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Here's another reason why Senator Mark Begich (D. AK) needs to win re-election:

http://insurancenewsnet.com/...

Today, the United States Senate Homeland Security & Government Affairs Committee passed by voice vote the "Smart Savings Act," originally introduced by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and cosponsored by Senators Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) to help increase financial returns for federal employees' retirement plans without increasing federal spending. The "Smart Savings Act" would change the automatic enrollment for federal employees enrolling in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) from the overly conservative "G Fund" to an age-appropriate, lifecycle "L Fund" with higher returns. Employees would retain their existing discretion to elect for more or less conservative investment options. Companion legislation has also been introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressmen Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

"I'm pleased the Smart Savings Act was voted out of committee today, moving us one step closer to improving the retirement security of federal workers without any additional cost to taxpayers," said Senator Warren. "This is a no-brainer that will help people save money for retirement and make a real difference for many federal employees and their families."

"Today's vote is an important step forward for legislation that will help ensure that more federal employees have their retirement funds in an account that provides a larger nest egg and more security as they move towards retirement," said Senator Portman.

"I am glad the committee took action on the Smart Savings Act, which will help federal workers in Alaska and across the nation earn a greater return on their investments while helping retirees earn more savings and have a better quality of life," said Senator Begich. "Providing this financial security will not only help keep Alaska families strong, but also will help keep our economy strong and allow Alaska's federal workers to have a more stable retirement." - Insurance News Net, 6/25/14

Here's a little more info:

http://www.govexec.com/...

UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 26: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., listens during the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
The TSP launched a program in August 2010 that automatically signs up all new civilian hires to allocate 3 percent of their basic pay to the G fund, unless they choose to end their contributions or change the amount. Participants also receive a 3 percent match and a 1 percent contribution from their agencies, unless they opt out of automatic enrollment. The G fund is the most stable investment of the TSP’s options, while the L funds are a mix of the TSP’s G, F, C, S and I offerings, and are crafted to help yield higher returns through diversity.

The legislation would only apply to newly hired federal employees who are auto-enrolled in the TSP. It will not affect TSP participants who are currently auto-enrolled. The G Fund would continue to be the default enrollment for service members under the bill.

The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, which administers the TSP, last year requested the legislation to switch the default from government securities to the lifecycle funds. The Employee Thrift Advisory Council, which advises the TSP board on investment policies and the plan’s administration and is made up of representatives from employee organizations, unions and the uniformed services, endorsed the legislative proposal in November after initially opposing it.

“This proposal is one way to help people save money for retirement -- it's a no-brainer that will make a real difference for many federal employees by helping to increase their retirement savings without any additional cost to the government,” said Warren, when she introduced the bill in March. - Government Executive, 6/25/14

Again, just another reason why we need to keep Begich in the Senate.  Now we all know that Begich has a very tough race ahead of him but he's no stranger to tough races:

http://thehill.com/...

Begich’s roots run deep in the state. The lifelong Alaskan, whose father, Nick, was a former congressman who tragically perished in a plane crash, has framed himself as a fighter for Alaska and a bulwark against federal government overreach. His ads, highly praised by Democrats, have focused on projects he’s helped bring to the state — and his fights with the federal government to help increase oil and gas production.

Even Republicans acknowledge that he’s running a terrific race.

“Begich has run a great campaign,” said one unaligned Alaska GOP strategist.

“As a political candidate, he’s extremely skilled. He has a fairly aggressive schedule, gets to everything he can, and as a candidate, he’s very good. ... He’s going to be tough.”

But Democrats admit the state’s deep antipathy for President Obama and distrust of the federal government, which plays an outsized role in Alaskans’ daily lives, presents a tough challenge even for someone as skilled Begich.

“Without a third-party candidate to siphon away from Sullivan, the math is just simply difficult. That’s what keeps everybody up,” one Alaska Democratic strategist said. “The math is hard, and national Democrats’ numbers are a drag, and voters’ antsiness of wanting a change worries me.”

Begich is doing everything he can to put distance between himself and the national party. One of his first ads featured the senator barreling across the frozen Arctic Ocean on a snow machine, saying he forced national Democrats to allow oil drilling in the area.

The incumbent argues he knows how to win despite his partisan affiliation.

“Every race I’ve run, people told me I couldn’t win,” Begich told The Hill. “I make it clear, I disagree with Obama on gun rights, on oil and gas, when he tried to close down the F16s in Fairbanks, when he didn’t treat the Alaskan Native community right on healthcare. I held up a nominee when I disagreed with him on mining.”

Begich says he knows the GOP is trying to make the race about Obama but argues strategists from the Lower 48 don’t get the unique state.

“I get that he’s going to try to nationalize it, use these bumper stickers. But Alaskans want to know details,” he said about Sullivan. “At the end of the day, what Alaskans want to know is, what have you done, what are you going to do. And I work across party lines to get results for Alaska.” - The Hill, 6/26/14

And Begich is anticipating that he's going to be facing off against Dan Sullivan (R. AK):

http://juneauempire.com/...

Internal polling commissioned by U.S. Senate hopeful Dan Sullivan’s campaign show the former Alaska Attorney General is holding a nine-point lead over Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell in the race for the Republican nomination.

Joe Miller, the Republicans’ nominee for the U.S. Senate in 2010 who went on to lose to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, in a write-in campaign, trails Sullivan by 23 points with just 13 percent support, according to the poll.

