FACT CHECK: New Pomeroy attack twists Berg’s proposal

FARGO – Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy is taking to the airwaves this week to further criticize his GOP challenger for his proposal to fund Social Security through oil drilling, which could impact national parks.

Fargo legislator Rick Berg told The Forum last week he wants to fix the Social Security program by funding it through drilling on federal lands with untapped oil and mineral reserves. He said national parks – such as Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota – were not out of the realm of possibility to be included in his plan but emphasized that he would want horizontal drilling technology used, so as to lessen the above-ground impact.

Pomeroy was quick to call Berg’s proposal “a stunningly bad idea,” so it’s no surprise the Democrat is out this week with a new 30-second attack ad, condemning Berg for his statements.

Pomeroy’s ad shows the scenic and iconic backdrop of Teddy Roosevelt National Park, and the view pulls back to reveal what it might look like if pumps extracted oil within the park.

“Rick Berg may be too afraid to explain himself to voters, but they deserve to know what he’d do if he were elected to Congress,” Pomeroy spokesman Brenden Timpe said in a campaign statement about the latest ad.

But while the ad is certainly effective for its extremity, it’s that same extremity that makes the ad misleading and, at points, false. Here’s why:

Ad claim #1: “Theodore Roosevelt National Park is great for families. But Rick Berg says he wants to drill in our state’s national park. (Source: Grand Forks Herald, 9/9/10)”

FACT CHECK – Yes, Berg has proposed the possibility of drilling in the national park, but it’s not as simple as that. Specifically, Berg said he would support drilling underneath the park, and that he would first seek to make use of other federal lands that are readily accessible, since drilling in national parks is currently prohibited. Pomeroy’s ad cites my original Forum report that the Herald also published on Thursday through Forum Communications’ content-sharing program. That story made clear these specific points of Berg’s proposal, which the ad neglects to mention.

Ad claim #2: “Now that both parties oppose Berg’s bad idea, he tries to deny it.  But it’s here in black and white:  ‘Berg would include national parks – and specifically Theodore Roosevelt National Park.’ (Source: Fargo Forum, 9/9/10)”

FACT CHECK – The first part of this claim makes reference to a statement last week by Republican Senate candidate and North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven who said he doesn’t support drilling in national parks. However, Berg is not denying what he said. As I discussed in a post yesterday, though, Berg is evolving his pitch to emphasize that he doesn’t want to damage the natural beauty of national parks through his plan.

Ad claim #3: “Berg said months ago that he wants to drill in national parks. (Source: Bismarck Tribune, 9/11/10) The more you drill into Berg’s 26 year record, the more questions you find.”

FACT CHECK — This claim cites a recent Bismarck Tribune column, which says Berg discussed “the very same idea five months ago.” Herein lies the problem with this ad claim: “the very same idea” Berg discussed then was his proposal to fund Social Security – not the controversial aspect that his plan could impact national parks:

Fargo Rep. Rick Berg is running against Pomeroy for his congressional seat.

Berg said he wants to maintain the promise of the program for future generations but sees the solution to Social Security resting in  other areas.

“We need more jobs — then we’ll have more people paying into Social Security and that will help make it solvent,” said Berg.

He said that allowing oil companies to drill on federal land would open the option of putting the royalties of the process into the program.

Bismarck Tribune, 04/13/2010

That “national parks” detail of Berg’s proposal was unknown until last week when The Forum editorial board asked him directly if national parks would be part of his plan. Berg’s policy proposal has been around for several months but this particular facet of it has only been around for a week – That distinction makes this Pomeroy ad claim false.

While Pomeroy’s ad accurately sources recent media reports, it takes them out of context by twisting Berg’s proposal and failing to mention relevant information that viewers need to know to understand the whole situation.

The ad isn’t entirely false, but there’s enough misleading details and half-truths that voters should be wary and take this particular ad with a grain of salt.

2 thoughts on “FACT CHECK: New Pomeroy attack twists Berg’s proposal

  1. The picture itself is enough to tell me it’s a misleading ad. I wish Pomeroy’s campaign people would get serious and stop with the silly ads. I think it’s a distraction to the real issues of out of control government spending. Oh wait, that’s probably the point!

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