Deep pockets aid Murkowski with attack ads on Tshibaka

A mailer from Alaskans for L.I.S.A., plus a sticker that was available to attendees at a recent campaign event for candidate Kelly Tshibaka. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

An independent group working to re-elect Sen. Lisa Murkowski raised $2.4 million in the past three months — four times as much as rival Republican Kelly Tshibaka, the target of the group’s attack ads.

With substantial help from a billionaire investment fund founder, Alaskans for L.I.S.A. out-raised Murkowski’s own quarterly campaign total of $1.7 million.

The pro-Murkowski political action committee is separate from Murkowski’s campaign. It has to be, according to federal campaign law. As an independent superPAC, Alaskans for L.I.S.A. can collect contributions in unlimited amounts.

The biggest contributor, by far, is hedge fund founder Kenneth Griffin. He has given Alaskans for L.I.S.A. $1.5 million.

“He is of the old school, the Chamber of Commerce, business and manufacturers’ Republican Party, not the evangelical right,” said Don Wiener, and investigator who has analyzed Griffin’s campaign contributions for the Wisconsin-based Center for Media and Democracy. “And Murkowski completely fits the bill.”

Griffin, whom Bloomberg lists as the 42nd richest man in the world, did not respond to messages left for him at his firm, Citadel. Wiener has never spoken to Griffin, either.

“Right now, he’s the largest (Republican) donor in the United States, if you combine state campaigns and federal campaigns,” Wiener said.

Alaskans for L.I.S.A is run by, among others, Murkowski’s former chief of staff Mike “Fish” Pawlowski, former legislator Jerry Mackie, political consultant Jim Lottsfeldt and Anchorage attorney Scott Kendall.

Another notable contributor is James Murdoch, the son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch and the younger brother of Fox News chairman Lachlan Murdoch. James and wife, Kathryn Murdoch, each contributed $125,000 to Alaskans for L.I.S.A.

One of the group’s attack ads go after Tshibaka for something she said at a campaign event in March. She said she’d like to ban the delivery of abortion pills by mail.

“Does birth control fall underneath that same category?” a man in the audience asked.

“It would,” Tshibaka responded. “For people who aren’t read up on this, all birth control is an abortifacient. Abortion is the third step in the birth control process.”

The Tshibaka campaign said in an email that Tshibaka was referring to abortion pills.

“She does not support restricting the sale of birth control pills through the mail or otherwise,” the email said. “Millions of women, including herself, have taken them for a variety of reasons, so this is a ridiculous attack.”

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.