Last night at a candidate forum put on by the Cass County United Republicans Committee state Senator Tom Campbell, a candidate for the U.S. House, claimed his campaign has paid for very few delegates to attend the NDGOP’s state convention. He also claimed that those delegates paid for were college students he intended to help get involved with the party.
“That was so blown out of proportion by you know who,” he told radio host Scott Hennen in an interview after the forum, referring to my coverage of the story (because I’m flipping Voldemort or something).
“I’m not going to buy my way. It’s less than two handfuls of people,” he added. When Hennen pressed him further on that, he said his campaign paid for “less than 10 or 12 people.”
“And they’re all college students…who needed help and support,” he added. Here’s the video:
As I’ve noted before, the NDGOP does have a rule requiring that the campaigns disclose the delegates they’ve paid for – the deadline for that is 5:00pm today – but last week NDGOP Chairman Rick Berg sent out an email to delegates telling them they could avoid disclosure if they reimburse their delegate fees:
This gave Campbell delegates an opportunity to avoid disclosure, something the Associated Press is reporting on today. According to reporter James MacPherson, “dozens and dozens” of delegates are have done the reimbursement, and while Berg wouldn’t tell the AP which candidates specifically had paid, he did say “someone could reasonably infer” it was Campbell.
But the various candidates themselves got delegate lists, along with information on who paid the fees, and the Armstrong campaign says Campbell paid for at least 63 delegates. Which jibes with the AP’s reporting.
“Every statewide candidate along with multiple volunteers and staff with the NDGOP have access to the delegate list. That list includes who paid for each delegate,” Armstrong campaign manager Michael Howe told me this afternoon. “We counted 63 delegates, some of which are professional adults, not college students, that Tom or his staff had paid for.”
So, in summary, Campbell says he paid for “less than 10 or 12 people” and that “they’re all college students.” The Associated Press and the Armstrong campaign say it’s dozens and dozens of candidates, with the Armstrong campaign adding that they’re mostly not college students.
The campaigns cannot release the names, in accordance with party rules. I reached out to Campbell campaign manager Lucas Paper for comment, and he provided this statement:
Hey Rob, we helped a number of Tom’s friends and family register, and as planned, those folks are reimbursing the campaign. We are excited to be able to help 10 college students attend the Convention and get more involved with the state party. Tom is committed to growing the Republican Party and is proud the campaign is able to help these college students participate at the Convention.
When I initially asked the Campbell campaign about paying for delegates they wouldn’t talk to me about it. Now they’re trying to claim that the plan all along was to pay for dozens of delegates only to be paid back by them later. After the NDGOP chairman specifically gave delegates the opportunity to reimburse their fees to avoid disclosure.
That seems convenient to the point of being unbelievable.
“Kelly has been honest from the beginning and originally paid for his parents, brother, and sister in-law. All 4 have now paid their own way, and Kelly’s mom gave a donation to the state party,” Howe told me. “Paying for delegates is allowed by the NDGOP, so it is disheartening that any candidate would attempt to cover those payments up, or try to mislead a room full of people who’s votes they say they want to earn.”
The other candidates – Tiffany Abentroth, DuWayne Hendrickson, and Paul Schaffner – have all indicated to me previously that they had not paid for any delegates.
UPDATE: The deadline for delegate disclosure has passed. Per the NDGOP, Campbell was the only candidate to disclose, providing a list of 10 names he paid delegate fees for.
“No other campaigns have submitted disclosures, indicating that they have not paid fees for any delegates apart from themselves or immediate family members,” NDGOP field director Dawson Schefter said in an email. “56 people contacted the state party to take advantage of the opportunity to pay their delegate fees directly to avoid being included on a disclosure.”