Tobacco Tax Hike Measure Sponsors Fix Inaccurate Campaign Finance Report

Eric Johnson, of Grand Forks, speaks at a press conference announcing the Raise It For Health North Dakota coalition's introduction of an initiated measure to raise tobacco taxes in the state. The group plan to have the petitions signed to get the measure on the November ballot. TOM STROMME/Tribune

Yesterday I flagged something fishy about the campaign finance disclosures filed by Raise It For Health, the initiated measure sponsoring committee behind that tobacco tax hike which will be on the ballot in November.

This group collected 22,840 signatures to place their tax hike on the ballot, but in finance disclosures filed with the Secretary of State’s office and covering the drafting and petition circulation stages of their campaign they reported no money raised and no money spent. When I asked Dr. Eric Johnson, the chairman of the committee, about this he said they felt the reports were correct.

Only it appears they weren’t. Prompted by a call from me Lee Ann Oliver, elections specialist at the Secretary of State’s office, looked into the matter with the Raise It For Health folks and concluded that they hadn’t, in fact, reported their finances properly.

“The Raise it for Health ND will be amending their reports to account for the money that is now appearing on the independent expenditure filed by Tobacco Free ND. This should then tie up the loose ends that you have asked about,” Oliver told me in an email yesterday.

“We had a couple of calls and some discussion as how it all ties together and concluded that the money that showed up on the independent expenditure did actually go to the sponsoring committee not the measures committee and it was ultimately for the drafting so that is why they are amending the drafting report today,” she added.

Checking the campaign disclosure database this morning, the Raise It For Health folks have filed an amended report detailing a $540 in-kind contribution from Tobacco Free North Dakota.

I’m still a little skeptical that this $540 encompasses all of the money raised and spent on drafting and circulating this measure, but what are you going to do? North Dakota’s campaign transparency laws are far too lax and not enforced all that vigorously.

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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