This Is the Sort of Citizen Activist Measure 1 Will Hurt

Ben Tucker, who farms near St. Thomas, N.D., is one of many private citizens who bring ideas to the Legislature and seek help from lawmakers and Legislative Council staff to guide them through the legislative process. Diane Newberry / North Dakota Newspaper Association

Over the weekend reporter Diane Newberry from the North Dakota Newspaper Association had a very interesting report about citizen-driven politics at the state Legislature, focusing on an activist named Ben Tucker who has been working on the expansion of Medicaid benefits.

Tucker is from St. Thomas, and his lobbying activities at the Legislature are backed by “a group of politically minded neighbors and friends.”

Tucker describes himself as a Democrat, and his policy agenda may not exactly be your cup of tea, but his engagement in the process is inspiring. This is exactly the sort of public participation policy making I think we all hope to see, and Tucker’s work in Bismarck isn’t unusual.

Many citizens get involved this way.

Thanks to Measure 1 and its proponents, we will probably see fewer people like Tucker in Bismarck, and that’s a damn shame.

Yet his very personal sort of activism will be made far more difficult once Measure 1, the so-called “ethics” ballot measure approved by voters last year, is implemented. That amendment to the state constitution requires “public disclosure of 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.”

Under this provision Tucker and his friends/neighbors would have to file disclosure reports about their activities.

It doesn’t matter that Tucker is not a registered lobbyist (citizens lobbying on their own behalf are not required to register, nor should they be). He has no doubt spent more than $200 on his efforts at the Legislature this year (he’s probably spent that much on fuel alone going back and forth from Bismarck to St. Thomas), and there’s no exemptions in Measure 1’s requirements for citizens.

Or even members of the media.

The state constitution, thanks to left wing groups like Represent.us and End Citizens United who bankrolled the million dollar campaign behind this measure, now requires that even citizens like Tucker report their political activities to the state.

These groups pitch their agenda under the guise of promoting transparency and ethics, but the truth is they’re in the business of trying to limit speech. In fact, End Citizens United is a group named after a landmark Supreme Court decision which struck down unconstitutional government regulations on political speech.

These groups are not on the side of people like Ben Tucker.

These groups are on the side of well-funded, professional political activists who can afford the time and cost of complying with arcane speech regulations.

Thanks to Measure 1 and its proponents, we will probably see fewer people like Tucker in Bismarck, and that’s a damn shame.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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