Women Exposed by Heitkamp Ad Form Group to Explore Litigation


FILE -- Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Aug. 16, 2018. Heitkamp, an endangered Democrat, ran an ad criticizing her opponent for comments about sexual abuse. But it backfired, just three weeks before the midterms. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

Megan Stoltz was one of the women named, without her permission, as a sexual assault survivor in a recent print ad published by Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s re-election campaign. In fact, Stoltz was actually listed twice in the ad, once by her married name and once by her maiden name.

Now, according to a Facebook post, Stoltz says a group of the women named in the ad are banding together and exploring litigation.

“Heidi Heitkamp’s political agenda has interfered with, or downright ruined, our lives,” she wrote. “Survivors of assault who had taken care to avoid the subject were suddenly bombarded by questions asking them to explain to their loved ones why their name appeared on this list. Women who have never been assaulted spent the day reassuring loved ones of their safety. All of us have been unsettled by the knowledge that our full names and locations have been publicly announced, particularly after it has reached national news.”

“Our privacy was violated on this day, and we deserve closure,” she continues. “In order to receive the closure we need, we are searching for a lawyer who will take our case.”

“We have about 22 in the group,” Stoltz told me when I contacted her this evening directly. “We are looking for a lawyer. We just need to find one who will actually take the case. We’ve called around but most lawyers aren’t interested in politics.:

I had previously identified as many as 13 women who, through social media posts or conversations directly with me, say they were identified in Heitkamp’s ad without their permission. That number appears to be growing.

Stoltz also linked to a GoFundMe account created to raise funds for legal fees. There were no donations as of the time of publication, but the account had been created less than an hour before.

Senator Heitkamp made an emotional apology for the ad on my radio show earlier today. During the interview I asked Heitkamp about the possibility of litigation.

“Some people who are lawyers would say the worst thing you can do if you’re worried about lawsuits is admit culpability or negligence and I’m admitting it right here,” she told me. “This is a very flagrant error of the campaign and I own it.”