Senator Heidi Heitkamp Took a Mountain of Money From Special Interest Committees


U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp talks about the prospect of temporarily housing refugee children at the Grand Forks Air Force Base during a recent visit to the Grand Forks Herald Editorial Board. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

“When I go to Washington, I’m not going to be for any special interest; I’ll be for the interests of North Dakota,” Senator-elect Heidi Heitkamp said in 2013 shortly after winning election to her first term in office.

That’s an interesting goal for someone who, in the first quarter of her first re-election cycle, has raised more money from political action committees than perhaps any candidate in North Dakota history. Indeed, more than some of the most nationally prominent members of the U.S. Senate have in their recent re-election campaigns.

I wrote over the weekend that Heitkamp’s campaign probably leaked their fundraising data weeks before filing their official FEC report so that the specifics of the report itself might be glossed over. My point then was that just 6.8 percent of Heitkamp’s itemized, individual contributions and just 2.67 percent of her totalĀ 2017 Q1 campaign haul, came from North Dakota residents.

That’s definitely something a candidate would want buried. So, too, is the amount of money Heitkamp is raking in from PAC’s.

Heitkamp collected over $817,000 in the first quarter of the 2018 election cycle according to her FEC report (see below). To put that into perspective, here’s Heitkamp’s first quarter haul from PAC’s compared to the past incumbents who ran for federal office in North Dakota including House candidates Kevin Cramer, Rick Berg, and Earl Pomeroy as well as Senate candidates Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad:

Heitkamp collected more money from PAC’s in the first quarter of 2017 than any other North Dakota candidate for federal office recorded in any quarter of any election cycle reported online by the FEC.

Cramer, who many see as Heitkamp’s most likely opponent in 2018, raised $235,000 from committees in Q1 2017 though he says admits that he hasn’t really begun fundraising yet.

Heitkamp’s PAC numbers, though, are remarkable. Even by national standards Heitkamp is dominating in PAC money.

This graph compares Heitkamp’s first quarter take from PAC’s to some names in the Senate from other states you probably recognize including former Majority/Minority Leader Harry Reid, current Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Majority/Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senator Rob Portman, Senator Joe Manchin, and former Senator Hillary Clinton.

That’s right, Heitkamp is on pace to beat, by a landslide, even Hillary Clinton in money from special interests:

Why did Heitkamp take so much money from political action committees and out of state contributors? Because she needed to send a message for the 2018 election cycle that she is a strong candidate who can win re-election.

But this tactic does not seem in keeping with the ideals she expressed back before she ran for this office.

“I think that things are desperately wrong in Washington, D.C.,” Heitkamp told the Associated Press in 2011. “I think that our Congress has lost touch with the people of this country, and that we need reasonable voices who will represent constituents, and not special interests.”

It is hard to say that Heitkamp still feels this way when she is kicking off her first re-election campaign with a mountain of money from special interests and people who are not her constituents.

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