Senator Jon Casper: Legislature Has Already Taken Steps to Improve Transparency and Ethics


ND State Capitol (Korrie Wenzel/Grand Forks Herald)

This guest post was submitted by state Senator Jon Casper, a Republican from Fargo.

I led the charge last session to pass campaign finance reform. Republican legislative leaders co-authored the legislation and worked to pass SB 2343. The finance reform legislation Republicans passed was the most sweeping since the state started requiring any type of reporting.

Under Republican leadership, the legislature enhanced reporting requirements including:

  • Applies reporting requirement equally to all statewide and legislative candidates
  • Requires candidates to report personal contributions or loans to their campaigns
  • Requires reporting of expenditures by category, and
  • Explicitly prohibits personal use of campaign funds.

These changes result in North Dakotans having more information on candidates and elected officials. If a candidate donates or loans money to their campaign, that is disclosed. All spending is disclosed, so voters have a window into where the money goes. Lastly, no campaign funds can be used for personal use.

During the lead up to drafting SB 2343, I reviewed the possibility of an ethics commission and came to the conclusion that they are little more than a charade. They have all kinds of ethics commissions in Washington and how well are they working. Many of us have said in the past, we have an ethics commission in every coffee shop and community gathering place in North Dakota. Give people information, shine light on what elected officials are doing and how they do it, and let the people decide.

My fear has always been, that like Washington, a ND ethics commission will amount to little more than a partisan political weapon. Who is going to do the investigation? Members of the legislature? Legislative counsel?

A commission will end up being nothing but bogus claims filed against a member of the legislature by an opposing party or aggrieved member with a gripe, who will then send out a press release indicating an “ethics commission review” is under way against another member. No one will care about the result of that investigation, just that one occurred. These make for great lines in campaign literature. Don’t vote for “Bill” there is an ongoing ethics investigation.

I suppose if I were in a party relegated to irrelevance by being constantly out of touch with every day North Dakotans, taken over by the young, ultra-liberal leftist of our state who have done nothing but track the Washington Democrat message (sometimes going even further to the left) I’d being looking for any type of hammer I could put in place to attack my opponents.

Campaign Finance Reform passed last legislative session due to Republican leadership will do more for open and honest governing than any ethics commission ever will.