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ND-Sen: Heitkamp's brother accused of using radio show as campaign 'media arm' to silence critics

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Sen. Hedi Heitkamp's brother is accused of using his radio show to "silence" his sister's critics after he sleuthed to find the divorce papers of a blogger critical of Heitkamp. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The brother of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Joel Heitkamp, is working to boost his sister in her bid for re-election this November, using his radio show as a platform to disseminate information about Heitkamp's opponents.

Joel, a former politician himself, hosts a radio morning show called "News & Views with Joel Heitkamp" on KFGO-AM.

What's going on?

Joel has apparently been digging for dirt on a conservative blogger, Rob Port, who is often critical of his sister. Port operates the site "Say Anything Blog," a popular stop for North Dakota politics.

Joel announced on Twitter last week he secured Port's divorce papers, learning he had been paid $71,000 for part-time work by Forum Communications, a local news station.

As the Washington Free Beacon noted, Joel's discovery came just days after Port's website published a story revealing just 9 percent of Sen. Heitkamp's donations come from North Dakota residents, a stunning revelation for an incumbent who could very well lose her critical seat in November to GOP opponent Rep. Kevin Cramer.

It's not clear what prompted Joel to sleuth through Port's personal life. It may have come because Mike McFeely, a writer for Forum Communications, questioned whether Cramer was paying Port for his criticisms of Heitkamp.

What does Port have to say?

In a recent column on his website, Port said Joel's radio show is essentially just a platform used to re-elect his sister.

"It’s obvious to any honest observer that talk radio host Joel Heitkamp operates the radio station he manages as a de facto media arm for his sister Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s re-electon campaign. This includes the male Heitkamp acting as a surrogate for the Senator and attacking her critics," he wrote.

"It’s more than a bit chilling to have the brother of a United States Senator ardently trying to silence media critics with personal attacks," he added.

His comments came in a column defending Joel over the idea he is jeopardizing KFGO's FCC license. The Senate Leadership Fund, an organization associated with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), recently floated the idea, which Port disagreed with.

"Call me old-fashioned, but I’m going to come down on the side of free speech on this one," he wrote.

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