Port: This elected official is paid to be a legislator and paid to represent the gambling industry too


MINOT, N.D. — Rep. Mike Motschenbacher is a freshman lawmaker currently serving his Bismarck-area constituents in the first legislative session of his first term in office.

But Rep. Motschenbacher is also the executive director of the North Dakota Gaming Alliance, a powerful organization representing a burgeoning charitable gaming industry that has, thanks to the proliferation of electronic pull tab machines, exploded to become a nearly $2 billion industry in our state .

North Dakota has a part-time Legislature, meaning most lawmakers have a day job. It’s not unusual for their duties as elected officials to intersect with their professional and pecuniary interests. Teachers weigh in on pay raises for educators. Farmers help make agriculture policy.

It is deeply unusual, however, for an elected lawmaker to also be the head of a powerful lobbying organization. Motschenbacher himself hasn’t registered as a lobbyist. His organization employs the services of Scott Meske, who is one of at least a half dozen lobbyists serving charitable gaming interests in the current legislative session, according to lobbying registrations filed with the Secretary of State’s Office.

“My understanding of this is that if you are here testifying in front of a committee and representing an organization, you are required by law to register as a lobbyist with the Secretary of State’s Office,” Secretary of State Michael Howe, who was just elected to that job months ago, said when I spoke to him.

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