Senator Heitkamp Condemns “Dark Money” in Politics Even as It Pays for Ads Touting Her for Re-Election

Senator Heidi Heitkamp

Earlier this year Senator Heidi Heitkamp announced that she would be joining with Montana Democrat Jon Tester in introducing legislation to “push back against dark money in politics.”

“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,” she said in a press release about the bill. “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. This commonsense bill would give voters the transparency they deserve. Our campaign finance system isn’t working, and I’m proud to join Senator Tester in fighting to make sure our government is accountable to voters, not special interests.”

But Heitkamp’s sanctimony on “dark money” in politics is undermined by the fact that dark money is already being used to promote her re-election.

Earlier this week I wrote about campaign ads praising Heitkamp which are already hitting TV screens here in North Dakota. The ads are being paid for by the Senate Majority PAC’s affiliated nonprofit Majority Forward. The group is spending $3.5 million on the campaign supporting Democratic Senators in six states including North Dakota and Montana (making Senator Tester a bit of a hypocrite as well).

The NRSC is already hitting Heitkamp on her silence about “dark money” supporting her re-election.

“Unless Heidi Heitkamp demands these ads be taken down, North Dakotans will know she can’t be trusted to keep her word,” NRSC Spokesman Michael McAdams said in a release yesterday. “It’s clear Heidi wants to play by one set of rules, and have everyone else play by another.”

Will Heitkamp call for the ads to come down? I wouldn’t hold my breath. Heitkamp knows the 2018 election cycle could be a dog fight. I’m sure she values re-election over any sort of strict adherence to principle.

Though I’ll add that I have no problems with “dark money.” Political spending is indistinguishable from political speech. If private people want to give money to private groups to advance certain political candidates, more power to them. It is, or should be, a free country.

My problem is with politicians who condemn such activity even as they benefit from it.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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