MINOT, N.D. — There has been much whinging from the Bastiat wing of the North Dakota Republican Party about the political spending of Gov. Doug Burgum this election cycle.
He used a political committee, funded mostly with his own money and staffed with his people, to back a slate of candidates in the primaries, many of them opponents of Bastiat Caucus candidates.
Burgum was mostly successful; the Bastiats are feeling chapped and promising revenge.
As we've entered the general election voting period, Burgum's committee, called the Dakota Leadership PAC, has seemingly been most focused on promoting the re-election of incumbent Superintendent Kirsten Baesler and opposing Measure 1.
Like me, I'm sure you have been getting bushels of mailers related to these two initiatives.
If North Dakota had a paper industry, Gov. Burgum could promote this campaigning as an economic stimulus program.
The committee's opposition to Measure 1 seems straightforward. The constitutional amendment, which would expand the size of the State Board of Higher Education, was opposed by Burgum during the legislative session. He supported another (equally unhelpful, in my view) proposal, which would have created multiple higher education boards. That idea was defeated, and Measure 1 was created by the Legislature instead.
It follows that Burgum would oppose it. I do too. I don't think changes in how our universities are governed will make much difference until the public starts caring about classrooms more than football.
But the way Burgum's committee is campaigning against the measure leaves much to be desired.
Recently my friend, Minot Daily News reporter Jill Schramm, reached out to me to express some frustration with how the Dakota Leadership PAC responded to her inquiries about their campaign against Measure 1.
Levi Bachmeier, a former Burgum staffer who is also an organizer for the DLP, requested emailed questions. Schramm sent them, only to get this response from Bachmeier: "We have decided not to detail our campaign strategy in the press, but I'm happy to confirm that the PAC opposes Measure 1 as it is a bad idea for higher education and the taxpayers of North Dakota."
I contacted Bachmeier myself, and he referred me back to the statement he'd given Schramm.
How's that for arrogance?
Burgum, North Dakota's top elected official, has spent millions on this committee. His most recent contribution reported to the Secretary of State was a $350,000 contribution on Oct. 6.
Yet his people don't feel like they need to explain their argument against Measure 1 beyond the hyperbolic phrasing on the flyers currently being carpet-bombed on the North Dakota electorate?
I have no problem with Burgum's opposition to Measure 1. It's a bad policy.
Nor do I have a problem with Burgum using his personal wealth to engage in this sort of advocacy. He's doing it right out in the money. It's hardly surreptitious. Voters, informed of it all, will make of it what they will.
But I have a problem with political figures arrogantly believing they don't have to explain themselves to the public when they're doing this sort of politicking.
Do better, Burgum.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at email@example.com.