Jill Schramm

Minot Daily News

Congressman Rick Berg, R-N.D., and Minot Republican leaders called attention to Democrat Heidi Heitkamp’s donor base in questioning her support for Minot Air Force Base Tuesday.

Berg and Heitkamp are in a contentious battle for the state’s U.S. Senate seat.

At a news conference in Minot, Berg criticized Heitkamp for soliciting and accepting campaign money from The Council for a Livable World, which he called a radical, anti-nuclear, anti-defense group.

“They support slashing our defense budget to the bare bones. They oppose missile defense technology, and if The Council for a Livable World had its way, they would abolish all nuclear weapons. It’s troubling that while this community is engaged in hard work to ensure the survival of the Air Force base, Heidi Heitkamp has been soliciting funds from a group that wants to shut down military bases just like the one here in Minot,” Berg said. “I am working to save the base, protect jobs and strengthen America’s defense. Heidi Heitkamp is working with groups that want to disarm Americans, destroy our livelihood here in North Dakota.”

He said his hope is that Heitkamp will return the donation, which he called her third largest according to her Federal Election Commission filing.

Heitkamp’s campaign called Berg’s charges a desperate attempt to right his campaign by attacking Heitkamp over a group that has supported both Democratic Sens. Kent Conrad and Bryon Dorgan in the past. The two have been long-time advocates for the Minot Air Force Base.

“Heidi believes in a strong national defense, and that means securing vulnerable nuclear weapons in unstable countries, but also preserving our missile defense systems and North Dakota bases,” said Tessa Gould, Heitkamp’s campaign manager. “Rep. Berg is trying to distract from bizarrely denying his vote against expanding Highway 2 in the first debate and his embarrassing trip to Minot last week where he was caught again saying one thing in North Dakota and doing another in Washington by trying to take credit for the Minot Highway 55 overpass he voted to defund. North Dakotans expect more this year than political games.”

State Sens. Karen Krebsbach and Oley Larsen, both R-Minot, spoke of the base’s $500 million economic impact, its 6,700 jobs on base and more than 2,000 jobs created off the base.

Larsen noted the help base personnel provided to Minot during last summer’s flood.

“I would like to have Heidi come here to Minot. I would like to her personally tell the soldiers that we know, the people that helped us in the flood, the area that is helping us economically … that you provide little or no security for Minot, or for our state or for the country,” Larsen said.

Berg cited his efforts last July in support of an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act to protect the intercontinental ballistic missiles at Minot AFB from drastic cuts in the START Treaty. He was in Minot last week to visit with Task Force 21 to discuss ways to support and help the base.

He supported an anti-sequestration bill that passed the House but which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., refuses to take up in the Senate, he said.

A report released by the Center for Security Policy, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit, showed North Dakota could lose 1,353 jobs under cuts to defense under 18 percent sequestration cuts that loom if Congress doesn’t act.

“Rep. Berg is once again saying one thing in North Dakota and doing another in Washington, D.C. and is trying to run away from the fact that he voted to give us the sequestration process that would cost North Dakota jobs,” said Brandon Lorenz, spokesman for Heitkamp.

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