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OUR OPINION: E-mail 'ball' now in Berg's court

The most important paragraph in the story about Rick Berg and the e-mail list is this one: "Berg, a former state House Republican majority leader, denied using the list. Two of his campaign aides are former state Republican Party employees who on...

The most important paragraph in the story about Rick Berg and the e-mail list is this one:

"Berg, a former state House Republican majority leader, denied using the list. Two of his campaign aides are former state Republican Party employees who once had access to it, but he said they independently gathered the addresses they contributed to his campaign's 25,000-name list."

That paragraph is the most important because it gets to the heart of the story: Did Berg do something wrong?

Some key party leaders say yes. Berg himself says no. And that's as far as Sunday's story takes us.

Now, who's right?

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That's the next question. Berg himself must answer it by explaining how his campaign aides independently gathered those many hundreds or thousands of names on the list.

He should do so soon, because unlike Berg's suggestion in the story, this isn't an issue in which "things get a little crazy and blown out of proportion." This is a basic question of whether Berg or someone on his campaign staff took a valuable piece of party property, apparently without permission.

Berg owes the party and the voters a fuller explanation than he offered to The Associated Press. That explanation should include the means by which he got the names apparently "salted" on the list by Gary Emineth, party chairman.

If you missed The AP's story, here's a recap of its introduction:

"Republican U.S. House candidate Rick Berg improperly used a closely guarded e-mail list of GOP supporters to promote himself over GOP rivals in a contest to unseat Democrat Earl Pomeroy, the state party chairman says.

"Gary Emineth said he was convinced that the state lawmaker's campaign used the list, which is off limits to candidates during party endorsement campaigns. Emineth said e-mails were received by people whose addresses he personally 'salted' within the list as a way to spot misuse. The list has about 15,000 names and took more than seven years to compile, and its use by Berg's campaign gave him 'an unfair advantage' over the other three GOP candidates, Emineth said."

The story was broken by the Say Anything blog, www.sayanythingblog.com , run by Minot blogger and talk-show host Rob Port.

Berg supporter and state House majority leader Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, also tried to dowonplay the issue. "The most important thing is not to take your eye off the ball," Carlson told The AP.

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"The eye on the ball is to get a good (House) candidate, and to win in the fall. If we let all of these things sidetrack us, it's a mistake ... Let's get on with the business of the convention, and let's stop the silliness."

But given the party chairman's obvious anger and disappointment, the word "silliness" doesn't do justice to the issue. Again, Berg may have a good explanation for how he got the names on his e-mail list. He should offer it to set the matter straight.

-- Tom Dennis for the Herald

Related Topics: RICK BERG
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