Sen. Mark Begich is already on the attack of his opponent Dan Sullivan, and the political mudslinging and lack of integrity is just beginning. Begich has been going after Sullivan for not being a true Alaskan. I find that to be an interesting criticism. I wonder if he’d have the guts to approach Hillary Clinton and tell her she’s not a true New Yorker. I doubt it. Living within a state’s borders doesn’t necessarily make them part of that state’s heritage or moral upbringing. What you do with yourself in everyday decisions is something that defines you, especially in the political arena, which is something worth discussing.
First, Begich made a poor decision in 2009 when he helped get federal dollars for Naknek Electrical Association (NEA). They were seeking funds for their Southwest Alaska Regional Geothermal Project, and Begich was all too happy to help. He sought and helped secure $2.5 million in federal funds and then through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
President Obama and the Department of Energy helped Begich get another $12.3 million in funds for what was supposed to help NEA develop green energy. The day after Begich put out a press release hyping up the project, he received $1,000 from Lawrence Markley, a NEA lobbyist. Markley later kicked in another $3,400 to the Begich camp.
Ultimately, in September of 2011, NEA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy (losing valuable federal dollars that could have been used elsewhere), sold off its geothermal equipment and is again making electricity with diesel generators. That’s not exactly green power, but the green Begich got sure gave his office a little energy to act on their behalf. As a result, NEA dramatically jacked up its rates to cover its debts, causing ripple effects that forced businesses like grocery stores that use a lot of power to increase their already sky-high prices.
Begich also said in an October 2009 news release that “The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is expected to bring in $1.6 billion to Alaska over the next two years, creating or sustaining 8,000 jobs.” Really? Have you seen 8,000 more jobs going around? I know a lot of people that haven’t. As a matter of fact, according to the Alaska Department of Labor, the unemployment rate was between 6.3 and 6.9 percent in 2009 when Begich made his insightful prediction. After that promise, the unemployment rate jumped to 8.3 percent and then hovered around 7.8 percent throughout 2011. I don’t know what kind of crystal ball he was using, but I hope he kept the receipt because it’s badly broken. I have no doubt that he has some sort of reasoning as to how he even came up with such a broad number as 8,000 jobs.
If I were Begich, I’d stop making off the cuff, quick press statements without thinking things through. He loves to be the first of our Alaska Congressional Delegation to take credit for legislation. In this situation, it was a serious error. Promising jobs that aren’t here is definitely not being a “true Alaskan” in my eyes.
Then, of course, Begich has recently touted how Dan Sullivan is against a woman’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy. I don’t believe anyone should tell a woman what to do with her body, but is that really a topic that anyone sees as being incredibly vital to debate in this election year? Roe v. Wade is a monumental case. Any attempt to overthrow it would have people in the streets with pitchforks and torches. No one wants to touch that issue as far as legislation is concerned. The courts would spend years debating it, and if Hillary Clinton becomes President it’s dead. I don’t think anyone wants to get involved.
Begich should be more concerned with our state legislature redefining what is termed a medically necessary abortion. Those are the people that Begich should have his sights set on, but he doesn’t like to get involved in state matters. At least that’s what he implied when he was asked how he’d vote on ballot measure one, which gave oil companies billions with no strings attached. Since he knew it was a tense issue, he offered no opinion. I always enjoy having a senator who doesn’t offer us a point of view. And how is oil not a national issue?
So if we shut down the pipeline, it still wouldn’t qualify as a national issue? Apparently one of the largest oil pipelines in the world and the largest oil field in North America is just an Alaska concern. It seems that his opinion as a U.S. Senator on multi-national companies, the well-being of Alaskans, and billions of dollars is something that he can’t be concerned with. He’s kidding, right? Isn’t he supposed to be a true Alaskan? What’s more Alaskan than oil?
Now Begich is in a situation where the numbers were already available to him, and he still forgot to check them before talking. According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, women who work in Begich’s office, earn an average of $23,000 less than the men. That’s a lot of money to help pay the bills, and it’s especially shocking since it’s coming from a guy who touts his advocacy for women’s rights.
Begich said that if you take out Chief of Staff David Ramseur’s salary, the wage gap would be significantly smaller. Even with that change in calculation, women in his office are still earning 20% less than men. By the way, why doesn’t he have a woman as his chief of staff? Doesn’t he think a woman is qualified to run his office? That would shrink the gap, and he would also look good. Unfortunately, it’s too little too late. That issue is going to sting his campaign for the remainder of the season.
What I would like to see, and will probably never happen, is for politicians to just talk about how they can make our lives better. Leave the rhetoric of how poor your opponent is at the door. It doesn’t impress anyone, and it just shows the voters how shallow and vulnerable you are. This behavior definitely does not make you look more Alaskan.
When all is said and done regarding integrity during the election season, I think American politician Adlai E. Stevenson summed it up best when he said, “The hardest thing about any political campaign is how to win without proving that you are unworthy of winning.”