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February 2: Corrupt Practices Act

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Over the years, myriad allegations of bad acts by candidates in elections have surfaced in North Dakota – some serious, others less so. For over a century, state laws have sought to clamp down on candidate misconduct.

On this date in 1912, the Bismarck Tribune reminded voters that the new Corrupt Practice Act of 1911 would be in effect during a city bond election just days away. The Tribune noted there would be no transport for voters from around town to the polls as in years past. The newspaper said: “Voters must walk.” There would be no electioneering on Election Day, nor any “election cigars or drinks.” Quoth the Tribune: “Perish the thought.”

Over the years, myriad allegations have surfaced in connection with North Dakota’s Corrupt Practices Act, which was revised in 1981. Here's a sampling. In 1914, a Bowman County judge contested his election loss, accusing his opponent of bribing voters by saying he would take less pay if elected. The case resulted in the first disqualification of a candidate under the Corrupt Practice Act, and it allowed the judge to retain his seat.

In 1965, several state senators denounced pressure and intimidation from lobbyists related to legislation regarding the territories of rural electrification cooperatives. One senator alleged “veiled threats” to oppose completely unrelated legislation, and retaliation against lawmakers who were business owners.

In another episode that played out from 1969 to 1975, state and federal court cases involved several prominent North Dakota Democrats accused of embezzling Minot bank funds for political purposes. It included state lawmakers, a former congressman and other party leaders, who were also bank executives and stockholders. The cases ended with dismissed charges or plea deals and fines.

In 1982, Democrats cried foul after a Republican state lawmaker distributed more than 500 cartons of eggs in residential areas in Towner County the evening before the general election, which he narrowly won. The cartons said “egg-sperience counts.” The lawmaker said he got the idea from Democrats who had given out pumpkins and watermelons in previous elections! The Towner County state’s attorney investigated and found no wrongdoing.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura

Sources:

  • The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. 1911, February 18. Page 5: Corrupt Practice Act passes
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1912, February 2. Page 8: Voters will have to walk to the polls
  • The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. 1914, November 24: Can candidate offer to rebate his salary?
  • The Oakes Times. 1914, December 3. Page 3: Judge elect is accused
  • The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. 1915, February 2: Mandamus proceedings go to Supreme Court
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1915, February 4. Page 2: Judge Diehl still holding office The Bismarck Tribune. 1915, March 11. Page 2: Totten guilty rules Hanley The Dickinson Press. 1915, March 13. Page 6: E.P. Totten is out according to Judge Hanley
  • Emmons County Record. 1915, October 28. Page 4
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1965, March 5. Pages 1, 2: Senators charge coercion tactics
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1969, December 10. Pages 1, 2: Ward jury indicts eight in bank case
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1970, January 6. Page 3: Arraignments postponed in bank case
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1970, March 10. Pages 1, 2: Appeal planned of 7 dismissals by Minot court
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1970, March 11. Page 1: Bulletin
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1970, March 12. Page 3: Judge dismisses Redlin indictment
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1970, March 18. Page 12: Bank fraud scandal shakes North Dakota
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1970, May 14. Page 2: State’s appeal is deferred in Minot bank case
  • The Miami Herald. 1970, August 1. Page 4-D: 6 North Dakota demos indicted in bank case
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1970, August 1. Page 2: Governor sees politics in bank indictments
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1970, September 28. Pages 1, 2: Former directors depict Thompson in principal role
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1970, December 15. Pages 1, 2: Ex-bank officers face charges in court at Minot
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1971, April 9. Page 3: Minot bank trial likely in August
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1971, September 15. Page 1: Register considers prosecution delay
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1974, November 13. Page 24: Minot bank trial set
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1975, April 3. Page 5: First Western directors fined
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1982, November 23. Page 8: Election irregularities alleged
  • The Bismarck Tribune. 1982, December 19. Page 6B: Lawmaker cleared of charges
  • Legislative Council: History of SB 31 (1911). Received 2022, December 16
  • Legislative Council: History of HB 1225 (1981). Received 2022, December 27

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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