BISMARCK — During the 2020 election cycle, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum donated more than $3.2 million of his personal fortune to a secretive political committee that spent heavily to support candidates who ran aligned with it and oppose those who have not.
Campaign finance filings filed last week indicate Burgum is taking steps to become a major political donor again in 2022.
The former tech mogul recently donated $935,000 to the Dakota Leadership PAC, a committee that spent nearly $3.5 million on political advertising in 2020.
Levi Bachmeier, president of Dakota Leadership PAC, wrote in a statement to Forum News Service that the committee is grateful for Burgum’s continued donations.
“Our mission remains to elect conservative Republicans who share the governor’s vision to strengthen North Dakota’s economy,” Bachmeier said.
In response to Forum News Service voicemail seeking comment on the governor’s donations, Burgum’s campaign spokesman Dawson Schefter emailed the following statement:
“The governor has been an active donor to Republican candidates and causes for years and is a strong supporter of the Dakota Leadership PAC mission,” Schefter said.
Calculations made using filings reveal the committee spent $232,000 this year, but Dakota Leadership PAC’s designation as a “multi-candidate committee” means it is not legally required to report exactly how and where he spends money.
Bachmeier and Schefter did not immediately respond to a detailed list of Forum News Service questions about Burgum’s donations, including which political campaigns Burgum’s funds will be used for, if any.
on widely circulated political mailings and multimedia advertisements. Many advertisements promoted campaigns aligned with Burgum, such as former state Representative Thomas Beadle’s successful run for state treasurer.
However, some advertisements fired at Burgum’s conservative political opponents. Most notably, the group has targeted powerful House Appropriations Chairman Jeff Delzer, R-Underwood, in his race against two Burgum-backed Republican challengers, David Andahl and Dave Nehring. Delzer lost to Andahl and Nehring in the GOP primary, but Andahl died of COVID-19 before he could begin serving in the Legislature and local Republicans renominated Delzer to fill the vacancy.
Top GOP lawmakers said at the time that Burgum’s funding of attack announcements aimed at other Republicans
by the executive branch of the state.
Although Burgum denied having a strained relationship with the Republican-held Legislature, lawmakers said the governor’s seven-figure campaign spending in 2020
between the two branches.
House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, told Forum News Service on Monday, May 16 that Burgum’s political donations are creating tension between the executive and legislative branches, making it “more difficult for two to get along during a session”.
“I hope people don’t use the contributions to fill the governor’s agenda,” Pollert said. “It should be the legislator’s agenda that concerns them.”
There is no state law prohibiting a public office holder from making campaign contributions, but Rep. Jeff Magrum, a Hazelton Republican targeted by the Dakota Leadership PAC,
last year to prevent North Dakota governors from making political contributions in legislative races.
Citing a likely increase in paperwork required, lawmakers
it would have required political committees like Dakota Leadership PAC to disclose which campaigns they supported or opposed with donations.