Ethics Ballot Measure Committee Paid $260,000 to Collect Signatures Despite Claiming It Was a “Volunteer” Effort

Dina Butcher delivers a proposed ballot measure creating an ethics commission to Secretary of State Al Jaeger. Pictures center, in the back, is fellow measure organizer Ellen Chaffee.

A group calling itself the North Dakotans for Public Integrity announced earlier this week that their ballot measure, which would amend the state constitution to (among other things) create an ethics commission, was certified for the November ballot.

In their press release announcing the news they give the impression that they collected the signatures to qualify for the ballot through a local, volunteer effort.

“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 (emphasis mine).

Earlier this week I pointed out that this group has raised about $379,000 for their campaign, a figure which included just $4,250 in itemized contributions from North Dakotans. A lot of the rest came from a long, long list of Hollywood’s celebrity activists

Calling into question whether the “North Dakotans” for Public Integrity ought to be calling themselves “North Dakotans” given the provenance of their campaign support.

There’s also reason to question whether this is really a volunteer effort, citizen-led effort as Chaffee states in their press release.

If ballot measure campaigns intend to pay people to collect signatures they must, by law, disclose that to the Secretary of State’s office. Chaffee did that on behalf of the group back in March, and disclosed that they intended to pay a whopping $260,000 to collect signatures.

I obtained a copy of the disclosure this morning which you can read in full below.

Where did that money go? According to the campaign disclosures the group has made to the Secretary of State’s office, there was a $260,000 payment made to a company called Advanced Micro Targeting which, according to their website, provides petition circulation services:

In their press release to the public the “North Dakotans” for Public Integrity claim their petition was the result of a “citizen” effort consisting of nearly 100 “volunteers.”

Their campaign disclosures, reveal a front group of North Dakota activists largely funded by left wing, out-of-state money funneled through national groups most of which was used to hire people to collect signatures.

I attempted to contact the folks at NDPI this morning – I emailed Ellen Chaffee directly as well as the NDPI group itself and also left a voicemail for Chaffee – and asked them if they could break down for me how many signatures were collected by their paid circulators and how many were collected by volunteers.

They haven’t responded to me.

This seems like an important question for their group. Their stated mission is to bring transparency and accountability to politics. Perhaps, to accomplish those goals, they should start with themselves?

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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