Questions around local legislator’s campaign prompt ND Secretary of State to review federal laws
GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Questions about a Canadian contribution to a Grand Forks state legislator's campaign have prompted the North Dakota Secretary of State's office to review how federal election laws apply to state candidates.
GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Questions about a Canadian contribution to a Grand Forks state legislator’s campaign have prompted the North Dakota Secretary of State’s office to review how federal election laws apply to state candidates.
Sen. Lonnie Laffen, R-Grand Forks, reported a $1,945 contribution from a Canadian businessman in October in the run-up to his re-election bid.
While Republican Secretary of State Al Jaeger said foreign campaign contributions to state candidates are legal under North Dakota state law, the Federal Election Commission states federal law prohibits contributions or donations from foreign nationals in connection with any election - federal, state or local.
Last week, Jaeger said, “It is our long-standing understanding that the federal laws under the FEC apply to federal candidates and do not apply to in-state non-federal candidates.”
But because of the Grand Forks newspaper’s questions about federal election laws for an earlier story, Jaeger said Monday his office will review all Federal Election Commission rules to determine what rules may apply to state candidates.
Jaeger’s office will then inform candidates on any federal rules that may apply to them. His office may also make recommendations to the 2017 legislative session if any change in state law are needed, he said.
But a new state law may not be needed if foreign contributions are already covered under federal law, he added.
“It’s going to take some research,” Jaeger said. “Our understanding was it applied to federal candidates.”
Jaeger maintained that nothing about foreign campaign contributions, including Laffen’s, is illegal under state law, and therefore is not enforceable by the North Dakota Secretary of State’s office.
The Canadian contribution to Laffen’s campaign came from Leo Ledohowski, head of the Winnipeg-based Canad Inns hotel chain, which has a hotel attached to the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.
The campaign contribution first came to public attention March 16 when Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, mentioned a foreign contribution to a fellow legislator’s campaign while speaking on the House floor in support of creating a legislative ethics commission that could examine campaign finances.
Mock later confirmed the legislator he was referring to was Laffen.
Laffen has called Ledohowski a “friend from work.” The JLG Architects firm in Grand Forks, of which Laffen is president and CEO, was the architect on the Grand Forks Canad Inns project.
Laffen was first elected to the state Senate in 2010 and was re-elected to represent District 43 with 53 percent of the vote in November.