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.”