Loophole in Measure 1 Will Let Lobbyists Serve on the Ethics Commission, and Five Have Applied So Far

Supporters and opponents of Measure 1 debate during a Chamber of Commerce event in Bismarck during the 2018 election cycle Bismarck Tribune photo

Measure 1, the Hollywood-bankrolled “ethics” amendment North Dakota voters cast their ballots for last year, was backed by a campaign that spent a lot of time vilifying lobbyists.

But now lobbyists, including one who works for the Measure 1 campaign, are applying to serve on that commission. A loophole in the measure means they probably can.

Section 3, subsection 3, of Article XIV (created by Measure 1) of the state constitution now reads thusly:

The loophole is the tense of that prohibition on lobbyists serving in the ethics commission. It’s present tense. Meaning you cannot be a lobbyist while you serve on the ethics commission. But the timing of lobbyist registrations and ethics commission appointments means people who lobbied this year, in the most recent legislative session, could also serve on the ethics commission.

Lobbyist registrations expire June 30. The ethics commission will be appointed by Governor Doug Burgum, in consensus with the Senate’s Majority and Minority leaders, by July 1.

That one-day loophole means the prohibition on lobbying in any given political cycle is pretty much meaningless. As evidenced by the fact that five of the 47 applicants to serve on the commission so far are, or have been, lobbyists.

These are the lobbyists who have applied so far (the deadline for applications is May 24). You can see a spreadsheet with the full list of applicants below, which I based on information obtained from Burgum’s office:

I should note that I don’t have a particular objection to any of these people serving on the ethics commission, even the three who lobbied at the most recent legislative session earlier this year.

I object to the existence of an ethics commission – I think they accomplish very little in terms of accountability and a great deal in terms of political hay making – but if we’re going to have one why shouldn’t lobbyists serve on it?

But then, I wasn’t a Measure 1 supporter out vilifying lobbyists generally.

Measure 1 won’t accomplish the objectives its backers told us it would. But then, I’m not sure those objectives were really what they were after.

The measure’s left wing supporters don’t want more accountable government. They want a fourth branch of government, since they’ve had so little success in controlling the other three in North Dakota.

Here’s the full list of ethics commission applicants as of yesterday afternoon:

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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