A Former N.D. Legislator’s Perspective
IV Words supports North Dakota Measure #1, the “Ethics Commission, Foreign Political Contribution Ban, and Conflicts of Interest Initiative,” a.k.a., “The Anti-Corruption Amendment.”
Rather than hold forth on why I think it’s important (duh), I’ll let you hear it from a distinguished guest writer, former North Dakota Representative Ed Gruchalla. Ed’s seen the need – and greed – firsthand.
First, a little background:
The measure is sponsored by the bipartisan, grassroots group North Dakotans for Public Integrity, whose website states: “Measure 1 increases transparency, roots out conflicts of interest, restricts lobbyist gifts, bans foreign money from elections, prevents personal use of campaign money, closes the revolving door from public official to lobbyist, and holds public officials accountable.”
Hard to argue with that with a straight face, even though several pundits and politicos are giving it their best shot.
Here’s Ed –
North Dakota Needs an Ethics Commission. Here’s Why.
There have been several attempts by some legislators to improve North Dakota’s weak ethics by our elected officials over the years. These attempts have been thwarted by the Republican majority. During my time in the Legislature, I was appalled by the lack of control displayed by some of our elected officials.
These are some of the most egregious examples of lack of judgement or moral failures:
- A state representative was found to have not paid taxes for six years, to the tune of $400,000. She was never prosecuted and was allowed to finish her term.
- A state representative was arrested for assaulting his wife and appeared on the front page of the Bismarck Tribune in orange coveralls during the legislative session. He was not brought up on ethics violations because North Dakota does not have a method for dealing with these issues.
- A state senator was arrested twice for drunk driving and drugs were found in his truck. He was not brought up on Ethics charges because ND does not have an Ethics Commission.
- A state senator accepted campaign contributions from a foreign corporation. This is a violation of Federal Law. He has since been re-elected.
- A state representative took a photo of his privates and posted it on the Internet. He was allowed to finish out his term.
- Two public service commissioners took thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from a coal company that had applied for a permit from the PSC to open a coal mine in North Dakota. Nothing happened to them because this is North Dakota where “we have no ethics problems.”
Almost all of the states have some sort of ethics panel or commission to deal with issues such as those mentioned above. There have been bills introduced to address these issues in past sessions of the N.D. Legislature, but they were voted down.
This lack of action to do something about North Dakota’s absence of ethics has resulted in the initiated measure that will appear on the November ballot (North Dakota Measure 1 – Ethics Commission, Foreign Political Contribution Ban, and Conflicts of Interest Initiative). The Legislature could have addressed the problem, but the majority of legislators chose to ignore it. Now we must pass the measure.
About Ed Gruchalla
Ed Gruchalla served in the U.S. Navy, was a North Dakota Highway Patrol officer and Dem-NPL representative for District 45. He served in the North Dakota House of Representatives from 2007 to 2014.