South Dakota Sen. John Thune reiterated Republican concerns about an anti-nuclear group's campaign contributions in North Dakota's U.S. Senate race during a news conference in Minot Wednesday.
Congressman Rick Berg, R-N.D., had held a news conference last week with Minot Republican leaders to highlight more than $12,000 in contributions that his Senate opponent, Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, received from Council for a Livable World. Thune joined him Wednesday to add emphasis to the issue.
"National security is job No. 1," said Thune, a Republican. "So to think that Rick's opponent, Heidi Heitkamp, would not only receive contributions from a Council for a Livable World, which is a very anti-defense, anti-nuclear organization, but even more so go out and solicit contributions from that organization, I think speaks volumes about how misplaced her priorities are. If that organization had their way, the United States wouldn't have a nuclear deterrent."
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., speaks about the importance of a nuclear deterrent at a news conference with Congressman Rick Berg, R-N.D., Wednesday. Berg is a candidate for U.S. Senate.
Heitkamp's campaign replied with its earlier response that Heitkamp believes in a strong national defense, including securing vulnerable nuclear weapons in unstable countries and preserving this country's missile defense systems and North Dakota bases. The campaign noted that the Council for a Livable World has supported the ranking Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and former North Dakota senator, Byron Dorgan, who have been long-time advocates for Minot Air Force Base.
More recently, Heitkamp received the endorsement of John Abrams, a retired Army general and former commander of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. Abrams stated that Heitkamp "will be a fighter to protect North Dakota's bases and National Guard. Her leadership will be exactly right to work with congressional colleagues on both sides of the aisle to achieve the proper balance in readiness and capability to secure our national interests for an uncertain future."
Thune countered that Heitkamp can't solicit money from the Council for a Livable World and then tell North Dakotans that she is pro-defense. The council advocates a policy that undermines the national defense, and no member of Congress should want to associate with that organization, he said.
Thune said an anti-nuclear view is not pervasive in Congress but it does exist.
"There are organizations whose agenda it is to get more members of Congress on their side, and that's the agenda of the Council for a Livable World. They consistently are out advocating on behalf of anti-defense, anti-nuclear deterrent policies for this country and trying to influence the law-making process," he said.
Before the news conference, Berg and Thune met with Minot's Task Force 21, the base retention committee.
"It was good for me to hear about their activities and what is going on here," said Thune, whose state is home to a B-1 bomber Air Force base.
Additionally, Thune stressed the importance of Berg's election in tipping the scales for Republicans in Washington, D.C.
"There isn't any way that we are going to be able to get the things done that we need to in the United States Senate unless we get a majority," he said, "There's no way to a majority in the United States Senate that doesn't come through North Dakota."
He said Berg's support for the role that Minot AFB plays in national security is "going to be the defining difference for people in this race."