GOP lawmakers seek to ban North Dakota governor from political donations, endorsements
BISMARCK – A group of ultra-conservative North Dakota lawmakers are backing a bill that would prevent the state governor from approving or making political donations to legislative candidates.
The main sponsor of
Rep. Jeff Magrum, R-Hazelton, said he is bringing the proposal because he believes there needs to be a stronger separation of powers between the executive and the legislature.
While the bill does not explicitly name Republican Gov. Doug Burgum, it comes after an election cycle in which the former tech executive spent nearly $ 2.7 million on political contributions to dozens of candidates. The bulk of Burgum’s donations went to the Dakota Leadership PAC, a well-funded committee that funded mailings and multimedia advertising in several high-profile races, including one
to overthrow the powerful Speaker of the House of Credits, Rep. Jeff Delzer, R-Underwood.
Magrum said Burgum and his committee targeted him in last year’s Republican primaries with negative ads and supported his challenger Jim Grueneich, who had recently resigned his seat in the House of Representatives and moved to the district of Magrum. Campaign records show that Burgum personally donated $ 2,500 to Grueneich, but the committee’s contributions are not public. Magrum was then re-elected.
“It was disturbing that (Burgum) was targeting all individuals – whether people like him or not, it’s still not right,” Magrum said.
Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki declined to comment on Magrum’s proposal.
House Majority Leader Chet Pollert R-Carrington would not take a position on the bill, but said campaign contributions were likely protected by free speech. However, he noted that Burgum’s heavy spending in the last electoral cycle “pervades” the separation of powers. Pollert said previous governors got involved in funding other candidates, but the amount of money Burgum spent is on a different level.
Pollert previously told Forum News Service that Burgum’s spending against Delzer certainly strained relations between the governor’s office and the Legislature.
It’s unclear whether Magrum’s bill would hold up in court – its creator cited a section of the North Dakota Constitution that prohibits the governor from bribing, intimidating or threatening office holders. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled in the past that political spending is a form of free speech, whether by individuals or groups.
Magrum said Burgum “has created fear within the legislature” that he will target them in the next election if they speak out.
Burgum has previously said the Dakota Leadership PAC will likely remain active in future elections.