The word in political circles is that support for Measure 5, the constitutional amendment to divert hundreds of millions of tax dollars to conservation per biennium, is falling fast according to various insider polls (I’ll be releasing our polling on this measure tomorrow).
No doubt sensing that this campaign may be slipping away from them, the environmental activists behind Measure 5 went on the offensive yesterday carping about oil industry money that has been put into the campaign against them.
Conservation proponents singled out the American Petroleum Institute, a Washington, D.C., lobbying group that has pumped more than $1 million into the campaign to defeat Measure 5, which would set aside 5 percent of the state oil and gas extraction tax.
Budget officials project the measure, if passed, would allocate $259 million in the next two-year state budget, with almost $10 billion, in addition to a $1.6 billion budget surplus, available for other needs, said Steve Adair, chairman of the Measure 5 sponsoring committee.
“They are using the tried and true D.C. lobby tactic – scare people into a ‘no’ vote,” said Joe Herbst of Fargo, who has worked as a teacher and is getting his master’s to return to the classroom. “The fact is Measure 5 is not going to take funding away from the schools.”
There are actual education groups, made up of education leaders who work right here in North Dakota, who disagree with that last comment. Groups like the North Dakota School Boards Association,North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders, North Dakota Association of School Administrators, and the North Dakota Association of Secondary School Principals all of which are members of the opposition to Measure 5.
But I digress.
If the Measure 5 folks want to talk about big-money in this debate, they should look in the mirror.
The Nature Conservancy, which has as far as I can tell exactly one employee in North Dakota, has put $850,000 into the fight to pass Measure 5. Ducks Unlimited has poured over $2.3 million into passing Measure 5, and official committee sponsoring Measure 5 has taken in over $1.3 million of which more than 95 percent has come from out of state.
By contrast, the opposition to Measure 5 has received $1.1 million from the American Petroleum Institute as well as $1.1 million in donations to the North Dakotans for Common Sense Conservation committee, all of which appear to be from North Dakota.
All numbers which can be verified on the Secretary of State’s campaign disclosure website.
Now, I think it’s important to note when so much out of state money becomes a part of the debate over an issue or candidate in North Dakota, though its presence shouldn’t automatically disqualify that which it is supporting. But if the anti-Measure 5 people are so concerned about national money impacting this campaign (money that’s backing education leader, agriculture leaders, and local government leaders from North Dakota in their fight against this measure) why are they taking so much of it themselves?