Ryan Rauschenberger Returns, Talks Struggles With Alcohol


Fargo Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki has a good report about Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger returning from alcohol treatment to take up the duties of his office and campaign once again.

Overall, it seems Rauschenberger is doing a good job of handling the questions about his alcohol addiction, though this jumped out at me as problematic:

Rauschenberger said he was on his way to drop off his rent check on the morning of Sept. 2 when he rear-ended a vehicle at a stoplight in north Bismarck, earning a $30 ticket for care required. He said he had been at work before the crash and hadn’t been drinking.

Later that afternoon, he lent his 2007 Chevy Tahoe to an alleged drunken driver who rolled the vehicle in Mandan. Rauschenberger said he had met the 22-year-old man in treatment and went over to his home after the morning crash, but he declined to comment on whether he’d been drinking with the man, who wasn’t seriously injured in the crash.

“I didn’t realize he had had as much as he had apparently, but I should have realized that he was not in shape to be driving,” he said.

First, and foremost, the fact that Rauschenberger handed the keys to his car to someone who was too inebriated to drive – who in fact went on to have a serious accident with Rauschenberger’s car – is a serious lapse in judgment that some are going to have a hard time getting around.

Second, Rauschenberger refusing to say whether or not he was drinking that Tuesday afternoon with his friend he’d met in treatment strikes me as a silly move. The toothpaste is out of the tube. We all know that Rauschenberger has a drinking problem. We know that he was missing work because of it (a half dozen days according Rauschenberger’s estimate). I can also add that I spoke to Rauschenberger that Tuesday evening, and while I didn’t ask him that night if he’d been drinking, he certainly sounded that way to me.

What possible reason could Rauschenberger have for declining to answer that question? Admitting that he’d been drinking that day is of little consequence now. Avoiding the question just makes him look evasive.

The path to rehabilitating his campaign lays with getting the public’s sympathy. That’s not going to happen if the public gets the sense that you’re not shooting straight.

Though, outside of this one area, I do think Rauschenberger has been forthright about his problem.

Certainly his return to work has taken the wind of his opponent Jason Astrup’s sails. Astrup has been running brutal ads attacking Rauschenberger as being “too impaired” to hold his office. He’s also been complaining to the media that Rauschenberger hasn’t been around to debate.

But Rauschenberger is back now, and has agreed to debate Astrup. Barring any new developments, it’s hard to see Astrup winning. Certainly Rauschenberger’s problems haven’t translated into new financial support for Astrup. According to the Secretary of State’s office, he’s received just two donations in excess of $500 since he reported having raised just half of Rauschenberger’s total during the pre-general reporting period. He’s received $2000 from the Boilermaker’s in Minnesota, and just under $600 from the District 26 Democrats.

That’s not exactly a windfall. Certainly not enough to make a difference in what has become probably the most expensive political advertising market in recent memory.