The unseen puppeteer in Alaska Redistricting Board was Sen. Tom Begich, controlling two from behind the scenes


At the most critical juncture of Alaska’s redistricting process in November, an unknown, non-appointed shadow on the Alaska Redistricting Board was working from behind the curtains. It turns out it was Anchorage Democrat Sen. Tom Begich.

Tom Begich was texting in real time with board member Nicole Borromeo for several days as the board approached its Nov. 10 decision deadline. Her drawings of the House districts in Anchorage were ultimately the ones chosen by the board.

The texts between the two show that Tom Begich greatly helped her draw those maps.

The board has five appointed members — Budd Simpson and Bethany Marcum, appointed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy; John Binkley, appointed by former Sen. President Cathy Giessel; Nicole Borromeo, appointed by former House Speaker Bryce Edgmon; and Melanie Bahnke, appointed by former Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Joel Bolger.

Borromeo and Behnke, who align with Democrats, were taking direction from Tom Begich, who was watching the proceedings online and telling Borromeo what to do, how to try to manipulate the other members of the board, and especially how to defeat Republican Bethany Marcum.

The text messages, shown below, were obtained in a public records request after they came to light during last week’s Superior Court trial over the final maps approved by the board.

Tom Begich also testified multiple times over several months before the board, and he even had proposed one of the plans, called the Senate Minority Plan, which was one of four third-party draft maps adopted by the board and taken around the state to be shown to the public in the 20 public hearings that took place before final political boundaries were drawn.

At one point, Tom Begich wrote to Borromeo, “Try agreeing with Bud,” to see if Borromeo could manipulate Budd Simpson, the Juneau member of the board appointed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

At another point he sent her a map, and he directed her and Bahnke to ask the board, “what do you object to in Nicole’s Anchorage map” referring to a map he just sent. The purple lines on the map are the House district pairings for Senate district he apparently wanted.

Using his advice, that is exactly what Borromeo and Bahnke did that day, repeatedly asking the other board members what they objected to in Borromeo’s Anchorage map.

Begich wrote to Borromeo of the Eagle River pairings, “It’s a disaster.” He was meaning that it was a political disaster, since he went on to say that there appear to be no grounds for a lawsuit.

Borromeo responded, “How long will it take DOJ to sue? Are the[y] fast?”

“No,” Tom Begich replied. “And they may not. VRA [Voting Rights Act] is weak. Others might not have grounds.”

Then he said he would work on a map and get it to her the next day, “But it’s hard. Senate pairings always political.”

At another point, he encouraged her to use a racial argument, just to get it on the record.

In fact, there were several lawsuits and the Eagle River House pairings into a Senate district is one of the two parts of the redistricting map that the judge wanted the board to reconsider.

“Please don’t put Muldoon in Eagle River, as Bethany is suggesting,” he wrote.

“You should see her new version,” Borromeo responded, while in the middle of the meeting.

“I did. That’s why I texted,” Tom Begich wrote back.

Then Borromeo asked him for help on the Mat-Su and Valdez pairings, and he provided her with case law to support that grouping. Although that particular part of the map was also challenged by a lawsuit by the city of Valdez and from the Mat-Su Borough, Anchorage Superior Court Judge Thomas Matthews ignored the conservative lawsuits regarding the new political boundaries, and only ruled in favor of the liberal litigants who didn’t like the Muldoon-Eagle River and the Skagway-Juneau lines.

Read: Judge says redistricting map needs do-over for Eagle River area and Skagway-Juneau

While Judge Matthews said in his ruling on the new political maps that there were too many executive sessions during the proceedings, he made no mention of the secretive side conversations between Tom and Nicole, even though he knew about them, since they were entered into the record. View some of the text messages in the slide show below:


  1. Is Tom also telling his nephew Nick how to run as a Republican, then switch to Democrat after he wins a Congress seat?

  2. Why is it that democats are always meddling and bending the laws. They really need to be dealt with, but unfortunately our justice system is full of them instead of being a true judge. We need more judges like Roy Bean.

    • Frank, you are dreaming if you think Tom Begich’s machinations will have a detrimental effect on young Nick.
      This young Nicholas Begich’s political thinking is far removed from his uncles. Turns out Frank, there are still a large number of Alaskans who can think critically and independently. This is a good thing, unless of course you are a democrat and realize that the number of people to fool has shrunk drastically. Better luck with your next subversive attempt! Get creative here Frank since it always makes for salacious reading.

