Ex-Senator Enjoys Good Life with Leftover Campaign Funds

Former Democratic US Senator Heidi Heitkamp was soundly booted from office by her North  Dakota constituents back in 2018.  But she still has some $4.5 million in campaign contributions left on the table most likely largely from out-of-state liberal big-spenders, whose dream of regaining Democratic control of the Senate died with Heitkamp’s defeat by Republican Kevin Cramer.

Fargo Forum political columnist and blogger Rob Port blasted the expensive tastes revealed in Heitkamp’s most recent required federal election commission  report.

How has Heitkamp been spending her campaign money over the last year? Booze, fine dining, and luxury travel make up a big chunk of it.

There was a $2,700 bill at the Acqua Al 2 restaurant in Washington, D.C. There were also big tabs at the London West Hollywood restaurant in Beverly Hills, the ultra-fancy Mayflower Hotel in D.C., and the Napa Valley Grille in Los Angeles. On top of that, there was more than $6,700 spent at Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, a Washington D.C., liquor store.

A look at Heitkamp’s recent expenditures from the multi-million dollar account serves to remind our neighbors next door just how out of touch their senator had become with rank and file workers in her home state.

Heitkamp also spent over $3,700 on lodging with Airbnb around Thanksgiving time as well as nearly $600 at the Salamander Spa, a luxury resort in Virginia’s horse and wine country.

There was also $70,000 in payments (the last $10,000 installment made in mid-December) for “consulting” to Tessa Gould, Heitkamp’s former chief-of-staff in her Senate office and campaign manager. This, despite Gould having worked at Forbes Tate Partners, a Washington D.C., lobbying firm, since March 2019.

The campaign fund’s biggest ticket item was to a group Heitkamp’s involved with, raising several questions in columnist Port’s mind.

The most significant expenditure from the campaign in the last year was $600,000 in contributions to the One Country Project.  This is an initiative Heitkamp joined shortly after losing in 2018. Its stated purpose is to help Democratic candidates better understand we rubes out here in fly-over country.

Except in minimal and unique circumstances, federal candidates aren’t allowed to pay themselves from their campaigns. But in this instance, Heitkamp is sending six-figure sums to a group she’s also working for. Does that group also pay Heitkamp a salary? Is Heitkamp essentially paying her own salary with campaign funds?

More than  anything else, Port wonders about the fallout if Heitkamp starts doling out her remaining campaign funds to candidates in state races this election cycle.

It is a potential game-changer for North Dakota Democrats this cycle if Heitkamp decides to play kingmaker. She could use some of those millions to promote statewide and local candidates.