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ND-Sen: Heitkamp's apology for outing sexual abuse survivors may have violated FEC rules

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) may have violated FEC rules with an ad apologizing for outing sexual abuse survivors. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp's campaign just can't seem to stay out of its own way lately. After a print ad mistakenly revealed the identity of some sexual abuse survivors, the ad the campaign put out apologizing for the previous mistake may be in violation of Federal Election Commission rules, according to Say Anything Blog.

Heitkamp took out an ad in the Minot Daily News expressing remorse for naming sexual abuse victims against their will, and naming some who weren't victims at all, but the ad appears to lack a key disclaimer all campaign ads must have.

“Any public communication made by a political committee — including communications that do not expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified federal candidate or solicit a contribution — must display a disclaimer,” FEC rules say.

What's the story?

In a large newspaper advertisement meant to criticize her opponent, GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer, for his stance on sexual abuse, the Heitkamp campaign collected signatures from people who were supposedly victims of sexual abuse.

As it turns out, however, some of those people did not authorize their names to be used in a public advertisement, and some said they were not victims of sexual abuse.

The staffer who collected the signatures was fired, and now Heitkamp needed to apologize -- so she took out another ad (this one was, notably, much smaller than the original ad).

"In an attempt to bring awareness to this issue and push back against dismissive comments toward sexual assault survivors by Kevin Cramer, our campaign worked with victim advocates to identify women who would be willing to sign the letter or share their story,” the apology ad read. “We recently discovered that several of the women’s names who were provided to us did not authorize their names to be shared or were not survivors of abuse."

This ad has created a new problem -- because it was paid for by the Heitkamp campaign, according to the Minot Daily News, it should have carried a disclaimer, such as the "Heidi for Senate" that was at the bottom of the mistaken first ad.

And, on top of it all, Heitkamp is still trailing Cramer in the polls.

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