  3. Susan –
    Thanks for an extremely interesting and important post, along with some of the emails. Usually people assume that the executive interference comes from the administration. To see so much evidence from Tom Begich emails is one whale of a report. Am I surprised? Certainly not! Congrats! and Thank you!

  4. Once again our law makers prove without a doubt they are dishonest in everything they do, they think they are above the law, and continue to try to getaway with breaking the rules, thank you for this story.

  5. Why does Tom Begich look like a madman on drugs? Scary dude. Is this a member of the Nick Begich family? Ouch!

    • Since his retirement from the state-financed swamp monster corps, his “day job” is being a singer-songwriter. Don’t laugh, it’s legit. I remember listening to his album Albuquerque Road many years ago. Also, he graduated from the same college as Walter Becker and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan fame (which was immortalized in their song “My Old School”), so he may have actually found inspiration in such a setting.
      Anyway…as a singer-songwriter, that look plus the long hair is obviously a plus. No doubt it’s the same look many of his key supporters have when they step into a courtroom to go through the motions, providing some poor schmuck with their court-ordered representation.

  6. Alaskans are strong willed, independent thinkers for the most part. This is the last time I will sully your hobby of a blog. You are mis-informing and twisting the truth. Read the full court ruling hear and tell me I didn’t call out gerrymandering. ‘

    • If Alaskans were strong-willed and independent, they would not be so dependent upon government services and assistance. I used to think Alaskans were independent, however I learned that reflected a generation before 1939.

      • You’re absolutely correct. One-third of us on Medicaid, record numbers on SNAP and WIC, all at the same time as worker shortages! Having too much and too large government has destroyed the spirit of Alaska.

    • Alaska is dependent on federal assistance in nearly every aspect of life. Worse, the federal government hampers any attempt to be self sufficient.

      Throw in the hard left leaning of the citizens of Anchorage (therefore Alaska), and we have a dependent, hive mind population.

  7. Why is a Judge appointing a member to the Redisticting Board? Doesn’t he have enough Judge work to do?

  8. Ms. Downing, thank you. This is important news but I don’t expect to read it in the left-ward spinning Daily News or hear it from the taxpayer supported Public Broadcasting. Important news is purposefully missed by every media but MustReadAlaska. Alaska Democrats are insidious, scheming and dishonest! This particular Begich has corrupted this process! I’m not very worried that Democrats will win the state executive seat or a seat in Congress from Alaska this year, but we all have to work very hard to make sure real Republicans are elected to the Alaska House and that real Republicans are in control of the Alaska Senate. Shoot straight and speak the truth.

  9. Is it not a clear conflict of interest to have any legislator in contact with the redistricting board?Do Begich and the two liberals honestly think this doesn’t undermine public trust in the process?

  10. I always knew that family sticks together when it comes to politics, but was hoping it might be different with Nick, but again let’s not learn the lesson the WRONG way..RINO’s is what we DON”T need. I could be wrong but…..

  11. “Strong willed independent thinkers” yes, who don’t take real-time behind the scenes influence from invisible people trying to bend an exercise to benefit themselves politically. Because that would be unethical and wrong.
    The public faces seen by we, the people, are the ones we believe to be doing the actual work. To go along with that level of manipulation from someone not even on the Board is reprehensible at best, and utterly dishonest.
    Feel free to explain how I’m wrong. I’ll be watching.

  12. Just like the Clintons and Bushes, can’t we just agree we’ve had too many Begiches in politics?
    Hang it up Tom. You’re slimy, this was unethical, and you need to go away.
    I feel sorry for this load you just dumped on your nephew’s political career. For shame.

  13. So the takeaway here, is that Tom Begich is some sort of ingenious puppet master. And the puppets are the stooges on the Redistricting Board. Could well be. I never gave much creds to several of the Board members anyway. And the Begich family seems to think they run Alaska politics in the 21st century. What is hard to believe is that John Binkley is a puppet to the other puppet master……..Cathy Giessel. On the other hand, she always was a dominating bossy-cow. ??

