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Helmut Schmidt, Published August 13 2012

YWCA: Director didn’t influence board to ask Berg ad be pulled

FARGO – The president of the YWCA Cass-Clay’s board of directors says the agency’s executive director did not influence the board’s decision to ask Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., to pull a Senate campaign television ad they thought could be construed as an endorsement of his candidacy.

“The decision was solely of the board of directors,” Sindy Keller said Sunday.

Keller said Executive Director Erin Prochnow, who is the niece of Berg’s Democratic opponent in the Senate race, Heidi Heitkamp, neither brought up the issue nor tried to influence board members.

“She’s (Prochnow) done a great job and she understands her boundaries,” Keller said. Attempts to contact Prochnow on Monday were unsuccessful.

YWCA Communications Coordinator Abby Boggs-Johnson said the decision had been made that the only comment from the agency on the issue would come from Keller. “We’re not issuing any further comment,” Boggs-Johnson said.

Last week, the YWCA board asked Berg to pull an ad featuring former YWCA board Chairwoman Tammy Miller praising Berg for helping to secure funding for the YWCA’s emergency women’s shelter in Fargo.

The board said the ad could be perceived as a YWCA endorsement of Berg’s campaign, which would jeopardize its nonprofit status.

Rob Port, who writes the conservative Say Anything blog, charged that because Prochnow is Heitkamp’s niece, the family connection was likely responsible for the YWCA seeking to have the Berg ad yanked.

In a posting on Friday, Port called the situation “dirty politics.”

“It just goes to show that Heitkamp and her allies will stoop to any level to win this campaign,” Port wrote.

However, Port said he hasn’t tried to verify those assertions. He said Monday on WDAY-AM radio’s “Jay Thomas Show” that he neither tried to contact the Heitkamp campaign or Prochnow for a statement.

Berg’s campaign has updated the ad to make it clear that it isn’t a YWCA endorsement.

A Heitkamp campaign spokesman, Brandon Lorenz, told The Forum on Saturday that no attempts were made by the Heitkamp campaign to influence the YWCA board.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583