Democrats File Legal Complaint Against Berg For Using His Own Airplane In Campaign


Today North Dakota Democrats announced a press conference at which they promised to reveal details “about Rep. Berg engaging in campaign activity that is expressly forbidden by federal law.” That sounds very serious, but it turns out the reality, much like Donald Trump’s “major announcement” yesterday in the presidential race, is a bit lame.

According to a complaint filed by the Democrats (see below) Rick Berg is guilty of using his own private airplane in his campaign and not reporting it to the FEC.

The plane is owned by the 714 LLC, a partnership set up between Berg and two of his partners. Those partners, have already maxed out on contributions to Berg’s campaign and Berg’s use of the plane would max out any contribution the LLC could make. The use of the plane (assuming Democrats are accurately characterizing its use) would technically be an in-kind contribution, and should be reported. That Berg didn’t does appear to be a violation.

But this really doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal. It would take, I believe, 714 LLC creating an invoice for the Berg campaign for use of the plane and the Berg campaign paying it to settle. The Democrats note that there is no record of the Berg campaign paying for the use of the plane, but I don’t think (though I’m not a campaign finance expert) that the Berg campaign necessarily has to pay for use of the plane immediately.

There is also the question of Berg being a partner in 714 LLC. Candidates are allowed to make unlimited contributions to their own campaign. Clearly Berg is allowed some degree of use of this airplane through 714 LLC. Couldn’t he simply be donating his own share of the use of the plane to his campaign?

There may not be any real substance to this complaint, and what substance there may be is pretty trivial (how many of you are really upset that Berg is using a plane he owns for his campaign?). But that’s not the point, of course. The point is to get headlines about a legal complaint being filed against Berg.

This is pretty weak sauce from Democrats, and it says a lot about where they see themselves in this race right now. There is a stink of desperation all over this move.

Update: The Berg campaign says they’ve paid for all travel costs appropriately:

“This is yet another in a long line of false and increasingly desperate attacks by Heidi Heitkamp, whose campaign has not been able to explain her enthusiastic support of President Obama’s big government policies, which led The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead to call her “out of step with her state” in yesterday’s endorsement of Rick Berg,” Van Guilder said in an email “Our campaign regularly, and in full compliance with Federal Election Commission regulations, pays for all travel expenses, including the travel specifically noted by the North Dakota Democratic Party. We have a system in place to ensure timely reimbursement and reporting of travel expenses.”

Berg Complaint

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • Tim Heise

    lame. They know they’re losing.

    • Rick Olson

      The Democrats are stretching. They’re desperate. They’re throwing every bit of mud that they can get their hands on at Rick Berg in the hopes that any of it will stick. None of it will.

      I think we can start getting used to calling him Senator Rick Berg.

      • Rob

        The Democrats are stretching. They’re desperate. They’re throwing every bit of mud that they can get their hands on at Rick Berg in the hopes that any of it will stick. None of it will.


        • DelawareBeachHouse

          From James Taranto, Best of the Web today:

          “Losing campaigns have a certain feel to them,” observes the Times’s Ross Douthatin a blog post. “They go negative hard, try out new messaging very late in the game, hype issues that only their core supporters are focused on, and try to turn non-gaffes and minor slip-ups by their opponents into massive, election-turning scandals.”

          • Rob

            Well said by Taranto, as usual.

          • Gern Blanston

            “try out new messaging very late in the game”
            Does he mean thinkgs like pamphlets describing your agenda for the next four years being release two weeks before an election?

  • RCND

    That’s all they got? Seriously?

    • Rob

      At worst, it’s a technical violation requiring Berg to bill his own campaign for the use of the plane.


  • Lianne

    Remember gents, it is the seriousness of the charge, not the preponderance of evidence (as instructed by their great national leader Pelosi). ;-)

    • Rob

      Isn’t that what Rush Limbaugh always says? It’s not the accuracy, it’s the seriousness of the charges.

      • Lianne

        the nature of the charges are most important as has been demonstrated by democrats again and again. ND democrats couldn’t care less about the use of his plan, they are just trying to sling more mud on his name.

