Recently Cliff Rosenberger, until just recently the Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, resigned his position after saying he’d come under investigation by the FBI.
There’s no official word yet on what the FBI is investigating, but part of it may be Rosenberg’s lavish lifestyle and cozy relationships with lobbyists and other interests. Part of that, in turn, is the globe trotting he’s done paid for with other people’s money.
According to an Associated Press report, two lawmakers from our region were with Rosenberger on a summer trip to London funded by a Republican-aligned political action committee: Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt and North Dakota House Majority Leader Al Carlson.
Here’s how Carlson defended the trip:
Carlson said he attended the trip with money from GOPAC and from his own pocket and he was unaware at the time of Rosenberger’s resignation announcement of any investigation.
“It was paid for by GOPAC. It wasn’t taxpayer money,” Carlson said. “It was my time and my dime.”
It’s not your dime, Rep. Carlson, when other people are paying for it.
Carlson’s presence on this trip may well have been perfectly legitimate. The political world tends to get a bit overheated when lobbyists and politicians attend events together, but pretty much all of us support causes and interests which, in turn, hire lobbyists to make a certain case to lawmakers. For better or worse, that’s how the sausage is made.
But now is not a good time for North Dakota Republicans to have even the appearance of shady dealings. A left wing group is currently in the process of paying to collect enough signatures to put a terrible piece of ethics policy in our state constitution through the initiated measure process.
Our state auditor is already investigating Governor Doug Burgum’s office travel after he accepted a nearly $40,000 Super Bowl trip from Xcel Energy (Burgum paid it back after the trip came under fire from myself and other critics). Now the House Majority Leader is getting mentioned in articles about the lavish, lobbyist-paid trips taken by a Republican lawmaker from another state currently in the cross hairs of the FBI?
Carlson is already facing a tough re-election fight in Fargo’s District 41. He was nearly defeated in the 2014 election cycle, and this time around faces (along with fellow Republican Michelle Strinden) incumbent Democrat Pamela Anderson and new challenger Brandon Medenwald.
Even if there’s nothing unethical going on, at some point Republicans need to realize that in politics perception is reality. If the public perceives them as corrupt, then they’re going to vote based on that perception.