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Anti-Obama posters stir flap at North Dakota Capitol

These posters were photographed in the office of the Public Service Commission in Bismarck. Special to The Forum

BISMARCK - North Dakota's Democratic Party is outraged over the discovery of two posters hanging in a state agency's office, calling the anti-President Barack Obama posters "outrageous" and "obscene."

In photos released by the state Democratic-NPL Party on Wednesday, one poster in the Public Service Commission office reads, "Thanks, Obama. You've spent my lunch money, my allowance, my inheritance, 35 years of future paychecks, and my retirement. You (expletive)."

Public service commissioners acknowledge that an employee had an anti-Obama poster hanging in his office of a little girl giving the finger. All three commissioners said Wednesday that they were previously unaware of the poster.

"He was wrong (to hang the poster)," Commissioner Brian Kalk said. "That's not what we're all about."

Somebody on a tour of the Public Service Commission office took and shared the photos, said Meredith Pickett, a spokeswoman for the state Democratic-NPL Party.

Teri Finneman is a multimedia reporter for the Forum of Fargo/Moorhead, owned by Forum Communications Co.

Another photo shows the other poster of a smiling Obama with the words, "Peace Prize. Just like welfare and socialized medicine. You don't have to work to get it."

Democratic-NPL Chairman Mark Schneider called the posters "beyond outrageous."

"These offices belong to the people of North Dakota, not the Republican Party," he said in a statement. "Using an image of a little girl in a profane gesture in a public office is obscene."

Commissioner Kevin Cramer said he agrees the posters were "distasteful" and were "inappropriate" to have in clear view of the hallway. However, he also said he supports freedom of speech.

"I think of all the places in North Dakota that stand as a symbol of free expression, the state Capitol is the best," he said.

The employee who hung the posters was not in the office late Wednesday and was not available for comment.

Commissioner Tony Clark said it's common sense to not hang something like that in a public office.

The three commissioners, who are all Republicans, said the issue is a personnel matter. Kalk said the matter involves a young employee who isn't an elected official.

"Don't put some young guy in the middle of this for political gain," he said. "Really, that's what this is all about."

Schneider also criticized Clark for saying he would be open to stepping in for departing North Dakota GOP Chairman Gary Emineth.

"I think I can speak for many when I say I'm not comfortable with my utilities regulator actively being the head of a political party," Schneider said in the statement.

Clark said the Democrats' game plan is dirt digging and character assassination as opposed to issues. Any party work would be done in his free time, he said, adding it's not uncommon for elected officials to do both. He pointed to Democrat Tim Kaine, who was governor of Virginia when he was selected to chair the Democratic National Committee.

North Dakota Republican Party Executive Director Adam Jones said in a statement in response to the North Dakota Democrat Party's attack:

"The North Dakota Democrat Party today revealed that they have dirt-digging operatives casing government buildings and taking pictures of offices of classified state employees. This is a new low for North Dakota politics.

"It's pretty clear the Democrats don't want to talk about the federal deficits, bank bailouts, takeover of the automobile industry, health care, high unemployment, cap-and-tax of utility companies and an overall expansion of government."

Schneider said:

"The overt arrogance of one-party rule keeps manifesting itself. The voters of North Dakota deserve officeholders whose first priority is to do the jobs they were elected to do and get paid handsomely for doing. This current bunch has amply demonstrated that petty partisan politics takes priority over public service. Show them the door!"

Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.