UPDATE: Secretary of State Al Jaeger tells me that anti-Measure 7 activists haven’t been disclosing their spending.
Yesterday I wrote about the lack of disclosure on the part of the anti-Measure 7 campaigners.
Today I found out a little more about that.
Measure 7, if you haven’t been paying attention, is seeking to repeal North Dakota’s protectionist law which prohibits pharmacies from operating unless they’re owned by a pharmacist (or unless they own a grandfathered-in pharmacy license).
The advertising for the anti-Measure 7 campaign says it is sponsored by the North Dakotans for Prescription Facts, a disclosure that is required by state law on all campaign advertising. The thing is, search the Secretary of State’s campaign disclosure databases, there are no filings by a group with that name. Meaning there are no disclosures as to who is contributing to this group.
The pro-Measure 7 people have filed lots of disclosures. The North Dakotans for Lower Pharmacy Prices have disclosed hundreds of thousands in contributions and spending, as well as more than $1.3 million in independent spending by Walmart. They’ve been criticized for that – Walmart isn’t exactly a sympathetic figure for most voters – but they’ve been honest about it. It’s all available for voters to scrutinize.
You can’t say the same for the anti-Measure 7 people.
I attempted to contact Mike Schwab yesterday via email. He is the executive director of the North Dakota Pharmacists Association, which is running the anti-Measure 7 campaign. He didn’t respond to my email until today, after I left a phone message for him at his office, and he told me that the North Dakotans for Prescription Facts isn’t a measure committee but rather “a Trade-Name of the ND Pharmacy Service Corporation.”
What is that entity, exactly? It is described on the North Dakota Pharmacists Association website as a “private for-profit entity” that is “composed of primarily pharmacy businesses.”
Apparently the corporation has about 100 members, but none of them are listed on the webpage.
When I looked up the NDPSC’s independent expenditures in the Secretary of State’s disclosures, they’ve done over $334,000 in spending so far, which tells us who is footing the bill for all the billboards and websites, etc.
But who, exactly, does this corporation represent?
According to the website linked above, the corporation has about 100 active members. They also list a contact phone number for a woman named “Lori” who has more information about their group.
So I called Lori this afternoon to find out just who the membership of this group is. When I asked about a membership list, Lori got evasive.
“Right now we are consulting with our legal counsel about what we have to disclose,” she told me.
Why does this matter? Well, despite the “independents vs. big corporations” narrative, there are actually some pharmacy chains that are already allowed to operate in North Dakota. CVS pharmacies, for instance, has several locations in the state as does Thrifty White Drug.
It would be inconvenient for the anti-Measure 7 narrative if it came out that the campaign against opening the state up to big-box pharmacies wasn’t being waged by small-town, independent pharmacists but rather the few national chains that are already operating in North Dakota through a loophole in the existing law.
Lori told me she’d call me back with what the NDPSC lawyers decide, but I’m not expecting them to want to make their membership public.