Last week I noted that a group calling itself the North Dakotans for Public Integrity (despite being largely funded by Hollywood celebrity activists) had, per disclosures their campaign made to the state, paid some $260,000 to collect signatures for their ballot measure to amend the state constitution and create an ethics commission.
“North Dakota has always been a place where people feel connected to their government and this citizen-led effort continues that connection. We had nearly 100 North Dakota volunteers circulating petitions in every corner of the state,” Ellen Chaffee, a long-time Democratic activist, said in the group’s press release announcing their measure’s certification for the ballot (emphasis mine).
At the time I emailed and called Chaffee asking for a break down between signatures collected by paid petitioners and signatures collected by volunteers.
She didn’t respond then and, as of the publication of this post, she still hasn’t responded. Which I note in my print column today: “The folks at NDPI have put out news releases in which they imply that its signatures were collected by nearly 100 volunteers from across the state, but when I’ve asked them for details on the number of signatures collected by volunteers versus paid petitioners they’ve ignored me. That is ironic for a group claiming to be proponents of public transparency and accountability in policy making.”
The narrative behind this ballot measure – the thing which we are to believe is its impetus – is the idea interests with deep pockets hold too much sway over politics and so we need more accountability and transparency for politicians.
Which is fine, except when the group making that argument is funded by a lot of out of state interests with deep pockets who paid to collect signatures to put this measure on the ballot you begin to wonder if they aren’t hypocrites.
Especially when they won’t be transparent about just who it was who collected the signatures. Was it the volunteers, as they claim in their press releases? Or was it the people getting a paycheck to shove petitions in people’s faces?