Tax Commissioner Lying During DUI Arrest Is Unacceptable

North Dakota Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger is arrested for drunk driving Sept. 30, 2017, in Mandan, N.D., in this screenshot of a Highway Patrol video of the incident.

Yesterday the North Dakota Highway Patrol released to the public video of Tax Commissioner Ryan Raushchenberger’s arrest for DUI back in September. He pleaded guilty to those charges earlier this week.

Here’s the video:

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A defense attorney I spoke with said the sentencing Rauschenberger faced was typical, but another disturbing fact came out of the law enforcement reports of the arrest.

Rauschenberger lied about his drinking, and pretty flagrantly too:

Rauschenberger told Trooper Tarek Chase that he had “like one drink … like three hours ago” after he was pulled over at 10:18 p.m. on Sept. 30, according to a report provided Tuesday by the North Dakota Highway Patrol. But a preliminary breath test indicated his blood alcohol content was .208 percent, more than twice the legal limit, while a later test showed a BAC of .206 percent.

Rauschenberger, a Republican, said Tuesday he had more than one drink.

“I do regret saying that,” Rauschenberger told reporter John Hageman, noting that he was otherwise compliant during the arrest. Though I’m not sure why we should be giving anyone brownie points for not fighting with a cop making a lawful stop and arrest.

This sort of lying during a DUI arrest is undoubtedly standard stuff. But that doesn’t make it any more acceptable for a statewide elected official, one entrusted with oversight of the state’s tax code, to do it.

Rauschenberger admitted to struggles with alcohol addiction before the 2014 election. He went into treatment and emerged to win election by a wide margin over a cream puff Democratic candidate. In other words, the voters forgave him.

But this is a much different situation. Last time was the first time. Last time Rauschenberger wasn’t driving a car. And last time he didn’t lie.

Rauschenberger hasn’t said whether he’ll run for re-election in the 2018 election. As I point out in my print column today, he’s one of three statewide Republican candidates who are vulnerable.

Can Rauschenberger win again? There is really no defense for his DUI arrest and the lie he told during it.

He’d have to ask for forgiveness from the electorate. Again.

And hope that Democrats run an awful candidate. Again.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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