Governor Burgum Should Have Paid for His Own Super Bowl Tickets

Governor Doug Burgum poses with his wife Kathryn Helgass Burgum on the field during Super Bowl LII. Via Twitter

Governor Doug Burgum attended the Super Bowl this weekend, and Xcel Energy picked up the tab.

Burgum’s staff tried to cover the trip with a veneer of official duty, telling the Fargo Forum that the Governor would be discussing reliability issues with the company while watching the game.

Give me a break. If Governor Burgum wants to talk turkey with Xcel Energy he can set a meeting whenever he likes. He doesn’t need to go to the Super Bowl. It’s worth noting that, beyond services and infrastructure, Xcel has been heavily involved in the debate our state has been having over wind energy. Are we developing too much? Too little? I’m told there are new policies in the works that would require companies like Xcel to have a decommissioning policy for their wind farms.

Accepting these tickets to the game was inappropriate. By contrast Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton reportedly paid his own way to the big game which was hosted in his state, a cost of about $6,000.

Do you think Xcel might like to have Burgum’s ear on those issues? Of course they would. And they got it. While he was in their private football suite, enjoying their hospitality during one of the biggest sporting events of the year.

Accepting these tickets to the game was inappropriate. By contrast Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton reportedly paid his own way to the big game which was hosted in his state, a cost of about $6,000.

Burgum should have done the same. Particularly given the tone of his 2016 campaign in which he decried the “good old boys club” and promised to turn down his state salary if elected.

Don’t get me wrong, Burgum (who has been enormously successful in the private sector before taking office) has little need for anyone to buy him Super Bowl tickets. I also think Burgum has a lot of integrity, meaning a trip to Minneapolis to watch the Super Bowl from private box seats is unlikely to sway him when it comes to public policy which impacts Xcel Energy’s bottom line.

Still, it would behoove our state leaders to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Remember that Burgum took this trip the same week left wing activists (masquerading as a bipartisan group) submitted a petition to create a state ethics commission.

While I can’t find any state law or ethics policy that Burgum violated with his Super Bowl trip, at least some in the public view North Dakota as having an ethics problem. Burgum’s Super Bowl trip is likely to become a talking point for the proponents of that ballot measure.

Plus, this isn’t just about Doug Burgum. While he’s the current occupant of the governor’s office, others will hold it in the future. Do we really want to set a precedent whereby we’re ok with people taking expensive trips to high-profile events paid for by companies with a significant fiscal interest in North Dakota’s policies?

UPDATE:

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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