Sen. Conrad: Heitkamp not weak on defense
GRAND FORKS -- Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., in Grand Forks on Tuesday came to the defense of the Democratic candidate running for his seat on charges that she is anti-military.
"Purely poppycock" and "beyond the bounds" is what Conrad called assertions that an endorsement by Council for a Livable World of Heidi Heitkamp meant she would not support defense and veterans programs as a senator.
The charges have been made by the campaign of her opponent, U.S. Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., in the Senate election to replace Conrad, who is retiring.
"Heitkamp's claims of independence are fooling no one," state Republican Party Communications Director Anna Nix wrote in a press release Tuesday. "Her financial relationship with this radical organization runs so deep that they are now her second-largest source of campaign funding."
Conrad said he and former Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., both received endorsements from the group while protecting Air Force bases in Grand Forks and Minot from elimination. Heitkamp will continue that stance, he said.
"I don't think you'll find any stronger defender or more effective defenders" of the military than he and Dorgan, he said. "I know first-hand the strong devotion she has to those who serve this nation."
Council for a Livable World's website, LivableWorld.org, calls the group a "nonpartisan advocacy organization dedicated to reducing the danger of nuclear weapons and increasing national security. Our mission is to advocate for sensible security policies and to help elect congressional candidates who support them."
Positions highlighted on the site include creating a clear exit plan for Afghanistan, pursuing sanctions and diplomacy on Iran's nuclear development and shifting some traditional defense spending toward non-military antiterrorism efforts.
It has supported dozens of mostly Democratic members of Congress since 1962, including former Rep. Earl Pomeroy, Sen. Quentin Burdick in North Dakota; Sen. Al Franken, the late Sen. Paul Wellstone and former Vice President Walter Mondale in Minnesota; and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
According to the website OpenSecrets.org, run by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Heit-kamp's campaign received $60,827 through Council for a Livable World. Campaign spokesman Brandon Lorenz said the amount was mostly made up of individuals donating to candidates through the council.
"We simply cannot risk having someone who clearly has the ear of a radical organization like the Council for a Livable World" making decisions on defense budgets, Nix wrote in an email.
Heitkamp said she supported maintaining the state's Air Force presence and called the accusations a distraction from issues such as veterans programs.
"We have a lot of problems that need discussion and need dialogue," she said. "Instead, (Berg) spreads mistruths."