Earlier this year Governor Doug Burgum, who rode into office on the back of a campaign which castigated a supposed “good old boys club” in Bismarck, accepted a trip to the Super Bowl that was worth roughly $40,000.
The trip was paid for by Xcel Energy, which has the largest electrical utility customer base in the state, and after the trip was exposed to public scrutiny the Governor paid the company back.
At the time a lot of people were wondering if Burgum’s trip perhaps violated some state ethics policy. I checked it out, and it turns out Burgum didn’t violate an ethics policy, mostly because his office didn’t have one at the time.
Fast forward to yesterday, Burgum’s office announced a finalized ethics policy they say was in the works before the Super Bowl trip. You can read the full thing below, but this section on gifts clearly would have been violated by Burgum’s trip had it been in place at the time:
When I and others were critical of Burgum’s luxury Super Bowl trip he defended it, even as he reimbursed the costs, by trying to paint a veneer of official duty over it. “I was afforded quality time to engage in constructive conversations with top Xcel executives, expressing my strong desire for Xcel to invest additional capital in their North Dakota markets,” he said at the time.
Yet, going forward, neither the Governor nor any other state employee working in his office could accept a similar gift even with that justification.
That seems to me like a tacit admission that the trip was wrong. Meaning, in turn, that Burgum learned from his mistake.
That’s good, though it would be nice if the admission were a bit more explicit.