In 2014 there was a major battle over Measure 1, a pro-life constitutional amendment put on the Legislature.
The finances of a group formed to support Measure 1, which called itself North Dakota Choose Life, have become an issue in 2016 because the chairman of the group, Janne Myrdal, is now running for the state Senate in District 10. And some of her political enemies have started a whisper campaign about missing money.
Apparently it began on Joel Heitkamp’s talk radio show last week – a couple of people out of his audience of dozens reached out to me about it – and looking at the numbers there is clearly a problem. Here’s the year-end report from the Secretary of State’s office which does show discrepancy of more than $119,000.
I contacted Myrdal about the discrepancy (I’d been hearing wild rumors about her using it to buy herself a new SUV and horse trailers), and she made two points.
First, she says she didn’t handle the money for the campaign. “I never signed any checks. I never saw a contribution. You hire a full campaign to do that,” she said.
Second, she said the discrepancy was likely due to technical glitches at the Secretary of State’s office. “They were changing software and they had lots of glitches,” she said.
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]”Probably there’s some fault for both of us,” she said. “They probably thought everything was going to be copied forward and it probably wasn’t.”[/mks_pullquote]
I spoke with Lee Ann Oliver, head of the elections division at the Secretary of State’s office, and she confirmed this.
“I think what she’s talking about is that when they started to file a lot of entries were entered in the wrong area,” Oliver told me. “The year-end wasn’t ready in our new system because it only started in 2014. What happened is we had to copy that into an Excel, and when the year-end report was able to start for everybody, we had to copy forward the Excel into that list.”
Oliver said there may have been some confusion with campaigns not understanding that they had to update and verify that their numbers were accurate.
“Probably there’s some fault for both of us,” she said. “They probably thought everything was going to be copied forward and it probably wasn’t.”
According to Oliver the ND Choose Life group is working on an amended filing which should be ready by the end of the week.
I asked if there was a possibility of any fines or further issues from this, and Oliver said that was unlikely.
“If they don’t remedy it according to what looks really close then it’s going to be up to [Secretary of State Al Jaeger] to take it further,” she said. “I don’t think we’re contemplating anything at this point.”
Certain talk radio hosts spreading rumors and innuendo might have known this if they’d bother to make a phone call.