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Port: Heitkamp’s blatant hypocrisy on dark money

By Staff | Jun 9, 2017

“If out-of-state billionaires want to jam North Dakota airwaves with year-round political ads, we should at least know who’s behind them,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp said in a press release earlier this year, announcing her support for legislation aimed at the use of “dark money” in political campaigns.

“North Dakotans have the right to know who’s trying to influence our opinions – whether it’s through TV ads or advocacy groups whose donors are currently undisclosed,” she continued.

The words are ironic given that in June of 2017, more than 500 days from election day, North Dakotans are already being treated to campaign ads touting Sen. Heitkamp’s re-election. Ads paid for by a “dark money” advocacy group aligned with Democrats.

You’ve probably seen the ads I’m talking about online or on your televisions. They feature footage of Heitkamp in a military setting, touting her support for our state’s air bases.

They’re paid for by the Senate Majority PAC’s affiliated nonprofit Majority Forward.

That’s a “dark money” group which doesn’t disclose its donors, for those of you keeping score at home.

The group is spending $3.5 million on the campaign supporting Democratic senators in six states including North Dakota.

As an interesting aside, another of the states targeted by the ads is Montana, where Democratic Sen. Jon Tester is also up for re-election this cycle. Tester is a co-sponsor of the aforementioned legislation, which makes him a bit of a hypocrite too.

Anyway, why hasn’t Sen. Heitkamp, given her state opinions about “dark money,” decried these ads? Why hasn’t she asked that they be taken down?

For that matter, how did Majority Forward get footage of Sen. Heitkamp without her cooperation or the cooperation of her campaign? It would be something if Heitkamp or her staff made that footage available to the sort of group the senator is simultaneously critical of.

But most importantly, how can Heitkamp claim she’s opposed to “dark money” being used to “jam North Dakota airwaves with year-round political ads” when she’s being supported by a 2018 ad campaign launched just months after the completion of the 2016 election cycle and paid for by the very same “dark money”?

The senator shouldn’t get to have it both ways. To be clear, this observer has no problems with “dark money.” Americans should be able to freely give to whatever private political organization they wish in pursuit of whatever political goals they feel are appropriate. What Heitkamp is pursuing with her crusade against “dark money” is rank incumbency protection. A way for the already powerful to protect themselves from criticism.

But if Heitkamp is going to crusade against “dark money,” is it too much to expect that she at least be consistent?

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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