Despite trailing by nine points in the poll, Treadwell expressed optimism at the fact the poll shows him narrowing what was a 16-point Sullivan lead last month.

“That’s a great trend,” Treadwell told the Empire after hearing the figures. “By election day on Aug. 19 we should be doing just fine — even by their polling.”

The Treadwell camp pointed to a Dittman poll commissioned by former Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan — a candidate for lieutenant governor — last month that polled likely Republican primary voters and showed Treadwell statistically tied with Sullivan.

“We seem to be doing very well with likely Republican primary voters,” Treadwell said, adding, “To suggest that Dan Sullivan has raised a huge amount of outside money and so he’s the automatic winner is a joke.”

The latest poll was conducted by Portland-based Moore Information — a firm regularly employed by Republicans and most recently by Sullivan in May — and it included 500 telephone interviews of registered voters around the state. The sample was selected to be representative of the state’s party affiliation breakdown. - Juneau Empire, 6/26/14

By the way, Mead Treadwell's (R. AK) still under scrutiny for trying to suppress the Alaska Native vote:

http://www.newsminer.com/...

A trial is under way in federal court about a lawsuit by four Alaska Native tribal councils and two Native men, who say state elections officials violated their constitutional voting rights by failing to provide election information in their languages.

Attorneys with the Native American Rights Fund filed suit in July 2013 on behalf of village councils for Venetie, Arctic Village, Togiak and Hooper Bay, as well as two individual voters: Manokotak resident Mike Toyukak and Alakanuk resident Fred Augustine.

In essence, the lawsuit states state officials, including defendants Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and Director of Elections Gail Fenumiai, denied voting rights to Alaskans with limited English proficiency by failing to do enough to translate voting materials into their languages, Gwich’in or Yup’ik in this case.

According to a trial brief by attorneys for the defendants, the state elections officials followed standards for non-English language voting materials that were equivalent to those for English speakers and have taken all reasonable steps to implement those standards. - News Miner, 6/25/14

We'll still need to see what type of impact Tea Party Wild Card Joe Miller (R. AK) will have on the race.  There are several reasons he's in third place but this might be a reason:

http://www.adn.com/...

The Alaska State Troopers' reality show is coming to an end.

Troopers director Col. James Cockrell on Tuesday emailed Department of Public Safety employees announcing the state has decided not to participate in another season of "Alaska State Troopers," the popular, "Cops"-style series on National Geographic, said trooper spokeswoman Beth Ipsen.

"DPS has decided to end the production after this season after five years of filming with (production company) PSG Films," Ipsen wrote in an email. "This decision was not reflective of PSG Films or the quality of their product. It was just time to focus on the job of providing public safety without any added outside distractions."

Cockrell did not rule out resuming the series "in a couple of years if there is a desire among DPS to begin another chapter."

The TV crews have become a common sight alongside troopers in Alaska.

A 49-year-old Anchorage man wanted on felony charges for escaping from a halfway house turned himself in Friday after watching the show, troopers said. Brian Fahey said he surrendered to the agency because he believed they "were more professional and courteous to the people they arrested," according to a trooper report posted online.

Earlier in the month, a film crew for the reality show was accompanying a trooper who issued U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller a ticket for a broken taillight. - Anchorage Daily News, 6/25/14

So yeah.  With initiatives to legalize medical marijuana and raise the minimum wage on the ballot, it should help Begich with turnout.  Not to mention Alaska Democrats have been hitting the GOP nominees on this issue:

http://insurancenewsnet.com/...

The Supreme Court soon will issue a decision on the Hobby Lobby lawsuit, and if the court agrees with Hobby Lobby it would add hundreds of dollars or more to many Alaskans' annual medical bills. The Hobby Lobby corporation is seeking the ability to cancel insurance coverage of both contraception and patient/doctor meetings about contraception, which would force women to pay out-of-pocket just to talk to their doctors about reproductive health care. Mead Treadwell, Dan Sullivan, and Joe Miller all have endorsed Hobby Lobby's effort to let bosses take away their employee's health coverage.

"By saying that bosses should be able to take away women's health coverage, Treadwell, Miller, and Sullivan have shown a complete disconnect with Alaskans' respect for women's privacy," said Kay Brown, Executive Director of the Alaska Democratic Party.

How Much Would Hobby Lobby Cost Alaska Women?

* Hobby Lobby would let bosses cancel coverage of women's visits with doctors to discuss reproductive health. Cost to Alaska women: Approximately $200 per doctor visit (http://www.alaskajournal.com/...).

* Hobby Lobby would let bosses cancel women's contraception and reproductive health coverage. Cost to Alaska women: $500 to $1,000 per year (http://www.motherjones.com/...) (depending on birth control method), and up to $34,000 over a woman's lifetime (http://www.motherjones.com/...).

Surveys indicate that a majority of young women struggle to afford birth control (http://www.motherjones.com/...), and that women who can't afford birth control often forgo it. Data from Alaska indicates that lack of contraception would cause an increase in the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions (http://www.nationalfamilyplanning.org/...).

The Kochs, Club for Growth and Karl Rove all really want this seat and they are spending big to defeat Begich.  Begich may not be perfect but work to expand Social Security, fighting for Native American affairs, GMOs and civil liberties are all top reasons we have to make sure he wins in November.  Click here to donate and get involved with his campaign:
http://www.markbegich.com/

Originally posted to pdc on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 03:28 PM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, Social Security Defenders, The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, and Native American Netroots.

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