Impeachment of Insurance Commissioner | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Impeachment of Insurance Commissioner

Mar 27, 2019

Around this time in 1945 things were heating up for North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Oscar Erickson. The state House had adopted a resolution for articles of impeachment for Erickson, and his Senate trial was scheduled for May.

Erickson was an early member of the Nonpartisan League. He served six terms in the Legislature, first as a representative, then as senator. Erickson also chaired the North Dakota Republican Party for four years when Wild Bill Langer was governor. It was in 1936 that Erickson was elected as state insurance commissioner.

An interim legislative committee had reported corruption in the Insurance Department in February, leading to allegations that Erickson had received kickbacks from insurance agents. He was charged on several counts for corruption and malfeasance in office.

Erickson’s impeachment came near the end of the legislative session. The Senate trial in May lasted about three weeks. Insurance department employees and insurance agents were among those testifying. Erickson himself took the stand and denied the accusations. Former Governor George Schafer helped prosecute the case and rebutted Erickson’s denial during final arguments, saying: “Undoubtedly the record here is one of the most sordid examples of maladministration in the history of North Dakota …”

None of the charges against Erickson secured the two-thirds vote needed for the Senate to convict, though one was only three votes short. The Senate adjourned sine die after the second impeachment trial in North Dakota history.

Insurance Commissioner Oscar Erickson was restored to office, but he died only two months later when recovering from gallbladder surgery. He was sixty-one.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura

Sources:
State of North Dakota (1945). Journal of the impeachment of Oscar E. Erickson. Allied Printed: Bismarck, ND
The Bismarck Tribune. 1945, June 16. Vol. 72, No. 142.
The Bismarck Tribune. 1945, February 20.
The Bismarck Tribune. 1945, February 21.
The Bismarck Tribune. 1945, February 26.
The Bismarck Tribune. 1945, February 28.
https://www.legis.nd.gov/cencode/t44c09.pdf#nameddest=44-09-01
http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=m001029
https://apps.library.und.edu/archon/index.php?p=collections/findingaid&id=528&q=Sanborn+Fire+Insurance&rootcontentid=66814