Heitkamp Ad Apologizing for Outing Sexual Assault Victims May Have Violated FEC Rules

Supporters of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) at the Uffda Day parade in Rutland, N.D., Oct. 7, 2018. In North Dakota and other farm states, the partisan divide over the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh has nationalized the fight for the Senate ahead of the midterm election, elating Republicans and worrying Democrats. (Annie Flanagan/Copyright 2018 The New York Times)

Yesterday I wrote about a new print ad from Senator Heidi Heitkamp – one apologizing for her previous print ad outing sexual assault survivors – which was published in the Minot Daily News and elsewhere.

There may be some problems with that latest ad, however.

Here’s what it looked like in my copy of the MDN:

Something which is supposed to be in all communications paid for by a political committee is a disclosure, like this one from the original ad which is being apologized for:

Here’s what the FEC has to say about disclaimers in any communication paid for by a political committee:

As you can see, it doesn’t matter if the ad doesn’t contain an explicitly political message. If it was paid for by the committee, it must have a disclaimer. The ad above, as it appeared in the Minot Daily News, doesn’t have that disclaimer.

Was it paid for by the campaign committee? Or did Senator Heitkamp pay for the ad out of her own pocket? The latter might mean that the FEC’s disclosure requirement doesn’t apply.

I sent an email to Heitkamp campaign spokeswoman Julia Krieger this morning seeking information, but so far she isn’t responding to me. I guess, despite Senator Heitkamp responding to one of my interview requests for the first time in six years earlier this week, the Heitkamp campaign is back to ignoring me.

Whatever.

I got in touch with the folks at the Minot Daily, and they said the ad was paid for by the campaign.

“It was paid for by the campaign committee and it came to us through NDNA,” publisher Dan McDonald told me this morning, referring to the North Dakota Newspaper Association.

It would seem this apology ad, which has already been criticized for being tiny compared to the full-page size of the original ad being apologized for, also runs afoul of FEC rules.

I’ll update this post if the Heitkamp campaign ever gets around to responding to my question.

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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