics for health care. That means veterans can get health care closer to home and avoid expensive travel bills. This partnership also is opening new clinics to veterans in urban areas like Anchorage. This kind of partnership is crucial in Alaska, where we have veterans who live across the state. - Juneau Empire, 6/2/14
And Begich has kept up the fight on this:A U.S. Senate panel today moved to require labeling for genetically modified salmon, if it’s approved for sale in this country.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski told the Senate Appropriations Committee she hopes the FDA never allows genetically modified salmon to reach supermarket shelves.
“But we haven’t been able to get the FDA able to slow down off their track of approval,” she said.
So, Murkowski says, they should at least require “that they put on the package of fish: This is a genetically modified salmon.”
But mandatory labeling repels senators from farm states, who fear it’ll lead to labeling of GM crops. Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska defended genetically modified food at the hearing, saying it can help sustain the world’s ever- growing population. Johanns says labeling would be a compliance nightmare, with consumers footing the bill.
“There’s a cost to that, for no basis in science,” he said.
The company that wants to produce the AquAdvantage salmon says its farmed fish would be just like a conventional Atlantic salmon. Sen. Mark Begich, who co-sponsored Murkowski’s labeling amendment, says the company should just be upfront with consumers. - Alaska Public Media, 5/22/14
Now Dan Sullivan (R. AK) is the GOP frontrunner and Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell (R. AK) is in second place but this guy could still be a problem for the GOP:Legislation that would give Tribes in Alaska more power to address criminal behavior moved out of a committee in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday. The “Alaska Safe Families and Villages Act of 2014” was introduced by U.S. Senator Mark Begich from Alaska and it was passed out of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. That means that the bill can now be considered by the full Senate.
The legislation would create the Alaska Safe Families and Villages Self Governance Program in the federal Office of Tribal Justice Programs. The new program would provide grants to tribes to put in place agreements with the State of Alaska to allow the tribes to enforce some state laws. Senator Begich says the justice system in rural Alaska is broken and he believes one of the ways to fix the system is to give local residents more authority to control drug and alcohol offenses. Begich notes that the version of the bill approved by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on Wednesday creates a way for Alaska tribes to apply for expanded civil jurisdiction with the Department of Justice. That would allow tribes to enforce civil sanctions involving child abuse and neglect, domestic violence and substance abuse within village boundaries. - KDLG, 5/22/14
And even before Begich defeated Senator Ted Stevens (R. AK) in a very tight race, he has a history of running in tight elections:After Lisa Murkowski lost that primary election, the Alaska Democratic Party's failure to field a real candidate to run against Joe provided Lisa an opening to run in the general election as a write-in candidate. And in November, Joe's odd, occasionally disturbing behavior allowed Lisa to win.
But here's the thing. After all the craziness that swirled around the Joe Miller for Senate campaign during the run-up to the 2010 general election, when he lost to Lisa, Joe got 90,839 votes.
Being generous, let's say 30,000 of those votes were cast by Republicans who, because they always vote the Republican ticket, voted for Joe only because he was the Republican candidate. But that leaves 60,839 votes that were cast by voters who by then knew all about Joe Miller and liked what they saw.
Here's why that's bad news for Dan Sullivan:
In the 2008 and 2010 Republican primary elections 105,326 and 109,750 votes were cast. Because there will be a referendum on the primary election ballot whose passage will repeal a bill the Alaska Legislature passed last year that dramatically lowered taxes on the oil industry, the industry will be bankrolling a get-out-the-vote campaign to mobilize voters who are sympathetic to the industry to turn out and vote against the referendum. Since a majority of those voters will be Republicans and center-right Independents, let's again be generous and say that as many as 125,000 votes will be cast in the 2014 Republican primary election.
If that's how many are cast, if Joe Miller can turn out the 60,839 voters who voted for him in the 2010 general election to vote for him again, he can win a three-way race with Dan Sullivan and Mead Treadwell.
If Mead does withdraw, Dan's chances of winning go way up. But if Mead hangs in, can Miller turn out the votes he needs in August?
To find out, I recently attended the kick-off event for the Joe Miller for Senate campaign that was held in the bar at a resort motel on Lake Wasilla, the lake down the road from the lake on whose shore Sarah Palin lives whenever she's back in town from Scottsdale, Arizona. After prayers and testimonials and then a pep talk from Joe, before the crowd broke up the mistress-of-ceremonies, a pixie perky blond I recognized from Joe's last campaign, had everyone in the room take out their smart phones and make sure they were linked into the campaign's website and Joe's Twitter account, which meant that Joe has figured out that his campaign needs to replicate the social media network to identify and turn out supporters that the Obama campaign created prior to the 2012 presidential election. - Anchorage Daily News, 6/1/14
Not only is the DSCC spending big to help Begich, he's also getting some extra help:As his television commercials now are reminding us, Begich is the son of Nick Begich, an expatriated Minnesota Democrat and Hubert Humphrey protege who served one term as Alaska’s congressman before dying in a plane crash prior to the 1972 election.
