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North Dakota senators not happy with questionable pro-life postcard campaign

BISMARCK -- A group of North Dakota senators is not happy with the latest attempt to influence their vote. Some senators -- including three Republican members of the Judiciary Committee -- have recently received stacks of fluorescent postcards at...

BISMARCK -- A group of North Dakota senators is not happy with the latest attempt to influence their vote.

Some senators -- including three Republican members of the Judiciary Committee -- have recently received stacks of fluorescent postcards at their home address urging them to support a pro-life bill.

Each postcard includes the typewritten name and address of the person who "sent it."

But inquiries by suspicious legislators have found that at least some of these people did not endorse or know about the postcards--and some of the people have moved away or are deceased.

"When someone resorts to these kinds of tactics, which are obviously not honest and above board, they have the opposite effect they're intended to have," said Sen. Curtis Olafson, R-Edinburg, who has received more than 200 postcards.

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The postcard states, "I am pro-life. I vote. I live in your district. Your support of HB1450 is important to me and my family. Please support HB1450." In smaller print at the bottom of the postcard is "I signed an NDLL petition to encourage my legislature to enact personhood measures."

NDLL stands for North Dakota Life League.

Sen. Dave Nething, R-Jamestown, said his stack of 50 to 60 postcards included two from his daughter and his son-in-law--both of whom said they never told anyone to send a card on their behalf.

North Dakota Life League State Director Tim Lindgren said the majority of the names on the postcards were collected during state fairs or meetings. The group collects signatures from people favoring personhood legislation. Others sign sheets asking for more information from the organization, he said.

Olafson said every postcard he received had a fake address. Every "sender's" street address is the same as his street address. Some of his postcards also were reported to come from towns that aren't in his district. All of his postcards had a Bismarck postal mark on them.

"We pride ourselves in North Dakota on transparency and honesty in government," he said. "There are obviously several things that they tried to do here to cover up who they were, and they obviously have used people's names without their permission and that is inexcusable."

Lindgren said a printer made a mistake on some of the postcards and printed the wrong addresses. He said they try to keep their list updated on a regular basis, and he could get correct addresses to senators who would like them.

"It's probably a mistake in hindsight (to send the postcards)," Lindgren said. "We probably shouldn't have."

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He said he didn't think it was fair to write an article about the matter. The organization tries to keep its mailing list updated, but some people slip by, he said.

Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, the sponsor of the pro-life bill, said he did not approve of the postcards or know about them in advance. He said he planned to check into the matter.

Sen. Stan Lyson, R-Williston, held up a stack of postcards that he received and said he did not favor the campaign.

"I'm not happy with it, and that's the nicest thing I've said about it," he said.

Olafson said he has constituents who are very angry that postcards were sent on their behalf without their knowledge. He planned to go to the post office to file an official complaint.

"It's kind of disturbing when I receive postcards, which are alleged to have come from constituents, and they in fact deny that they had anything to do with it," he said.

North Dakota Life League lobbyist Daniel Woodard said he apologizes to the senators and individuals. He said they are working to get senators the names of only the people who signed petitions in support of the personhood legislation.

He told Forum Communications that he would e-mail an official statement on the matter.

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