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Commentary: Who cares if Congressman Cramer pays family to work on his campaign?

U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer answers questions during a Grand Forks Herald editorial board Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 16, 2017. Joshua Komer / Forum News Service1 / 2
columnist Rob Port2 / 2

Who cares if Congressman Kevin Cramer pays his family to work on his political campaigns?

North Dakota is a small business state. Odds are good that you, dear reader, have probably worked with family at one point or another. If you haven't, you probably know somebody who does.

Our state's most important industry — agriculture — is one built on the concept of family-operated businesses.

But Democrats — or, more likely, the army of out-of-state operatives they parachute into North Dakota for election years — think attacking Cramer for paying family members to work for his campaign will be an effective strategy against him.

I'm dubious. Not least because the actual figures, collected from the FEC's disclosure databases, show that Cramer isn't paying his family very much.

As an example Kris Cramer, Kevin's wife, has been paid a total of $139,055.07 over four two-year election cycles, including the most recent filings in the 2018 cycle.

The figure includes $119,000 in salary and just over $20,000 in expenses.

That works out to Kris Cramer earning about $24,000 per year, or $48,000 per election cycle, to serve as her husband's campaign manager.

According to PayScale.com, the average political campaign manager in America makes just under $54,000 per year.

It seems like Congressman Cramer is getting a bargain from his wife.

Cramer also employs his daughter Rachel Wegner at times. Since the 2012 cycle, she's collected $13,766.95, including $6,424.60 in expenses (the rest is salary).

Reel Love Videos, a company owned by another of Cramer's daughters, has been paid $11,334.45 for services since 2012.

Again, these figures stretch over four two-year election cycles. The payments hardly seem unreasonable.

What does seem unreasonable is the Democrats demanding an ethics investigation into a tweet sent by Cramer from his official congressional account responding to my colleague Mike McFeely.

The tweet, in which Cramer said his strong polling numbers would break McFeely's heart, was described by state Democratic Party executive director Scott McNeil as "undermining the credibility and dignity of the House."

"While the only evidence of such misuse of resources presented here is a single tweet, the (Office of Congressional Ethics) must treat any evidence of the use of official resources for campaign purposes as significantly undermining the integrity of the House," he continued.

But what use of resources was there? Twitter is free. If there is a violation here, it's a trivial one.

A greater abuse of resources, from this taxpayer's perspective, is the demand for quixotic investigations into trivia motivated by partisan politics.

Democrats are worried that Cramer will challenge incumbent Sen. Heidi Heitkamp this cycle, a race he stands a good chance of winning.

These small-minded attacks on him are a preview of how nasty Heitkamp and her surrogates are willing to be in defense.

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