TOM STROMME/Tribune Alex Hilzendeger, left, and Norton Lovold hold a banner in front of boxes of petitions outside the state capitol in Bismarck on Monday morning as speakers Dina Butcher, left, and Ellen Chaffee address a crowd of 32 people. The petitions if approved would place a measure on the November ballot to amend the state constitution. For a video of Butcher go to

During the 2018 election cycle the air was thick with denunciations of lobbyists, with most of the smoke being blown by the North Dakotans for Public Integrity.

That group was behind the successful Measure 1 campaign, and they’ve been long on hypocrisy since their inception. They have railed against the influence of out-of-state money in North Dakota politics, yet got the bulk of their contributions from out of state including big money donations from a long list of Hollywood activists.

Then, after all that braying about lobbying, they went and hired themselves a lobbyist for the 2019 legislative session. Here’s his listing from the Secretary of State’s lobbying database:

I guess lobbyists and out-of-state money are ok as long as it’s the right kind of lobbying and out-of-state money.

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Anyway the NDPI folks actually had a half dozen lobbyists at the 2019 session – far from being a scourge of the lobbying industry, they seem to be stimulating it – but I mention Mr. Stites because according to this article from my colleague John Hageman, Mr. Stites has applied to be on the ethics commission created by Measure 1:

Greg Stites, an attorney hired by North Dakotans for Public Integrity to lobby lawmakers last session, said developing a new “code of ethics” for state officials will be among the commission’s first priorities but warned it “isn’t going to happen overnight.”

Stites applied to be a member of the commission, which he likened to a fourth branch of government that’s on equal footing with the executive and legislative wings. He predicted it would meet at least monthly but wouldn’t be a full-time job for commissioners.

The North Dakotans for Public Integrity insisted we had to pass Measure 1 to deal a blow to nefarious lobbyists influencing our politics. Now one of their own lobbyists is trying to finagle his way onto the ethics commission.

You can’t make this stuff up.

It’s interesting that Stites calls the ethics commission a “fourth branch of government.” A ridiculous statement, but illustrative of what the intent behind Measure 1 was. Its left wing backers have been successful at placing their candidates in North Dakota’s other branches of government, so they set out to create a new one.

This has always been about the politics of control and retribution, even cloaked as it was as a drive for ethics.