Former Alaska attorney general Dan Sullivan, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate, participates in a debate on Aug. 10 in Anchorage, Alaska. / Mark Thiessen, AP
AD SPONSOR: Dan Sullivan
THE RACE: U.S. Senate
ANALYSIS: Republican Dan Sullivan is challenging first-term Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, in a race that is expected to be the costliest in state history. At least $9 million has already been spent in the race, the majority of which has been in the form of attack ads against Sullivan by a Democratic super PAC. Millions more are expected to flood the airwaves before Election Day.
Alaska is a key battleground in the broader campaign for control of the U.S. Senate, so the national stakes are high.
In an effort to stem the flow of outside money, Sullivan earlier this year challenged Begich to sign an "Alaska Agreement" that would require candidates to donate half of the value of outside groups' ad buys to a charity of their opponent's choice. It is modeled after the "People's Pledge" agreed to in 2012 in the Massachusetts Senate campaign that pitted GOP Sen. Scott Brown against Democrat Elizabeth Warren, a race Warren ultimately won.
"Millions of dollars of negative ads are flooding in to Alaska, paid for by Washington special interests. Pretty soon you're going to want to do this to your TV," Sullivan says in the ad, before firing a handgun twice into a television. "I proposed a plan to stop all the mud-slinging from outsiders, so we can keep this election focused on the issues. Unfortunately, Mark Begich said no. I'm Dan Sullivan and I approved this message, because Mark Begich should tell his D.C. friends to stay out of Alaska."
The ad hits on a recurring theme in the race - that Alaskans do not appreciate meddling in their politics by outside groups - and provides a not-so-subtle reminder that Sullivan supports gun rights.
The evidence on how effective negative ads are is mixed, and voters may be more likely to tune these ads out when the airwaves are saturated with them. In any case, Begich is unlikely to support a pledge that would limit the resources that could be used on his behalf in a close race.
Sullivan hasn't received much support for the proposal from editorial boards in the state, either. "At first glance, the agreement's principle is well intentioned: why not cut out negative ads made with outside money?" wrote the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. "But the particulars of the race make it clear that this agreement is a political gambit rather than a true effort at campaign finance reform."
Max Croes, a Begich spokesman, said Sullivan "isn't being honest with Alaskans" because he supports the Supreme Court decision that loosened campaign finance laws on outside groups. Sullivan "believes corporation, Karl Rove and the Koch brothers should be able to spend unlimited amounts of money in their attempts to buy elections," he said.
By Susan Davis, USA TODAY
Read the original story: Ad watch: Sullivan challenges Begich on 'Alaska Agreement'