Over the weekend my colleague John Hageman wrote an article about the third party attack ads which are flooding North Dakota’s Senate race now, something which will be the case until November.
Supposedly these ads are run by committees independent of the candidates, though in practice there isn’t always a whole lot of independence. Case in point, the Heitkamp campaign routinely signals the talking points and even video footage she’d like groups like the Democrat-aligned Senate Majority PAC to use.
Anyway, this week North Dakotans will be treated (if that’s the right word for it) to an ad from the Senate Majority PAC which accuses Congressman Kevin Cramer of having “sold out North Dakota” for supporting legislation ending country of origin labeling (or COOL).
Here’s the ad:
The problem is that if Cramer “sold out” North Dakota on COOL, so did Senator Heidi Heitkamp.
The ad references Cramer’s vote for HR2393, titled the “Country of Origin Labeling Amendments Act of 2015”, which would have ended COOL requirements for beef, pork, and poultry.
The legislation passed the House with 300 votes (66 of which were Democrats). One of those 300 votes was Cramer’s.
The legislation never got a vote in the Senate chamber, and that’s probably because most of its provisions were incorporated into another bill. HR2029, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, included a repeal of the COOL requirement for beef and pork:
Another claim made in the ad is that Congressman Cramer took money from unnamed “special interests” the same day he announced support for repealing COOL labeling. The ad makes a broad reference to the “FEC” as the source for this claim, as well as a 5/26/15 press release from Cramer’s office:
But I looked at Cramer’s FEC disclosures from the 2016/2015 cycle and I don’t see that he took any contributions from committees on May 26 at all. Here’s a screenshot of the contributions from around that date per the FEC’s database, and you can sort through the data for yourself here:
Cramer did receive one contribution from an individual on May 26, 2015, but that contribution a) was for $1,250 not the “nearly 20 grand” the ad claims and b) came from a lobbyist who works in the energy policy area, not agriculture. Cramer also had a joint fundraising committee in the 2016 election cycle, but that committee didn’t report any transactions.
In summary, this ad claims that Cramer did something bad to North Dakota ranchers by voting to repeal some aspects of the COOL requirements, but Senator Heitkamp voted for legislation doing the same thing.
This ad also claims, citing FEC data, that Cramer announced his position on COOL “the same day” he took contributions from unnamed special interest groups, but the FEC database doesn’t show any contributions to Cramer on that date which resemble what the ad describes.
I think this ad, from a group which has coordinated pretty closely with the Heitkamp campaign in the past, probably needs to be retracted.