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By Julie Kliegman May 19, 2014

GOP opponent says Mark Begich took campaign money from Koch brothers

In Alaska, no U.S. Senate candidate wants to be tied to the billionaire Koch brothers. Back-and-forth ads between incumbent Mark Begich, a Democrat, and former Attorney General Dan Sullivan, a Republican frontrunner, have both slung accusations of Koch affiliation.

A pro-Begich super PAC, Put Alaska First, fired the first shot in April. It released the ad "Lost," which criticized Sullivan for not doing enough to prevent the Koch-owned refinery from closing, resulting in a loss of 80 jobs.

"Dan Sullivan remains silent about the jobs being lost here," the ad said. "And those same billionaires, the Koch brothers, are supporting his campaign."

The next week Sullivan released a radio ad: "Dan Sullivan has never taken a dime from the Koch brothers," the narrator said. "It’s Begich who has taken campaign cash from the Kochs."

As a Democrat, Begich wouldn’t be a typical recipient of Koch funds. So we decided to fact-check whether the attack was accurate.

Our colleagues at FactCheck.org pointed out that although Sullivan hasn’t accepted money directly from the Koch brothers or their affiliates, the Koch-backed Americans For Prosperity has spent nearly $1 million on Begich attack ads. Sullivan isn't receiving those funds, but he does benefit from an attack on his opponent that can't be legally coordinated directly between the candidate and the group.

As for Begich, we found that KochPAC, a Koch Industries group, gave $5,000 to Begich’s Great Land PAC back in 2010. Begich’s PAC primarily gives money to candidates, as well as state and federal Democratic parties.

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In 2010, the Kochs also gave money to Democratic senators like Mary Landrieu, Mark Pryor and Chuck Schumer. In 2013 and 2014, they haven’t given any money to Democratic Senate candidates, and just three Democratic House candidates.

A spokeswoman for the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which runs OpenSecrets.org, said she’d be surprised to see much Koch money going to Democrats this cycle.

A Koch Industries spokesman told Politico in March 2014 that KochPAC doesn’t base its donations on the candidate’s party, but rather on the company’s business and policy interests.

Our ruling

Sullivan said Mark Begich "has taken campaign cash from the Kochs" but that Sullivan "hasn’t taken a dime." In 2010, KochPAC donated $5,000 to a Begich-affiliated PAC. But that's a modest amount by campaign-finance standards, and Begich hasn’t received any more in the past four years.

While Sullivan hasn’t received money directly from the Kochs, he and Begich’s other Republican challengers certainly benefit from the much larger TV ad buys by Koch-affiliated groups attacking the Democrat. A Koch-funded group, Americans For Prosperity, has spent nearly $1 million in Alaska benefiting Sullivan and other Republicans in the race.

We rate this claim Mostly False.

Our Sources

Email interview with Max Croes, Mark Begich campaign spokesman, May 13, 2014

Email and phone interviews with Mike Anderson, Dan Sullivan campaign spokesman, May 13, 2014

Email interview with Viveca Novak, Center for Responsive Politics spokeswoman, May 19, 2014

FactCheck.org, " ‘Outright lies’ in Alaska?" May 2, 2014

OpenSecrets.org, "Great Land PAC," April 18, 2014

OpenSecrets.org, "Koch Industries 2010 cycle," Feb. 4, 2013

Politico, "Back when the Kochs gave to Democrats…" March 19, 2014

Put Alaska First, "Lost," April 19, 2014

Sullivan for Senate, "No shame," April 29, 2014

GOP opponent says Mark Begich took campaign money from Koch brothers

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