  14. Now let’s see Bethany Marcum’s communications with Randy Ruedrich.
    And let’s listen to her ‘hunting’ conversations with Dunleavy.

    What do those texts show? That people all over could see and were concerned and were calling out the GOP members of the board blatant gerrymandering for the stated purpose of allowing Eagle River “the opportunity to have more representation” ~ Bethany Marcum. Nice try at distractions though.

    East Anchorage and Eagle River should not be combined and everyone other than gerrymandering aficionados and apologists can see that.

  15. What else can Tom do if he’s worried Dominion voting machinery, ballot harvesting, and the secret miracles of ranked-choice voting won’t be enough to guarantee permanent Democrat-communist Chinese control of Alaska?

  16. If these board members were unable to serve in the capacity they were chosen to serve, they should have resigned their commission.
    Article VI section 9 of the Alaska Constitution says in part that the board “may employ temporary assistants” was Senator Begich employed as a temporary assistant, or was his assistance pro bono? Section 9 goes on to say that “Concurrence of three members of the Redistricting Board is required for actions of the Board” was Senator Begich employed as a temporary assistant with the concurrence of three members of the board? Section 9 also states that? “The board shall employ or contract for services of independent legal counsel” was Senator Begich employed to provide independent legal counsel, or was he employed to provide one sided legal counsel?
    If this isn’t a constitutional questionable political maneuver it is certainly an ethically wrong political maneuver, especially considering the lengths we Alaskans went to to keep elected officials from being involved in the redistricting process by passing the Constitutional Amendment in the late 1990’s that was put in place to prevent such nefarious deeds.

  17. This appears to undermine the entire process where one person has access and a special relationship for secretive communications with Board members that other members of the public don’t have nor have knowledge about. I thought that the Board members were supposed to be “independent” and listen to the public through a true public process that is above board. In any case, it is downright unethical, and seems like it should be illegal if it isn’t already.

  18. Where’s the charges of election fraud and influencing? Charge, arrest, trial and sentence. Give him something democrats never had to do in their lives- hard labor for 10 years.

  19. In the link that Melanie Bahnke provided, there are attachments.

    One sttachment is, “Exhibit List”.

    I am curious about two exhibit line items:

    #3010 – Text messages combined; and,

    #3014 – Emails combined.

    This article states the text messages above were obtained by means of a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) Request.

    Since the Exhibit list has one line item for all text messages, were these published text messages the only text messages admitted into evidence?

    Did MRAK also request all the emails from the Exhibit list item 3014?

    I would like to see an attachment to this article that includes all the text messages since the Exhibit list has one line item for all texts.

    I don’t know what was covered in the entire scope of the FOIA request from MRAK, but if the emails were too, that would be informative to make available as an attachment to this article.

    This is a huge issue.

    So for me at least, the more source documents retrieved as a result of the FOIA request, the better.

  20. I have been a Republican super voter here in Alaska for decades and am aware of candidates and issues. I am not middle-of-the- road Republican but heavy on the right, as in believing and adhering to the state platform. After listening to and speaking with Nick Begich III I’m convinced he holds sincere conservative principles Very different from others with his last name. He is young and energetic, he has good ideas for Alaska and has a lovely wife and son. Please do not judge Nick by his name and don’t criticize him before you hear and learn about him. It is very difficult to find a conservative candidate who could win a race like US Congressman. Contact him, attend a meet-and-greet to ask questions. He has my support 100%..

    • You know.. Someone else said the same thing about Bill Walker, I believed them. I was stupid enough to vote for bill. I don’t have a warm fuzzy about any of the Begich boys. Nick photo-oping with a 6 gun in leather and a pump action shotgun did not really say “I’m a red blooded American”. More like “vote for me so I can screw you just as hard as bill did”.

  21. I do hope there are some consequences to Tom’s actions and the member of the board who cannot think without Tom interfering. Please let us know Suzanne.

  22. Pretty much sums up the Alaska’s corrupt political landscape. Liberal Judges working with liberal Democrats to subvert the will of the voters. Of course this isn’t just an Alaska problem, the entire country struggles with a predominately corrupt judiciary. If we don’t get a handle on political corruption and place real people in positions of authority, we will end up like Canada. Canada is currently a police state and the citizens rights are being violated by corrupt politicians and Judges alike.

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