The Alliance's Citizens United Super PAC, We are Alaska, reported raising $135,000. Hawkins' Accountability Project reported $152,500 in contributions, including $115,000 from the Republican State Leadership Committee of Washington, D.C., a super-PAC dominated by the insurance, pharmaceutical and oil industries.
Putting Alaskans First Committee reported raising $536,500, of which $411,500 was from Alaska unions. Most of the rest came from two wealthy Alaskans, Barney Gottstein, the retired food wholesaler who has long backed Democratic politics, and Bob Gillam, an Anchorage financial manager and staunch opponent of the proposed Pebble Mine in the Bristol Bay region. Gillam gave $49,000, Gottstein $43,000, according to reports filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission.
POTENTIAL TO BACKFIRE?
Citizens United was a groundbreaking U.S. Supreme Court decision that equated money with free speech rights, and corporations and unions with individuals. The court ruled the corporations and unions could make unlimited expenditures on politics, but only for independent campaigns. They could support or oppose candidates, but couldn't coordinate their activities with the candidates themselves.
Like the federal law, Alaska had banned corporations and unions from making campaign contributions. Citizens United changed that.
Alaska got its first taste of the new order in Lisa Murkowski's 2010 write-in campaign for U.S. Senate after she lost the Republican primary to tea party insurgent Joe Miller. Citizens United allowed a Super PAC led by Alaska Native corporations, Alaskans Standing Together, to spend more than $1 million on her behalf over three weeks leading up to the election. She pulled off the upset victory.
There was plenty of money spent in Alaska in the 2012 election even without the independent-expenditure Citizen United groups. The candidates themselves raised fortunes.
Another kind of organization, Make Alaska Competitive Coalition, was also able to raise unlimited funds in support of its "educational" campaign in favor of oil-tax cuts. Unlike the Super PACs, the coalition didn't have to report its sources of money because it didn't directly support or oppose individual candidates.
Several smaller independent expenditure groups had limited activity, such as one in Fairbanks named, Oh No, Not Ralph Again! It was organized to defeat conservative car dealer Ralph Seekins in the Republican primary, and of its $9,100 in contributions, $2,000 came from unions. Seekins lost.
In federal campaigns, unions have increased their fund-raising activity, but not to the degree of business groups and individuals, said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Washington campaign watchdog nonprofit, the Center for Responsive Politics.
But companies, in particular retailers, have been discovering risks in those activities. In 2010, Minnesota-based Target stores contributed $150,000 to a Citizens United group that backed a conservative Republican for Minnesota governor, Krumholz said. Target supported the candidate's position on business issues, but the donation led to a boycott of Target stores because of the candidate's opposition to same-sex marriage -- a position that ran afoul of the store chain's own policy on equal rights.
Alaska businesses are similarly concerned that a political donation could backfire, Hawkins said.
Putting Alaskans First spent heaviest on behalf of two losing incumbent Democrat senators in Fairbanks: $99,600 supporting Joe Thomas, a former union official, against John Coghill; and $94,375 in support of Joe Paskvan against Pete Kelly. In Anchorage, it backed two Democratic winners facing tough opposition, Sen. Bill Wielechowski ($72,602) and Sen. Hollis French ($75,146), and two Republicans from the bipartisan coalition with weak Democratic opponents, Sen. Lesil McGuire and Sen. Kevin Meyer ($45,000 each). It spent another $45,000 on the losing campaign of Sen. Bettye Davis.