The NDGOP convention next month is a little more high stakes than usual thanks to a contested race for the House endorsement. There are five candidates in that race, but two real front runners, state Senators Tom Campbell and Kelly Armstrong.
The latter Senator has said on the record that he will abide by the vote of the convention delegates. The former has said he’ll push on to the June primary if he loses at the convention.
For Campbell, in particular, the convention outcome is critical. If he can win there, it’s likely smooth sailing to the nomination in June.
So perhaps it’s not surprising that rumors have been circulating about Campbell paying for delegates to attend the state convention. I’ve been told that the candidate is picking up the bill for things like hotel rooms and meals and convention dues in order to get his supporters to Grand Forks so they can vote for him.
Believe it or not, that sort of thing isn’t illegal or even against NDGOP party rules. The party does, however, require some disclosure of payments to delegates in its by-laws (emphasis mine):
In order for a Statewide Candidate, National Committeeman, or National Committeewoman to have his/her name placed in nomination he/she must by 5:00 p.m. the Tuesday prior to the state convention submit signatures from one delegate from six Legislative Districts and must disclose to the Chairman in writing any use of a candidate’s or other party’s personal or campaign funds to pay the delegate fees of any seated delegate.
Obviously that rule only applies to delegate fees, and what I’ve been told is that Campbell is paying far more than that.
I reached out to the campaign about this, but they aren’t willing to divulge who or what they’ve paid for at this point. “We will make all the necessary disclosures for the convention at the required time,” was all Campbell campaign manager Lucas Paper would tell me when I inquired about paying for delegates. He didn’t respond to a follow up question asking if the campaign would have anything to disclose. And, again, the only disclosure required of the party is the payment of the delegate fees. Not extras like meals or lodging or travel.
I checked with the Armstrong campaign, and the candidate told me he’s paid for some of his family to attend.
“I have paid for my mom and dad and did that personally. I then told them that we are even for everything. My dad didn’t think that was the best deal. Other than that my campaign has not paid for any delegate fees or hotel rooms for anyone,” Armstrong told me in an email last night. “I’m going to pay for my brother and his wife today online but they are paying me back,” he added this morning in a text. “He’s too busy to do it this week apparently.”
“I have not paid anyone to attend convention,” another House candidate, Paul Schaffner, told me in an email.
Inquiries to the two other candidates in the race – Tiffany Abentroth and DuWayne Hendrickson – received no response.
UPDATE: This is from Alan Denz of the Abentroth campaign:
We at Abentroth for North Dakota are definitely not buying delegates.A direct quote from Tiffany Abentroth is this, “I believe that it is completely unethical and that I do not need to buy votes.”