Despite it being a terrible (and blatantly unconstitutional, in many regards) proposal, North Dakota voters approved Measure 1 in the election last week.
I believe the measure should be immediately challenged in court, but probably before that can happen the Legislature has some work to do. Because in many areas the ballot measure’s language requires that the Legislature implement its directions as statute.
This is a complicated area of public policy, even for the people who make the law, and so Legislative Council created and distributed to lawmakers this week a guide to which areas of state law will need to be changed because of Measure 1 and the deadlines by which they must be changed.
The latest the deadlines is January 5, 2022.
The full document is below.
The areas which will need changing are:
- Reporting requirements for political activities
- Laws governing gifts made to policymakers
- A ban on lawmakers holding jobs as lobbyists while in office, or for two years after leaving office
- A ban on lobbyists delivering campaign contributions made by another entity
- A ban on using campaign donations for personal things
- The creation of an ethics commission
Most of these changes are probably fine. The tricky parts are going to be the new ethics commission and the disclosure requirements for political activities.
The former because a malformed committee could quickly become less a tool for accountability than a venue for settling political scores. I’m not convinced that government ethics committees are all that good at promoting ethics. The federal government has all sorts of ethics and oversight committees. Some of the most corrupt state governments in our country have them too. Is ethical government achieved through the existence of these committees, or by voters making better choices at the ballot box?
The latter because there are going to be some serious 1st amendment issues at play. A plain reading of Measure 1’s text tells us the Legislature must put in place reporting requirements disclosing “the ultimate and true source of funds spent in any medium, in an amount greater than two hundred dollars, adjusted for inflation, to influence any statewide election, election for the legislative assembly, statewide ballot-issue election, or to lobby or otherwise influence state government action.”
There is no exemption in the text for private citizens acting individually. Or even for media companies, for that matter.
The supporters of Measure 1 have tried to claim that their text doesn’t say what it clearly says, but I don’t think lawmakers tasked with implementing this thing through statute have that sort of latitude.
Probably what we’re going to see are laws implemented as Measure 1 directs, and then challenged in court on 1st amendment ground as soon as they’re in effect.
Here’s the full document from Legislative Council: