With 36,000 signatures, the North Dakota Anti-corruption Amendment will be on November’s ballot as Measure One.
On the surface, it seems everyone would be for a more transparent, ethical government, but this constitutional measure has some stark opposition.
President of North Dakotans for Public Integrity Dina Butcher says, “It’s been in the making among people sitting down having coffee, and being concerned about what’s happening to our North Dakota.”
Section one of the measure requires public disclosure of all money in excess of 200 dollars given to a campaign.
North Dakotans for Sound Government Chairman Geoff Simon explains, “Typically lobbyists register and report expenditures, but this would bring in all sorts of individuals: private individuals, individual citizens, charities, that typically aren’t expected to report political expenditures, are suddenly brought into this thing. And the real concern is that’s going to have a chilling effect on their participation in the process.”
Ellen Chaffee is the Vice President of North Dakotans for Public Integrity, the organization working to get the measure enacted. She says the public has a right to know who is influencing our elections.
Chaffee adds, “If they’re not willing to stand behind what they believe in, then they should spend their money other ways.”
The American Civil Liberties Union sent out the above press release in late September, opposing the measure.
Simon adds, “They’re concerned about the right of freedom of speech. Anytime you regulate political speech in any manner, you tend to interfere with that open communication that we have.”
Section two hits on lobbyists and other conflicts of interest. Chaffee says it will require a two-year ‘cooling off’ period for elected officials before they can become lobbyists.
She explains, “All of our public officials intend to be honest, but it’s that kind of unawareness of who they’re really thinking about when they’re making decisions.”
The couple lobbyists we spoke with say they’ve seldom seen this cause corruption in North Dakota politics.
Former legislator and Soybean Growers Association Lobbyist Phil Murphy says, “No, I think people are people and will make mistakes, and do need to be accountable. It is an issue, I don’t think it’s a constitutional issue.”
The second portion of the measure also prohibits personal use of campaign funds and bans foreign money from influencing our elections, language already in the state Constitution.
Lastly, the measure calls for the creation of an ethics commission.
Chaffee says, “We need to have a code of ethics for our public officials, the same way that lawyers and doctors and teachers all have a code of ethics for their profession.”
The commission would be responsible for coming up with a guidebook for public officials, and the five-member team will also maintain a confidential whistleblower hotline.
Simon says, “Any of those complaints, whether they’re valid or not, would be tossed in front of the public. They’d show up in the media somewhere.”
If adopted into the North Dakota Constitution in November, the measure would override any conflicting provisions in the existing constitution.
To read the measure for yourself, follow the link below:
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