Climate change talk brings chills to Alaska Democrat; GOP exploits issue in oil-rich states

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The Begich team hit back with an ad campaign attacking the Koch brothers, the conservative donors who supported the founding of Americans for Prosperity and have become the go-to villains for Democrats. The ad denies that the senator supports a carbon tax and blasted Koch Industries for shutting down a refinery in Fairbanks.

“It’s another typical Washington ad that tries to fool Alaskans. And who’s behind the ads? Two billionaire outsiders. The Koch brothers,” the ad says.

Americans for Prosperity spokesman Levi Russell pointed to a 2010 letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, signed by Mr. Begich and others calling for “a comprehensive solution that includes making polluters pay through a price on greenhouse gas emissions.”

“In our view, that is the very definition of a carbon tax. Only other instrument being thrown around that would do that is cap and trade,” Mr. Russell said.

Mr. Begich himself has taken Koch brothers money, both directly and via the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Mr. Begich’s Great Land leadership PAC received a $5,000 donation from the Koch Industries PAC, and the DSCC has been bankrolled by the Kochs to the tune of $60,000 since 2008.

A Public Policy Polling survey released Feb. 4 shows Mr. Begich with a single-digit edge in hypothetical matchups with the two leading Republican candidates: Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and Mr. Sullivan, who was endorsed Wednesday by the Club for Growth and has raised the most money. The incumbent held a 20-point lead over 2010 U.S. Senate nominee Joe Miller in the same poll.

Mr. Hellenthal said a disciplined candidate like Mr. Begich likely will avoid self-inflicted wounds such as turning up at climate change talkfests in an election year.

“Being a Democrat does not help him at all in Alaska,” the Anchorage pollster said. “He has to definitely be a conservative Democrat and, to a certain extent, almost out-conservative the Republicans.”

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