Measure 1 Bans Lobbyists on the Ethics Commission, but a Measure 1 Lobbyist Has Applied Anyway


TOM STROMME/Tribune Dina Butcher, left, and Ellen Chaffee were involved with changing the North Dakota constitution when voters approved Measure 1 in November.

Yesterday I wrote about a lobbyist for the North Dakotans for Public Integrity – the local front group for the Hollywood activists behind Measure 1 – who wants to serve on the state ethics committee Measure 1 created.

Governor Doug Burgum is currently accepting applications to serve on the committee. Greg Stites, who was a registered lobbyist for NDPI this legislative session, told my colleague John Hageman he has applied for the committee.

The hypocrisy of this is what I first reacted to. How can a group which spent the last election cycle demonizing lobbyists turn around and put a lobbyist on the ethics committee they campaigned for?

But the hypocrisy gets worse. I had forgotten this until it was pointed out to me by several readers, but the Measure 1 constitutional amendment states that one cannot be a lobbyist and a member of the ethics committee. Here’s Section 3, subsection 3, of Article XIV of the state constitution:

Did the Measure 1 folks not read their own measure?

The tense is important, I suppose. You cannot “be” a lobbyist and serve on the ethics committee. So former lobbyists are ok?

But when does one cease to be a lobbyist? It’s not like there’s some official resignation process.

Sites, for instance, is in the 2018 – 2019 database for registered lobbyists. Does he stop being a lobbyist at the end of June when his registration expires, provided he doesn’t register to lobby again?

Perhaps. This is all a bit loosey goosey.

And doesn’t this illustrate the stupidity of the Measure 1 campaign’s vilification of lobbyist generally? Lobbyists aren’t inherently bad. There are lobbyists for all sorts of things. From schools to local governments, from charities to gun rights groups. Truth is, most lobbyist are representing the interests of large factions of North Dakota’s electorate.

The term “lobbyist” has become a bugbear with which to scare voters. We have of a government designed to be influenced by the people. Lobbyist are the practical means through which that influence can be wielded.

Measure 1 was never really about making state government more accountable. They refer to this new ethics commission as a “fourth branch of government” created because the left wing interest behind the measure have been largely unsuccessful at imposing their will on the existing three branches.