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Port: Nepotism and an insidious assault on political dissent

By Staff | Mar 31, 2017

The late, great Robin Williams once said: “Some men are born great, some achieve greatness, and some get it as a graduation gift.”

Others get it, or at least the appearance of it, because their sister just happens to be a U.S. Senator.

“Gathered behind closed doors in a Denver hotel, 30 conservative Democrats plotted a potential path forward for their party – an effort to devise a strategy that might help them avoid total annihilation in red states across America,” McClatchy reported earlier this month.

Among those lecturing these red state liberals on how to save themselves politically? Fargo-based radio host Joel Heitkamp, according to the McClatchy report.

That’s the sort of gig you get when your sister is in the U.S. Senate.

I have to imagine that these Democrats were confused to have a lightly talented ranter presume to instruct them on how to be successful in a red state. It might make sense if we could point to some evidence that Heitkamp has been a positive influence for liberals and Democrats in North Dakota, but what would that evidence be?

During Heitkamp’s tenure as a full-time talk radio host the Democrats have steadily lost ground in elected office in North Dakota. In fact, the only Democrat to win a statewide election in our state since 2008, the year Heitkamp ended his legislative career, is sister Heidi, who was elected to the Senate in 2012.

If he were influential among North Dakotans our state would have a much different political makeup.

It would seem that Joel Heitkamp is exactly who you would want telling Democrats how to win elections if you’re a Republican.

Insidious assault on political expression

When she’s not busy fluffing her brother’s broadcast career, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp has been pushing forward with an assault on free political expression.

She has joined Montana Sen. Jon Tester in supporting what they’re calling the Sunshine for Unaccountable Nonprofits (SUN) Act.

“Our SUN Act would make sure the public knows who is funneling money into tax-exempt groups that currently aren’t required to disclose their donors as they try to influence elections through TV and radio ads, direct mail, and more,” Heitkamp wrote in a recent op/ed.

That certainly sounds sinister, but remember what we’re talking about here. These are private groups funded with voluntary donations from private citizens. Under this legislation they would have to disclose any donors who give more than $5,000.

Heitkamp says this is about getting “dark money” out of politics. In reality it’s a way to open up private political donors to harassment, and to hamstring fundraising for groups which are critical of politicians.

The Senator pitches this legislation as in the public interest. Really, it’s in the interest of entrenched politicians. After all, the harder it is to organize political dissent the easier it is to get re-elected.

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.

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