Mark Begich's lucrative port contract - Must Read Alaska
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Monday, September 23, 2019
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Mark Begich’s lucrative port contract

Mark Begich was mayor of Anchorage from 2003 to 2009, when the most critical design and funding decisions were made about the expansion of the Port of Anchorage, now called the Port of Alaska, although essentially a department of the municipality.

It all went horribly wrong in those six Begich years.

Begich blames the previous mayor, George Wuerch, for signing a contract with the Maritime Administration (MARAD), an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation, to provide oversight of the project. The contract was signed weeks before Begich took office.

But the project went forward and melted down under Begich.

Now, the Anchorage Assembly has given Begich’s consulting company part of a $45,000-$100,000 contract to see what can be done for a project that has been on hold since 2010.

The contract to look into the port expansion disaster and suggest a path forward has been co-awarded to Ascent PGM and Begich’s Northern Compass Group. They were the only two who bid on the study.

Ascent is a project management group, an incarnation of the old “Rise Alaska” group founded by Leif Selkregg, a man with long ties to the Alaska Democratic Party establishment. Roe Sturgulewski is one of the senior executives in the group; he’s married to Carol Murkowski, one of the Gov. Frank and Nancy Murkowski offspring.

If you’re thinking there are a lot of blue-blood political names in the mix, you’re right. Sturgulewski is also the son for former Sen. Arliss Sturgulewski, while Selkregg is the son of a once-well-known civil rights activist, the late Fred Selkregg, who arrived in Anchorage before Statehood. Leif is also the sibling of Sheila Selkregg, who served on the Anchorage Assembly during the Sullivan Administration. The two are registered and reliable Democrats.

That political lineage also includes former Gov. Bill Sheffield, who was the Port director from 2001-2012. He, too, is a loyal Democrat.

Selkregg’s  Rise Alaska has changed hands after it ran out of billable business during the capital project slowdown in Alaska in 2010, when the number of federally funded projects coming to Alaska dried up; Sen. Ted Stevens was gone from office as of January, 2009. Freshman Sen. Mark Begich (2009-2015) was a welter weight senator, unable to steer projects to Alaska, in spite of his friendship with President Obama. Congressional earmarks were out of fashion.

Selkregg is not without expertise, however. His companies have worked on other port projects around Alaska.

Northern Compass is, well, a political arm of Mark Begich. If some famous people are “famous for being famous,” then Begich is politically connected because he’s politically connected. He’s a Democrat, the current mayor of Anchorage (Ethan Berkowitz) is a Democrat, and most of the Anchorage Assembly leans left.

The costs of the port’s 10-year expansion project have skyrocketed from $350 million to close to $2 billion at last count. No one person can figure out why. The work was supposed to be competed in 2013, but was halted in 2010 when the new mayor, Dan Sullivan (not the senator) realized he had inherited a mess. After reviewing the work, Sullivan stuck a fork in the project and declared it “done.” There would be lawsuits. Most have been resolved in the municipality’s favor; the MARAD lawsuit is still pending an outcome.

Maybe Begich and Selkregg can navigate a path forward for the port. The question will then be, how much will tariffs have to go up to support the completion. That’s a question whose answer every consumer and business in Alaska will have an interest.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Show me one Democrat-run, publicly funded project that has been either successful or completed anywhere near on time or on budget. They simply turn into scams in which everyone with Democrat connections reaches so far into the trough that only their curly little tails are sticking out. Look at the Boston “Big Ditch;” I don’t know if the thing is even finished to this day. Look at CA’s high speed rail to nowhere than did nothing but pay Democrat politicians, unions, and union contractors billions for accomplishing nothing. Republicans aren’t immune; KABATA gave a whole succession of people who had a friend in the Governor or Commissioner of DOT&PFs office $100K or more a year, often much more, for years; everybody with a brain knew it would never be built, but they sure made a lot of money talking about it. Alaska was formed as a Democrat state, even the Republicans in Alaska largely think like Democrats, and they have sticking their hands in the till down to a fine art.

    • Art, it’s not just projects. Democrats have had dominion over K-12 education, university education, print media, broadcast media, social media, entertainment and all levels of government. Some great examples of their prowess are initiatives to benefit blacks and Native Americans, illegal immigrants and the homeless. About the only thing they are competent at is abortions. Of course their objective is only to control the economy (socialism), so they are only trying to grow government so the public sector hires more workers who typically vote for Democrats who support programs to hire more Democrats. The GND is the latest scam – socialism in a green wrapper.

