- Associated Press - Thursday, August 7, 2014

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A rift developed Thursday between Alaska’s two U.S. senators when lawyers for Republican Lisa Murkowski demanded the campaign for her Democratic counterpart pull ads that touts their cooperation in Washington for the benefit of Alaskans.

The ad in question is titled, “Great Team.” It’s a 30-second spot that features a man, named Skip Nelson, claiming to be a lifelong Republican who has supported Murkowski in the past and intends to vote for Begich this year.

“The advertisement is factually incorrect,” wrote lawyer Scott Kendall, who represents the Lisa Murkowski for U.S. Senate committee. “It also misuses Senator Murkowski’s image, and implies her support, without her permission - and, in fact, over her known objections.”

Begich’s campaign has no intention in pulling the commercial.

“We stand by the ad,” spokesman Max Croes told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The Murkowski letter also claims the ad features a photo taken in her office, which could be a violation of federal law and Senate ethics rules. But Begich’s campaign said it licensed the image from the AP and it was not an official Senate photo.

In the ad, Nelson identified himself as a lifelong Republican, but he has been registered as undeclared since 2000. He previously told the Alaska Dispatch News he was previously registered as a Republican in Georgia and Virginia.

State voting records show Nelson didn’t vote in 2010, when Murkowski was re-elected. Nelson did vote in 2004, and told the Dispatch News he probably voted for her.

He also said he remembered going to several fundraisers for Murkowski, a claim now disputed by Murkowski’s lawyers since they could find no record of him ever making a contribution to her campaign. It wasn’t immediately clear if someone could attend a fundraiser without actually making a contribution. Kendall didn’t immediately return a message left at his office for clarification or what their next step would be.

“Although you have stated that this advertisement is meant to share Mr. Nelson’s ‘personal story,’ you have an obligation to ensure that story is not a complete fabrication,” Kendall wrote in the letter.

Croes said in a statement emailed to the AP that residents have “responded positively to the message that Alaska’s congressional delegation works together across party lines to do what’s best for Alaska.”

“I recognize that Mitch McConnell and the Republicans have a view of controlling the Republican Senate. I get that. So I understand that kind of conversation. But no one disputes the facts,” Begich told The Associated Press on Wednesday evening, noting that he and Murkowski have voted together 80 percent of the time this year. He said that’s more than any other split-party delegation.

He said he thought the issue was more that he hadn’t called her in advance to tell her the ads mentioning their cooperation were going up.

Murkowski has said that while they agree on many issues specific to Alaska, she and Begich differ on a number of national issues. When Murkowski ran a write-in campaign in 2010, after losing the GOP primary, she ran on an Alaska-first platform, putting Alaska ahead of party.

Begich said he gets the political sensitivity “of people now wanting to be partisan. But that’s not who I will be. I will always be nonpartisan in a sense of working with Democrats and Republicans.”

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Associated Press writer Mark Thiessen in Anchorage contributed to this report.

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