  • Robert Portly

    Rob I agree the whole issue is pretty petty. Democrats should concentrate on getting the real word our and forget this nickel and dime stuff. It is important not to waste time on stuff like this when they should be going door to door telling people about what a lickspittle for the rich Berg is. If the Democrats would spread the word about how Berg seeks to destroy affordable health care and suppress wages for working people it would be much more beneficial. Berg has done absolutely nothing since he has been elected, people will never know this if good Democrats are tied up pointing out how he cheats with the use of his plane. Like so many rich guys the money means nothing to Berg. Berg will get at least $250,000 in tax breaks from the Bush tax cuts for the rich. So Berg can easily pay for the plane ride if Mitt and the Magic Underwear gang wins. Meanwhile thousands of North Dakota Citizens can go without health care coverage, and North Dakota can brag about how little we pay our teachers so we can keep taxes on the wealthy low.

  • Rick Olson

    Well, as we all kniow, North Dakota Democrats are famous for raising the nickel and dime stuff. News like this would get buried inside newspapers like The Washington Post, New York Times, etc. However, it will wind up being front page news back here in North Dakota just because it is tied to the biggest news story in North Dakota right now. The race to determine who will replace Senator Kent Conrad in the U.S. Senate.

    Pretty lame stuff indeed. Too little, too late to help Heidi.

  • sue

    It does not state that 714 LLP donated to his campaign. Who cares if his friend/partners donated. They were cited as individuals donating. So under the LLP, he may garner another donation?? He is also 1/3 owner in the aircraft. So much is missing from this complaint. I’d like to see a proper brief that cites legal standing and demonstrates merit. It is only their interpretation of the FEC Act.

    • Rob

      Remember, sue, this isn’t about winning the actual complaint. This is about creating negative headlines for Rick Berg right before the election.

      • ctomr

        It’s the Dems oft used ploy-Guilt by accusation

  • Captornado

    Gee, doesn’t NDSU have a plane he could have used?

    • RCND

      He could have gotten the number from the UND Alumni Foundation

    • $8194357

      Chinese students had em all booked?

  • Ralph

    Is this any worse than Senator “Air Claire” McCaskill, D-MO, billing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars for the use of her husband’s plane for “official Senate business?” This is truly chicken feed compared to that, and Air Claire is actually a favorite to win re-election this year. Nothing to see here – let’s vote for Claire again.

    There is no end to the hypocrisy of the Democratic Party. This is truly a Hail Mary pass thrown by a desperate campaign.

    • Rob

      It’s quite a bit better, because Berg isn’t billing the taxpayers for his use of the plane.

  • JW -American

    The Hide-Yee Campaign is just PO’d that their tracker (the guy thats been following Mr Berg with a video camera all summer) has to drive from event to event while Berg Flys, maybe the Congressman should fly him too, then charge the Hide-Yee campaign for the ride.

    If this after 20 years of being in the State Legislature is all they have left, its over, put a fork in it, its O-V-E-R

  • ctomrun

    This Big Bird accusation is brought to you by the letter D and the number 101. Desperation 101

    • $8194357

      Sesame street just got a million dollar plus grant from the taxpayer that created less than 2 jobs…..1.4 or some half wit thing..

  • Agent IRS

    Does anyone know how Rob Port makes a living?

    • Rob

      Everybody does, Emil/Portly/etc, etc. I sell advertising on this blog and I also have a small contract to work for the North Dakota Policy Council on government transparency issues.

    • $8194357

      Prostituting his sister has been used already by Joel,
      so my guess would be running an open forum for ex pimps
      like you to raise awareness off how pathetic leftist really are…

  • $8194357

    Barry is using the taxpayers plane for his re election..

  • jimmypop

    its called swapping hours. plane owners do it all the time. you run the clock for 20 hours more than your buddies…then they bank it and use those later and you use less next month.

    as far as we know, his partners already ‘owe’ him that time from all their use prior to Berg’s using it, so berg is just taking it out of his own pocket.

  • Maddog

    Collin Peterson got in some hot water a few years back for using his plane to fly around Dist 7 in MN….. Hopefully Rick checks the gas gauge, something that our Naval expert Sand overlooked

  • slapdick

    Rasmussen just posted a new poll showing Berg ahead 50-45.

  • flamemeister

    Now I’m hearing that Berg had a dog caged on top of the airplane and that it hit Big Bird.

    • $8194357

      On his way to give his millionair buddies more tax breaks?

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