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Democrat vs. Democrat: Mark Begich mocks Claire McCaskill in unusual personal attack

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Congress,Alaska,Ashe Schow,Claire McCaskill,Small Business Administration,Mark Begich

Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, mocked Sen. Claire McCaskill's investigation into Alaskan contracting practices by saying the Missouri senator “has trouble understanding Alaska history.”

Begich has been at odds with McCaskill over a letter she sent Monday informing the Small Business Administration that she would be investigating the special contracts Alaska Native Corporations receive through the SBA’s 8(a) program for small-and-disadvantaged business contracting.

“Begich, who is up for reelection this fall in a conservative state, called his Democratic colleague’s actions ‘troubling’ and mocked her legislative specialty of investigating waste and fraud, an unusual personal attack between senators of an opposite party and even rarer for fellow Democrats,” Burgess Everett reported for Politico.

Begich got personal by implying McCaskill was incapable of understanding the unique needs of the Alaskan people.

“It's no secret many senators still have quite the learning curve when it comes to understanding the unique needs of Alaska,” Begich said. “What is especially troubling are those who refuse to take the time to understand our needs and challenges while continuing to take actions intended to unfairly punish and target our way of life.”

“I’m afraid my colleague, Sen. McCaskill — through her narrow lens as a ‘government oversight and efficiencies guru’ — has trouble understanding Alaska history, even with my repeated attempts to reason with her,” Begich added.

But McCaskill claims she is simply trying to protect taxpayers by making sure rules on no-bid contracts were adopted.

The 2011 rules from the SBA put restrictions on how the government could award no-bid contracts for ANCs that had formed joint ventures. ANCs had previously been using special provisions for years to secure millions of dollars in federal contracts.

One of the new rules prohibited an ANC from setting up multiple subsidiaries to continue work on an original sole-source contract.

McCaskill asked for a list of all joint-venture contracts awarded since the new rules were implemented, copies of ANC reports showing the flow of benefits to Alaskan communities and information showing SBA’s oversight of the new rules.

McCaskill requested the SBA brief the staff of the Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight — which she leads — by July 11.

Perhaps McCaskill isn’t acutely aware of the way Alaska works — she’s not a resident of the state — but Begich’s comments toward his colleague are uncalled for and demeaning.

Imagine if a Republican had said this to a female colleague.

McCaskill’s office could not be reached for comment.

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