WASHINGTON -- The re-election campaign of Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) has pulled a controversial ad that criticizes his Republican opponent, former Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan, for signing off on the early release of a sex offender who now stands charged with murder and the sexual assault of a 2-year-old.
In the ad, a retired Anchorage police officer points to the scene of the crime and charges that Sullivan let "a lot of sex offenders get off with light sentences." The allegation prompted Sullivan to air his own spot in which he defended his record. Both ads were pulled off the air, however, after the victims' family requested they be taken down out of concern they could affect the trial for the case, according to KTVA in Alaska.
"You are tearing this family apart to the point that your ad was so shocking to them they now want to permanently leave the state as quickly as possible," wrote Bryon Collins, an attorney who represents the victims' family, in a letter addressed to Begich on Monday. "Again, to be perfectly clear, it was your ad that shocked them."
"You[r] campaign is playing pure politics at the expense of my clients, and frankly has done only what is in the best interests of 'Mark Begich' rather than protecting the victims of the most serious crime in Alaska history," he added.
Sullivan denounced the ad last week and accused Begich of "having no shame."
"He is lying to Alaskans and using the murder of an elderly couple and the sexual assault of a two-year old for his own political gain, and it's despicable," Sullivan said.
Current state Attorney General Michael Geraghty, a Republican, accused Begich of attempting to politicize a tragedy.
"The recent TV advertisement attempting to hold Dan Sullivan responsible for a violent crime that took place in Anchorage, AK in May 2013 has no basis in fact. Drawing publicity to the case in a political ad, and highlighting the home where a family suffered such a horrific tragedy, is inappropriate and offensive," he said.
According to The Washington Examiner, Begich's campaign did not receive permission from the family before running the ad.
UPDATE: Justin Barasky, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon, but noted only that Sullivan was forced to take down his ad. The attorney for the victims' family requested that both campaigns remove their ads, however. The statement read:
Just like his residency and his support for laws that take away Alaskans' land rights, Dan Sullivan is now under fire for his failed record as Attorney General. Sullivan's irresponsible tenure as AG has become a major vulnerability for him in Alaska's U.S. Senate race. Sullivan is so desperate not to discuss his failed record that he shamefully named an open criminal case in his response ad and has since been forced to pull the ad off the air. Even Alaska's current Attorney General had to fix the sentencing rules after Sullivan's tenure as Attorney General to put a stop to plea deals for violent crimes and sexual abuse cases. Alaskans deserve answers from Dan Sullivan surrounding his failed record. Much like Dan Sullivan's numerous residency problems, his failed record as Attorney General will now be front and center for the rest of the campaign and is more evidence that Alaskans can't trust him.
UPDATE, 10:00 p.m. -- Alaskans for Begich communications director Max Croes released the following statement on the Dan Sullivan ad "Shameful" and the Alaskans for Begich ad "Crime Scene":
As announced on Sunday evening, out of respect for a family seeking justice Alaskans for Begich has removed any references to the pending criminal case from television advertising after an ad from Dan Sullivan named a defendant. An attorney for the family has acknowledged the campaign's actions on Sunday evening were in accordance with the pending requests.
Alaskans for Begich will continue to call on former Attorney General Sullivan to be honest with Alaskans and discuss his failed record as attorney general. Sullivan's light sentences required a subsequent attorney general to overhaul sentencing processes, he focused on politically motivated lawsuits and his attacks on Alaska Native rights have been unconscionable.