Paperwork filed with the Federal Election Commission Tuesday hopes to give Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell a boost in his bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich in the 2014 race for U.S. Senate, in the form of a new super PAC dubbed "Freedom's Frontier."
In the FEC filing, Freedom's Frontier treasurer Stephen Wackowski -- who also served as a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski during her 2010 campaign -- writes that the super PAC "intends to raise funds in unlimited amounts." Also working with the new group is Taylor Bickford, former head of the Alaska Redistricting Board and who will coordinate the Alaska portion of the Super PAC's efforts. Overseeing the national effort will be Alan Philp, who had previously worked for both former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney's campaign to win the Republican nomination for president in 2008, as well as a regional director for the Republican National Committee.
A super PAC, or political action committee, is permitted to raise unlimited funds in order to support a candidate or political issue, though they can't directly contribute to a candidate's campaign or interact with the campaign. Super PACs have become increasingly common in the election cycle, as the Supreme Court ruling on Citizen's United paved the way for such unlimited fundraising and spending.
Incumbent Begich has already seen both support and opposition from outside interest groups running campaigns for issues like immigration and gun control. One group has also said it will put as much as $5 million toward the Democrat's re-election efforts.
"Allies of Sen. Begich have already announced the formation of a super PAC to raise millions of dollars in support of his reelection," Bickford wrote in a statement. "Harry Reid and national Democrats will spend millions of dollars in Alaska. And we all remember the influence of outside groups in the 2010 election involving Joe Miller. Freedom’s Frontier is being created to ensure that Mead Treadwell, a principled conservative leader who will fight for Alaska in the Senate, has the support he needs to secure the Republican nomination and go on to win the general."
On the fundraising front, the super PAC hopes to help level the playing field for Treadwell, who only announced his intent to officially run for Senate in June after months of deliberating, allowing Begich to get a leg up in campaign fundraising. In his first FEC filing in July, Treadwell announced that he had raised about $170,000 in an abbreviated fundraising quarter, $50,000 of which was his own money. By comparison, Begich raised nearly $1 million in each of the first two quarters of 2013, and had about $2 million cash on hand in July. Joe Miller, the failed 2010 Senate candidate and so far the only other serious Republican candidate to officially announce his candidacy for 2014, had about $320,000 cash on hand but had raised only about $18,000 in the quarter.
Meanwhile, other Republican candidates may yet cast their names into the hat for 2014. Speculation continues that Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan could make an announcement after he returns from deployment in Afghanistan as part of the Marine Corps Reserve. And Sarah Palin, the former half-term Alaska governor and failed 2008 vice presidential candidate, has said she hasn't ruled out a run herself.
A recent poll -- with questionable methodology -- put Palin as the choice among GOP voters to take the Alaska primary. The same poll, however, said that Treadwell would fare significantly better than Palin in the general election against Begich.
Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com