Lawmaker Accuses Top Burgum Adviser Of Being Something Less Than Transparent In Lobbying Efforts

Lobbyist and former NDGOP chairman Robert Harms is currently serving as an adviser to the Doug Burgum campaign.

Last week the Doug Burgum campaign complained that a political consultant working for the Stenehjem campaign – Pat Finken, specifically – didn’t adequately disclose his ties to that campaign while guest hosting Scott Hennen’s talk radio show.

“During this time they carried on the facade of a legitimate programing [sic] while orchestrating two hours of prearranged guests and callers who both promoted the Stenehjem campaign and attacked the Burgum campaign,” lobbyist and Burgum campaign adviser Bob Harms said in a statement. “That’s the type of deliberately deceptive, good-old-boy style politics that made Doug want to run for governor.”

They had a point, which I noted in a post at the time. But now a Republican lawmaker, Rep. Todd Porter of Mandan, is accusing Harms of being something of a hypocrite when it comes to disclosed interests.

“Robert Harms might want to clean up his own closet full of skeletons before criticizing others,” Porter adds.

“In 2015, Harms testified on a wind energy bill before a legislative committee, but failed to register as a lobbyist for the company he represented,” Porter writes in a letter to the editor of the Dickinson Press today. “In 2013, Harms also testified on a flaring bill claiming to be acting on his own behalf. It was only later we discovered he was a lobbyist for the Environmental Defense Fund, a radical environmental group opposed to oil and gas development.”

“Robert Harms might want to clean up his own closet full of skeletons before criticizing others,” Porter adds.

Ouch.

The former of those two situations is news I broke during the 2015 legislative session. Harms, who was also serving as the chairman of the NDGOP at the time, submitted a letter to the Senate’s Finance and Taxation committee introducing himself as a lobbyist for a Kansas-based wind power firm. The problem is that he had not yet registered to represent that company with the Secretary of State’s office.

“My mistake in not getting paperwork signed for Tradewind,” Harms told me at the time. “I got the authorization over the weekend. It has been filed (with the Secretary of State’s office) this morning.”

The latter of Porter’s claims is a bit less cut and dried. According to the committee minutes for HB1134, a bill aimed at flaring introduced in the 2013 legislative session, Harms definitely told lawmakers that he was speaking in favor of it on his own behalf. From page 36:

harms

You can read Harms’ written testimony and attachments starting on page 97 of the committee minutes.

And according to the 2013 lobbyist registrations posted on the Secretary of State’s website Harms was, in fact, registered to represent the Environmental Defense Fund.

harmslobbyingdisclosure

I remember when Harms’ work for the EDF was first reported (though not in this context). He was the NDGOP chairman at that time as well, and there was surprise and questions about him representing a group that a) doesn’t seem to have values much in line with Republicans and b) doing so while he also works as the chair of the state party.

But while Harms doesn’t seem to have done a very good job of disclosing his work for the EDF to his fellow Republicans, it’s not clear from these records that he was representing the EDF when he testified on HB1134. Or that the EDF cared about that legislation.

Though it certainly seems like the sort of bill – one aimed at reducing flaring, albeit through what some might describe as objectionable means – that they would support.

I’ve put in a call to Harms for clarification on this last claim. I’ll update with what I find out when/if he calls me back.

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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