Republican ad sparks political controversy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., is asking Republicans to stop running a television ad that invokes his name while attacking Sen. Paul Wellstone, a fellow Minnesota Democrat.
The ad, which began airing last Friday in Duluth, is critical of Wellstone for not siding with northern Minnesotans who want to allow more motorized travel in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
“Congressman Oberstar and Senator (Rod) Grams fight for us. Paul Wellstone sides with the liberals,” says the ad, which was sponsored by the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Oberstar and Grams, R-Minn., have introduced bills to allow more motorboats and reopen some motorized portages. Environmentalists oppose the measures.
In a statement from his office Monday, Oberstar said the ad was inappropriate.
“I am concerned that these tactics by the National Republican Senatorial Committee could undermine legislative progress on the two measures I have introduced,” Oberstar said. “Let’s get back to the issues.”
Minnesota Attorney General Hubert H. Humphrey III and St. Louis County Commissioner Mike Forsman have also asked the committee to pull the ads.
“These ads are aimed at dividing Minnesotans — an attempt to tear apart the fabric that holds our state together,” Humphrey said. “To inject politics into it for the pure sake of politics is wrong and the ads ought to be pulled off the air immediately.”
Wellstone, who is seeking re-election this year, announced last week that he has asked federal mediators to intervene in the BWCA dispute. He has not taken sides.
The NRSC has no plans to pull the ad, said spokesman Patrick McCarthy. Oberstar “did not quarrel with the substance of our spot,” McCarthy said.
Meanwhile, Conservationists With Common Sense, a group based in Ely, Minn., that wants to ease restrictions on the BWCA, has declined to participate in the mediation process. The group prefers the legislation introduced by Oberstar and Grams to mediation.
“I was surprised to hear they would not want to participate in discussions that affect interests of theirs,” said Diane Liff, an attorney for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, the independent agency that will conduct the talks.