North Dakotans for Sound Government, ACLU oppose Measure 1

Sep 25, 2018

A coalition of state organizations has formed in opposition of Measure 1.

Measure 1 would amend the state constitution to establish an ethics commission, ban foreign political contributions and enact provisions related to lobbying and special interests. President and CEO of the Greater North Dakota Chamber of Commerce, Arik Spencer, says the measure seems pretty logical on its face - but after taking a closer look, the Chamber has decided to come out against the measure. He says the Chamber believes in high ethical standards and transparency in government - but he says the measure is broad and fatally flawed.

"Our specific concern with Measure 1 is related to section 1.2 of this constitutional amendment, which requires a disclosure of the ultimate and true source of any funds spent over $200, spent in any medium, to influence an election, ballot measure, or an action of state government."

Geoff Simon is chairman of North Dakotans for Sound Government, the opposition group against Measure 1. He says no one supports corruption in government, but the language of the measure does not provide exceptions - and that creates problems.

"You're talking about religious organizations, you're talking about charities - even individuals. I mean, the example I use is someone who jumps in the farm truck to drive to Bismarck to speak on a bill, maybe about something to do with controlling Palmer amaranth or who knows whatever agriculture issue they're concerned about - but they spend $100 on gas, they stay in a hotel, they eat in a restaurant. Lo and behold, they spend over $200 trying to influence public policy. And that's just the legislative process - this goes beyond the legislature, it's any border commission, any regulatory agency. If you engage in that process, as a private citizen, you could be compelled to report your true source of funds."

Simon says it even extends to the media, because talk shows or editorial sections of newspapers could be interpreted as trying to influence public policy.

The list of organizations opposed to Measure 1 is long - but includes the Bismarck/Mandan Chamber of Commerce, the North Dakota Retail Association, North Dakota Petroleum Marketers and Xcel Energy among many others. The American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota also added its name to the list in opposition of Measure 1, saying it is so poorly written that it would violate the First Amendment rights of all citizens.