- Associated Press - Friday, June 27, 2014

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Two third-party spending groups this week announced dropping more than $900,000 for ads in the Alaska U.S. Senate race.

The buys - in addition to the millions that groups have already spent or are expected to spend on the election - underscore the intense interest in the race, which could help determine which party controls the Senate.

The Karl Rove-affiliated American Crossroads, which has supported Republican Senate hopeful Dan Sullivan, in its latest ad suggests Democratic Sen. Mark Begich takes credits for things he didn’t do, at least on his own. It draws from comments made by Republican Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, in a video orchestrated by American Crossroads strategist Art Hackney. Hackney has said the video and his work with American Crossroads are different.

Begich’s campaign on Friday labeled the ad another “desperate” attack.

American Crossroads and its affiliated nonprofit previously announced they had reserved $5.5 million in air time in Alaska. Hackney initially said the latest buy was part of that but later corrected that, saying the $5.5 million refers to ad time reserved after Labor Day. He said this latest buy is in addition to that.

Meanwhile, the pro-Begich Put Alaska First PAC reported nearly $500,000 for an ad that is the latest in a string of them seeking to hammer away at Sullivan over a permitting bill he supported while state Natural Resources commissioner. The bill, HB77, was cast by Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration as part of a broader effort to improve the state’s permitting process. But critics said it would have given the commissioner too much power and raised concerns that it would limit public participation in the permitting process.

The bill passed the state House in 2013 before stalling in the Senate, where efforts to rewrite it this past session failed and the bill died. Sullivan resigned as commissioner last September, ahead of his Senate run.

Put Alaska First treasurer Jim Lottsfeldt said by email that his group makes ad-buy decisions “based on what the formidable pro-Sullivan SuperPacs are doing.” Put Alaska First has received significant funding from the Senate Majority PAC, which is run by former aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada.

Sullivan spokesman Mike Anderson said by email that the bill “had nothing to do with taking away Alaskans’ hunting and fishing rights, and everything to do with cutting red tape and streamlining Alaska’s permitting process.”

Sullivan earlier this month proposed a pledge between him and Begich aimed at curbing outside influence in the race, even as he said he supports the U.S. Supreme Court decision that allowed unlimited spending by unions and corporations in political races. Begich’s campaign hasn’t taken the proposal seriously.

“Sullivan can’t put forward an honest proposal while supporting corporations and billionaires spending unlimited amounts in all elections,” Begich spokesman Max Croes said by email Friday, adding that Begich is “fighting to permanently overturn” the court decision.

Sullivan is one of the three major Republican candidates vying to take on Begich in November, along with Joe Miller and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell. Another Dan Sullivan, the Anchorage mayor, also will appear on the August primary ballot, as a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.

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