As rawly politically ambitious as his father had been, in the early 1980s Begich, who had skipped college and was managing an apartment building his father had built, landed a job as the chauffeur for Tony Knowles, who in 1981 had been narrowly elected mayor of Anchorage.
After soaking up what watching Mayor Knowles move around the city had to teach, in 1988 Begich ran for an open seat on the Anchorage Assembly in an election he won by winning 28 percent of the vote when his six more conservative opponents divided the other 72 percent. Then three years later he was reelected with a majority of the votes in an election in which the only competing candidate was a right-of-ridiculous Republican gadfly.
While Begich then focused his ambition on the mayor’s office, the Anchorage Home Rule Charter required a run-off election for mayor if no candidate won 40 percent of the vote. Since, like the statewide electorate, the Anchorage electorate trends center-right, in 1994 when Begich finished second in the mayoral election with 19.58 percent of the vote, he lost the run-off election to Rick Mystrom, a mainstream Republican. The 42 percent of the vote Begich won in the run-off election was a statistically accurate representation of the strength of the Democratic Party in Anchorage. And after conducting polling place exit interviews the Anchorage Daily News explained Begich’s loss as follows: “Many voters were quick to point out what they didn’t like about Begich. They said he’s too liberal -- too friendly with unions, too likely to raise taxes, and too sympathetic to homosexuals.”
To drive what they intended to be the last nail into the lid of the coffin in which the remains of Mark Begich’s political career by then were languishing, in 1999 Anchorage Republicans put an initiative on the municipal election ballot whose passage raised the run-off election requirement from 40 percent to 50 percent because, as former Anchorage mayor and stalwart Republican conservative Tom Fink explained, “One on one the conservative candidate wins.”
And that’s what happened when Begich ran for mayor in 2000, won 40.26 percent of the vote (which would have won the election under the 40 percent rule), but then lost the run-off election to George Wuerch, another mainstream Republican.
But Begich was not done.
In addition to increasing the run-off requirement from 40 percent to 50 percent for the mayoral election, the 1999 initiative required run-offs for Anchorage Assembly and school board elections. So in 2002 Allan Tesche, a member of Begich’s inner circle who represented downtown Anchorage on the Anchorage Assembly, arranged for the Assembly to put an amendment to the Home Rule Charter on the 2003 municipal election ballot whose passage would eliminate the run-off election requirement for Anchorage Assembly and school board elections. The amendment also lowered the mayoral run-off election requirement from 50 percent to 45 percent of the vote. And even more shrewdly, the amendment was written to take affect in the election in which it was passed. Tesche quite purposefully did all that in order to improve Begich’s chances of being elected.
As a consequence, in 2003 when Mark Begich ran for mayor in the same election in which the amendment did pass, he was elected with only eighteen more votes than the number he needed to exceed the 45 percent requirement and avoid the run-off election he would have lost. Benefitting from the power of the incumbency, in 2006 Begich was elected to a second term as mayor by winning 56 percent of the vote against a weak Republican opponent in an election in which only 35 percent of registered voters bothered to cast ballots. - Alaska Dispatch, 6/1/14
So lets help Begich get ready to win in November by donating and getting involved with his campaign. You can do so here:New pro-Begich SuperPAC plans $1 million effort with mailers and door knocking: A new super PAC backed by an environmental group intends to spend $1.1 million in a bid to help Democratic Sen. Mark Begich win re-election. Alaska SalmonPAC aims to get “nearly every likely Begich supporter who voted in the 2012 presidential election, but did not vote last midterm election, to vote by mail or in person” this fall,” it said in a statement this week. It’s the second super PAC created specifically to boost Begich’s chances. Similar campaign groups also have been created to help the Republicans fighting for the chance to oust him in November. Super PACs can collect unlimited donations including from corporations and unions, unlike candidates’ own campaign committees. They are barred from coordinating with candidates. SalmonPAC registered with the Federal Elections Commission May 30. It was created in partnership with Alaska Conservation Voters, a lobbying and political organization that supports pro-conservation candidates. The group called Begich “a salmon champion.” The political action committee’s work for Begich will be grass roots and will include more than 30 staff members and hundreds of volunteers. The group intends to mail political flyers to more than 100,000 households multiple times. Its operation also will involve knocking on an estimated 231,000 doors. - Alaska Dispatch, 6/5/14