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Oct. 20, 2022

Celebrity spotting in the FEC reports

I'm at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention as I write this. Mary Peltola just spoke and the mood was electric. More on that below.

What I really wanted to talk to you about today is  more base: money.

This weekend I scrolled through the latest campaign finance reports and, among the thousands of contributors to Mary Peltola, I spotted a few celebrities.

Oh look: There’s Barbra Streisand! And Bette Midler! Donald Henley of Los Angeles. Is that Eagles founder Don Henley? Yes it is! And then my eyes fell on (keep it together, Liz) a name I know from the credits following “The Simpsons”: Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer! (This paragraph now has more exclamation points than any I’ve written in my entire career. I feel woozy.)

Peltola’s campaign finance report is 1,890 pages, and it covers just the last 24 days of September. Have a gander. If you find any other notable names, let me know.

The main question I look to answer in reports candidates have to file with the Federal Election Commission is pretty basic: Who is ahead in the race for cash and by how much? Answer: Peltola, by a lot.

She raised $2.3 million in September, according to her latest campaign finance report, which covers just 24 days of last month. Meanwhile, Sarah Palin brought in about $230,000 over the same time period, while Nick Begich III took in $57,000.

Peltola fans held Peltola fans at AFN today. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

Money isn’t everything, but plenty of research shows the candidate who spends the most usually wins. Still, it’s complicated.

Just take Peltola. She won the special election in August despite spending far less than Palin or Begich. 

And studies that show big spenders usually win don’t solve the chicken-or-egg question: Is it money that helps the best funded candidate win? Or do people see that a candidate is likely to win so they give her more money? 

People do love to give to winners. As Peltola’s experience proves. Check out the campaign finance report she filed before the special election, covering most of July. Peltola’s campaign contributions: $136,000. 

Now check out the report covering August and the five days after Aug. 31, when we learned that Peltola won the special election. Her contribution total: $1.5 million. 

We can look at this cynically. No doubt, among the thousands of people who gave money to Peltola, are some who hope it gets them influence. Or we can look at this as a natural law of human dynamics. Success attracts cash, and once you have a staff, fundraising consultants and a big travel budget, you can raise even more money. The Peltola campaign has momentum.

She is certainly not unstoppable. Republican voters could make full use of the ranked choice ballot to render Peltola the shortest serving Alaska Congress member since statehood.

Or she could follow in the footsteps of the last Alaskan to win a special congressional election. Don Young kept the seat for the rest of his life.

That’s it for me today. Thanks for reading. I’m at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention this afternoon. Here's my latest story on Peltola's keynote speech. For Alaska’s congressional delegation, these are among the most important speeches they’ll make all year.

Let me leave you with a few upcoming dates:

• AFN’s candidates forum is at 9:45 a.m. Saturday, starting with the U.S. House race, then U.S. Senate and governor.

• Debate for the State continues next week on Alaska Public Media television. The U.S. House candidates face off Wednesday and the Senate candidates on Thursday. The debates start at 7 p.m. both evenings.

• Early voting locations open Monday. And it’s not too late to request an absentee ballot to vote by mail.

- Liz Ruskin

Follow me on twitter: @lruskin

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Peltola receives rock-star welcome as AFN keynote speaker

“I'm uplifted in this moment because of you,” said Rep. Mary Peltola, wearing the late Rep. Don Young's signature bolo tie — a gift from his daughter Joni, presented on-stage.


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Peltola trounces Palin and Begich in September fundraising, wins over Don Young loyalists

My full story on the latest financial filings. 



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