North Dakota AG unconcerned about contributions from controversial GOP group


By Rob Port | North Dakota Bureau

VERY CAREFUL: North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says he’s not concerned by the large contributions from the Republican State Leadership Committee to his re-election campaign since the group uses a separate fund for states like North Dakota which don’t allow corporate contributions.

BISMARCK, N.D. — The Republican State Leadership Committee has made headlines recently due to a leaked memo shining a light on the group’s controversial fundraising. But despite taking more than half of his re-election campaign contributions from the group this cycle, North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says he doesn’t know anything about the controversy.

A leaked September 2011 report, prepared by Washington law firm BakerHostetler for the RSLC board, details an investigation into alleged fundraising misconduct by leadership of the group.

“It charged that national RSLC leaders conspired improperly with the leader of the Alabama Republican Party to use the RSLC as a pass-through for controversial Indian tribe donations, essentially laundering “toxic” money from the gaming industry by routing it out of state and then back into Alabama,” Politico’s Alexander Burns reported August 4.

Those activities allegedly took place in 2010. That year Stenehjem received $65,000 in contributions from RLSC, more than 40 percent of his campaign’s total fundraising. So far in the 2014 cycle, Stenehjem has received a single $150,000 contribution from RLSC, which represents more than 70 percent of his fundraising.

Despite these large contributions to his campaign, Stenehjem told Watchdog he’s unaware of the details of RLSC’s controversial fundraising.

“I don’t know anything about it,” he said. “It’s interesting what’s in that article, but it doesn’t affect us.”

Stenehjem said RLSC has been supporting him since 2010, but that he’s not concerned about corporate donations to his campaign being filtered through the group. He said his contributions come out of a “separate account” the group maintains for candidates in states like North Dakota where corporate campaign contributions aren’t allowed.

“Some states allow corporate contributions,” Stenehjem said. “We do not.”

“They’re very careful about it,” he added.

Stenehjem was first elected attorney general in 2000. Prior to that he served in the North Dakota Senate from 1980 to 2000. His 2014 campaign is his fourth for attorney general and his opponent is Grand Forks attorney Kiara Kraus-Parr, who was endorsed by Democrats in March.