Alaska GOP gives Murkowski a thumbs down. Nationally, Republicans still give her campaign cash.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (at right) speaks with scientists Sarah Gravem (left) and Kristy Kroeker (middle) about their research on sea star wasting disease and urchin barrens at the Sitka Sound Science Center on July 10, 2021. (Berett Wilber/KCAW)

Former President Donald Trump calls Sen. Lisa Murkowski “disloyal.” State party leaders want her to quit identifying herself as a Republican candidate.

But Murkowski’s campaign finance reports show that outside Alaska, she still has a comfortable spot in the Republican fold.

Murkowski’s most recent report shows a pair of $5,000 contributions this spring from Bluegrass PAC. That’s a political action committee affiliated with the Senate’s top Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Murkowski has crossed Republicans on a host of issues, and McConnell had another Republican candidate in Alaska he could have supported: Kelly Tshibaka.

Tshibaka is pitching herself as the rightful Republican in the race. She points out that the Alaska Republican Party has already endorsed her.

“It’s actually a huge honor and unprecedented to have a primary candidate endorsed for the U.S. Senate race,” Tshibaka said. “So that functionally makes me the primary candidate.”

Department of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka answers questions on Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s newest budget proposal on Wednesday, December 11, 2019, at the Capitol in Juneau, Alaska. (Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

But the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the party campaign arm devoted to getting and keeping Republican senators in office, is supporting Murkowski, too.

“Yeah, absolutely,” McConnell said, when asked whether NRSC would support Murkowski despite Trump’s pledge to campaign against her.

The NRSC spent more than $300 million on 2020 races. It hasn’t contributed yet this year to Murkowski’s campaign. But an NRSC spokesman reaffirmed that the committee will support all Republican senators, including Murkowski, and specifically in her primary race.

Murkowski’s biggest defiance of her party was in February when she voted to impeach Trump. Murkowski said later she put American principles over party.

“If that doesn’t have value,” Murkowski told reporters, “then what kind of party are we?”

The state party censured her.

Murkowski has not yet launched an official re-election campaign, but fundraising suggests she will: She’s raised $1.5 million this year, double Tshibaka’s tally. Tshibaka noted another difference:

“She’s only got 6% of her total funds raised being from actual Alaskans,” Tshibaka said in a recent interview. “Whereas half of our funds raised so far from actual Alaskans.”

Murkowski’s campaign finance reports reflect the power of incumbency. Political action committees representing industry and corporations contributed a substantial amount.

Members of Congress have their own political action committees, called leadership PACs, that help cement political alliances. At least nine of Murkowski’s Republican colleagues in the Senate have already contributed to her through their leadership PACs.

Tshibaka said it shows Murkowski is an insider.

“I think it’s typical for DC incumbents to stick with incumbents,” she said. “And I’m sure that when I’m an incumbent, I can count on the support of the other incumbents there as well, because that’s what incumbents do.”

Alaska Public Media

Alaska Public Media is our partner station in Anchorage. KTOO collaborates with partners across the state to cover important news and to share stories with our audiences.

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