      • Erak, you’re close, but just a bit off the mark.

        “Of course their objective is only to control the economy…”

        Their objective is power. With power, comes money, with money comes more power.

        Wash.

        Rinse.

        Repeat.

        • Art and Erak, dont forget private sector unions (labor unions). The union bosses all run with Democrats. But the rank and file sometimes has their own path. Trump won Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan….all big union states.

  • In addition to this one, I’d love to learn how much will Begich be compensated for his role in the ML&P / CEA merger? He certainly does get some sweetheart deals from the current Mayor and Assembly. It’ll be interesting to see what Northern Compass can add to the mix on the port fiasco.

  • Suzanne, your stories and ability to dig deep are unsurpassed by ANY newspaper in Alaska. Thanks for keeping us so well informed. Because of you, Democrats do not sleep well.

    • Marla, you are absolutely correct. Suzanne is the only real trustworthy media in Alaska – that includes printed, digital, radio, television and social. That is how bad journalism has become – one journalist we can trust their information and sources, out of numerous media outlets, serving almost 800,000 residents. Thank God for Suzanne!

  • They sleep well. No conscience. Democrats are not well-trained as business people. They rely on party connections and lineage, as stated above, to get contracts and grants…..then run everything into the ground. Self-serving, self-interested, and unprinciped as hell. But they sqwack like self-righteous little people. No wonder they hate Donald Trump. They are jealous of him. They hate bare-knuckled street fighters. The party of chickens, liars and haters. Now they want Trump’s business records and 1040’s ….for political purposes only. Trump again in 2020….guaranteed. Begich…DONE.

  • Senator Begich will go to great efforts to protect the reputation (if any exists) of former Guv and Port Director Sheffield. Begich, Sheffield and their old buddy Tony Knowles have always looked out for one another. That will continue with this little play. I doubt if anything approaching a reasonable path forward will come out of this effort. Rather, we will see a bunch of whitewashing.

  • Begich is the home grown “Clinton” of Alaska. Get’s away with enormous graft and corruption and laughs about it.

  • More reasons I’m glad Dunleavy is our Governor!!

  • Now we see the Sheffield-Begich Nexxus of the good old D boys who know how to milk a fat hog. It is an absolute tragedy what these two did.
    Bungled and Skimmed, then Wasted from incompetence. Trifecta.

  • Dig a bit deeper and check out PND, the engineers for the project. They had a colorful history of faulty projects in Alaska.

  • Hurry and spend as much money as possible before the new train tracks are constructed from Canada to North Pole and then down to Point McKinsey’s deep water port. This will make Anchorage port dang near obsolete. Need to make it too big to fail ….. and fast
    Build the bridge.
    Cut our losses

  • Corruption is alive and well , thank you very much all you dummy taxpayers.The rent-a-friend sycophantic system is why politicians cling onto power as long as possible. Its so rampant that the bilking of the public is an expected event.

    I wonder if an ELECTED AG would make a difference. Currently there is no check on these slimy deals. I wish I could get one of these sweetheart contracts with my last name. When pigs fly I guess.

    .

  • Tantamount to hiring the Clinton Foundation to find out what went wrong at Benghazi!

  • Best politicians money can buy.

  • I actually know several of the people you write about in this article and I can say this is very well written and factual. Thank you!

  • “The costs of the port’s 10-year expansion project have skyrocketed from $350 million to close to $2 billion at last count. No one person can figure out why”.

    One word answer: Sheffield.

  • Excellent article! Thank you!

    Mark Begich cares only for himself. I thankful we have Mike Dunleavy. I hope in 2022 he runs against Lisa Murkowski.

  • Wonder what would happen if America’s reconstituted Justice Department were persuaded to include this debacle on its list of RICO investigations…
    .
    Maybe Governor Dunleavy will withold revenue sharing equivalent to Begich’s deal, commission a forensic audit, and ask the Justice Department to intervene if audit results justify.
    .
    The False Claims Act may be the best option: Someone with inside knowledge of skulduggery and access to a “qui tam” law firm could tear down the whole rats’ nest and make a truckload of money in the process.

  • Lots of incest occurring in the port project. Not good

    • How crude…
      .
      “Family Affair” is so much nicer, and probably more to the point…

  • A lot of incest going on.Also. Also, sounds a lot like political graft.

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