Yesterday I broke the news about Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger’s Chevy Tahoe being involved in a rollover on the strip in Mandan. Today I have more details to add.
I also wrote about it at Watchdog today.
First, the driver of the Tahoe was a man named Jesse Larson who has been arrested for alleged DUI and reckless driving. When I spoke to Rauschenberger last night about the accident, he told me that he had been “hanging out” at Larson’s home. He claimed he didn’t know Larson’s last name. “He went out to get cigarettes and we were like ‘this guy is never coming back’,” Rauschenbeger told me. He told me that the car had been destroyed after Larson “drove it up a light pole.”
The conversation was a little strange. Rauschenberger seemed to be slurring his words. I’ve spoken with Rauschenberger on multiple occasions and interviewed him on the radio. He has always struck me as well-spoken and very much in control of the facts. The person I spoke to on the phone last night seemed confused.
I also thought it was strange that the Tax Commissioner was “hanging out” with a man who had apparently been drinking in the middle of the afternoon on a Tuesday.
I checked around with some sources in the capitol and was told that Rauschenberger had been missing a significant amount of work of late. Based on that information, I had a second conversation with Ryan this morning and asked him point blank if he’d been struggling with addiction.
He admitted to me that he has. “I have been doing some treatment trying to get better,” he told me. When I asked him what he was seeking treatment for, he told me “alcohol.”
Rauschenberger told me that he started seeking treatment earlier this year. He said that at times he’s stayed overnight in treatment, and other times he just has daily appointments. He told me that currently he is getting treatment about once a week.
I asked how he came to be hanging out at someone’s house whose last name he didn’t know, and why he lent that person his car, and Rauschenberger told me it was “poor judgment.” He said he had met Larson in treatment, and that he lives just a few blocks from Rauschenberger’s home.
Rauschenberger was appointed by Governor Jack Dalrymple in November of last year to finish out the term of former Tax Commissioner Cory Fong who took a job in the private sector. He is currently seeking election to a term of his own, facing Democrat Jason Astrup.
Mandan radio station 96.5FM The Fox posted pictures of the accident though didn’t identify the vehicle as belonging to Rauschenberger.