Campaign

Alaska group backing independent candidate appears linked to Democrats

Facebook: Al Gross

A new outside group formed to support an independent candidate running against Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) appears linked to prominent Democratic super PACs in Washington, D.C., as Democrats grow increasingly interested in what could be a low-budget play at a dark-horse Senate contest.

Independent Alaska, an independent expenditure committee formed Sept. 3, appears set to purchase advertising on behalf of Al Gross, a surgeon and commercial fisherman running as an independent against Sullivan.

The group’s Federal Election Commission paperwork shows its records will be maintained at an address in Washington that is identical to Perkins Coie, the law firm that counts most Democratic senators and campaign committees among its clients. The contact email address uses a Perkins Coie domain name.

Independent Alaska will do its banking through Amalgamated Bank, the financial institution of choice for many Democratic causes and campaigns. Amalgamated is owned by an affiliate of SEIU, the service industry union.

The arrangement is similar to an outside group that sprang up to run ads promoting an arch-conservative candidate in Kansas, former Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R). That group, Sunflower State, later revealed in campaign finance reports that it had been funded by the Senate Majority PAC, the largest Democratic super PAC.

A Senate Majority PAC spokesperson declined to comment. A senior attorney at Perkins Coie did not immediately respond to an email.

It is not uncommon for groups like the Democratic and Republican Governors Association to open state-specific political action committees. Doing so gives them the chance to run advertisements that are paid for by generic-sounding groups, rather than partisan organizations.

It is less common for Senate-specific groups to run such advertisements — though this is at least the third time this year that a super PAC has created a state affiliate. The Senate Leadership Fund, the largest Republican super PAC, created a special PAC to boost a liberal candidate in North Carolina against former state Sen. Cal Cunningham (D), the favored candidate of national Democrats.

Gross has quietly impressed Democratic donors and activists in recent months. He raised $5.2 million through the end of July, according to his latest FEC filing, and his campaign was the most surprising buzz at a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee donor event held earlier this summer, according to two participants.

Sullivan retains a significant cash advantage. He won his first term in 2014, ousting Sen. Mark Begich (D) by just 6,000 votes, or about 2 percentage points.

Even a minor investment in a state like Alaska can have a substantial impact. Television advertising is cheap, and outside groups will not have to contend with candidates running for president in a state that is not on the list of toss-up battlegrounds.

The only recent poll in this year’s race, an automated survey conducted by the Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling, showed Sullivan and Gross tied at 43 percent at the end of August. A survey conducted by the local firm Alaska Survey Research, in late June and early July, found Sullivan leading 53 percent to 40 percent.

 

Tags Al Gross Alaska Dan Sullivan Mark Begich

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