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By Tu-Uyen Tran, Forum Communications Co., Published April 21 2010

Dems file complaint on Berg finances

The North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party is requesting an investigation of Republican House candidate Rick Berg for not fully disclosing his financial interests.

A complaint sent to Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem on Tuesday said Berg did not reveal in his statement of interest that he’s on the board of Northern Plains Capital Corp. and owns 46,000 shares in the company.

Berg’s campaign said in a written statement that it’s known about the omission since Friday and, after consulting with the secretary of state’s office, was allowed

to fix the error.

The Democratic-NPL didn’t outright accuse Berg of knowingly leaving out his role with Bismarck-based Northern Plains. Instead, it noted in its news release that if his omission were intentional, it would be a Class B misdemeanor and require his name to be stricken from the ballot.

“We think it’s on him to explain what happened,” said Democratic-NPL spokeswoman Meredith Pickett.

State law is silent about whether a candidate can amend his statement of interest in the way Berg’s campaign is doing, she said, so it probably was at the discretion of the secretary of state.

The secretary, Al Jaeger, is, a Republican and is running for his sixth term.

Meanwhile at the office of Stenehjem, another Republican seeking re-election, spokeswoman Liz Brocker said the matter has been referred to the Burleigh County state’s attorney’s office. It’s in the county’s jurisdiction, she said, and the attorney general’s office must play a supporting role only.

At the campaign headquarters of Rep. Earl Pomeroy, the Democrat and incumbent Berg is hoping to beat, there was no comment. The campaign referred all statements back to the state Democratic Party.

So is the party making a mountain out of a molehill?

Berg’s people think so. In its written statement, his campaign chastised Democrats for their attempt to “sensationalize an error.”

A businessman, Berg’s financial interests are many. His statement lists more than three dozen companies and properties he and his wife, Tracy Martin, have interests in. Still the company he left out is one in which he owns enough shares to be on the board.

Asked how the omission could’ve occurred given Berg has filled out similar statements of interest when he ran previously as state representative from Fargo’s District 45, campaign manager Tom Nelson referred the Herald to the written statement.

Berg has been in the state House since 1985.

Pickett said disclosing financial interests are important because it allows everyone to see where a candidate’s potential conflicts of interest may lie.

Tu-Uyen Tran is a writer for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.