Remember When North Dakota's Senators Didn't Live In The State?

Recently the New York Times  reported that Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, doesn’t actually own a home of his own in his state. He’s a fixture in DC politics, and owns his own home there, but in the state he’s elected to represent he lists the address of a long-time campaign donor as his official address. “[T]he three-term senator acknowledged that he did not have a home of his own in Kansas,” reports the Times.

That’s pretty amazing, and the admission became national news (especially since Roberts is facing a Republican primary challenger), but it’s always been curious to me that a similar story here in North Dakota didn’t get more attention.

conrad_mailboxWay back in 2006 – eight years to the month, I still can’t believe I’ve been blogging that long – I think I (with an assist from Clint at the Bismarck-Mandan Blog) was the first to write about the fact that Senators Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan had, as their official residences here in North Dakota, two apartments across the hall from one another in an apartment building in Bismarck. Clint snapped a photo of the mailboxes in the building which shows Senator Conrad and his wife, lobbyist Lucy Calautti, listed in apartment one.

To me, that was always a sensational story. Two Senators living across the hall from each other in an apartment building? The story got all the more sensational when it turned out that the apartment building was at one time financed by a VIP loan from Countrywide Mortgage (yes, that Countrywide) for which Senator Conrad got an extra special discount which he later claimed he knew nothing about (because doesn’t everyone get a discount on their mortgage after talking to the CEO of the bank?).

During that same time, Conrad owned a multi-million dollar Delaware beach house. Dorgan’s Mclean, Virginia, mansion was profiled in Home & Design magazine shortly after his retirement from the Senate. Let’s face it, neither of those gentleman were living in their Bismarck apartments.

What was frustrating about this situation is that I seemed to be the only one in the North Dakota media (to the extent that I’m part of the media, I guess) who cared about it. To this day when this story comes up in conversation with friends both inside and out of the state, they’re amazed at the audacity of two Senators claiming an official residence in the same building. But do you think a reporter or editor or television producer here in North Dakota cared much about it?

Nope.

Yet, a Republican Senator in Kansas doing pretty much the same thing is the stuff of national news.

I’m not sure that Dorgan and Conrad would get away with it in today’s media environment. There are far more outlets for news now then there was back then. Heck, SAB wasn’t quite three years old yet, and had a pretty limited readership. But they did get away with it back then, for years and years, which speaks to how deferential the state media was back then.

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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