Last week Fargo businessman Doug Burgum filed a report with the secretary of state showing over $930,000 in reportable contributions to his gubernatorial campaign (donations of $200 and less do not have to be reported).
The thing is, according to political advertising disclosures required of licensed broadcasters by the FCC, Burgum has spent at least $1.4 million on television and radio advertising so far in 2016. That’s not counting other campaign expenses like online advertising, staff, travel, etc.
Suffice it to say that Burgum is spending a lot of his personal money on his campaign, which North Dakota’s too-lax campaign reporting requirements do not require him to disclose.
In his most recent television ad (see it here on YouTube) Burgum talks about how important transparency is for him, so I thought I’d ask his campaign about his personal spending. How much is this campaign costing him in terms of his personal fortune?
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]”Doug is spending his own money against a career politician who has been building his name ID for 40 years,” Burgum spokeswoman Kate Mund told me in an email. “Doug is calling for greater transparency about how the government spends taxpayer money.”[/mks_pullquote]
Well, he’s not telling.
“Doug is spending his own money against a career politician who has been building his name ID for 40 years,” Burgum spokeswoman Kate Mund told me in an email. “Doug is calling for greater transparency about how the government spends taxpayer money.”
That’s an explanation, I guess, but not a very good one.
Transparency when it comes to campaign finance is important. In fact, North Dakota’s laws are far too lax. There isn’t enough reporting. In fact, while candidates report contributions to their campaigns, they don’t report campaign spending at all.
Burgum’s is an unusual situation. He is one of the richest people in the state, and he’s clearly leveraging his personal fortune to help put himself into elected office. I think North Dakotans deserve to know the details of how much he’s spending. Not because spending your own money to get elected is some inherently bad thing, necessarily, but because the people deserve to know so they can make up their own minds about it.
On a related note, I did reach out to the Stenehjem campaign about their candidate’s personal spending, and they said there was next to nothing. “He puts gas in his own car when he travels to events, but beyond that there’s no other personal spending,” campaign manager Nate Martindale told me.