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Published May 16, 2012, 02:38 PM

Veterans PAC backing Sand in ND GOP Senate primary

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A veterans' group is buying television advertising to support Republican Duane Sand's U.S. Senate primary campaign because of rival GOP congressman Rick Berg's support for raising the national debt limit, its director said.

By: DALE WETZEL, Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A veterans' group is buying television advertising to support Republican Duane Sand's U.S. Senate primary campaign because of rival GOP congressman Rick Berg's support for raising the national debt limit, its director said.

Sand's status as a former Navy submarine officer also factored into the decision, said Joel Arends, president of the Veterans for a Strong America Action Group.

Arends said the organization is a "super PAC," which may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on political ads. The political action committee's ad against Berg cost $40,000 and will begin airing Friday, he said.

The Federal Election Commission had no record of the organization on its website on Wednesday. Arends said paperwork to set up the PAC was sent to the FEC early Wednesday.

Arends declined to say where the PAC received its financing, saying the information would be included in its first federal campaign disclosure filing.

Super PACs may not coordinate their activities with individual candidates' campaigns. Sand said Wednesday he had not seen the ad and was unaware of the organization until he heard a news story about it.

"I think the Republican establishment is underestimating how widespread and deep the voter discontent is about this unsustainable debt path that we're on," Sand said. "That's why it's been a key part of my messaging."

Chris Van Guilder, a spokesman for Berg's Senate campaign, called the ad a "negative attack from (an) out-of-state group."

It "won't change the face that thousands of North Dakotans have joined Rick Berg's efforts to change Washington and the U.S. Senate," Van Guilder said in an email.

Berg, who was elected to the U.S. House in 2010, is competing with Sand for the Republican nomination to run for the U.S. Senate. The winner of the June 12 primary will oppose Democrat Heidi Heitkamp this fall.

Last August, Berg supported legislation to allow the limit on what the federal government may borrow to rise from $14.3 trillion to $16.4 trillion as part of a more complex budget bill.

Sand said at the time he would not support raising the federal debt limit. The super PAC's ad depicts Berg as a budget hypocrite, showing a clip of him describing "out-of-control spending" and "a rising debt" as "unacceptable."

"Why does Rick Berg say one thing and do another?" the ad's narrator asks. "Rick Berg voted to increase spending ... Rick Berg voted to let our debt grow."

Arends said Sand's veteran status and opposition to raising the debt ceiling merited the PAC's support.

"We've noticed that Rick Berg voted to raise the debt ceiling. Duane has committed to not vote for more debt," Arends said. "He's one of the few candidates who has."

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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