Hennen: A $50 million gift deserves gratitude

"I'd say some gratitude is in order for that generosity," columnist Scott Hennen writes of Harold Hamm's $50 million donation to the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library.

Scott Hennen.jpg
Columnist Scott Hennen

It's been said that many public officials are addicted to OPM, "other people's money". Hey, it's much easier to spend other people's money.

How else could the United States possibly have accumulated $24.3 trillion, which is 97% of our entire economy, in debt? Our current president, Joe Biden, is one of the biggest spenders ever. A new non-partisan report showed just how much damage was done during the out-of-control spending during single-party rule (Democrats) of the last two years. The federal government spent 21% more than was projected when Biden took office. And because of that, the federal debt is expected to grow by over $22 trillion over the next 10 years.

Thankfully, North Dakota is in a much brighter financial situation. For that, we can thank conservative lawmakers with a big assist to the oil and gas industry, which pays 50% of the taxes generated in the state and funds education, roads and bridges, water projects and more. You can thank oil for creating over 59,000 jobs and contributing over $40 billion to our economy.

America's oil champion Harold Hamm from Continental Resources recently donated $50 million to the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library project in Medora. Before that, he donated $12 million to the University of Mary. And there was the $10 million donation to the University of North Dakota. Hess and other Bakken oil and gas players have been generous as well.

I'd say some gratitude is in order for that generosity.


The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library has over $100 million on hand, and organizers have no plan to use the line of credit.
Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, took issue with the proposed line of credit, saying "there was a number of understandings" when the Legislature approved the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library.
“This is a game changing gift for this transformative project,” Edward F. O’Keefe, CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation, said in a released statement.
The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library, which will open in 2026, will feature immersive, hands-on learning experiences for visitors.
Local and state officials and others met to coordinate planning to meet infrastructure and other needs that will come from increased visitorship to Medora when the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library opens in 2026.
Daniel Muus was named the first-ever chief development officer for the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation in Medora, and Kjersti Armstrong was named a board member.
A range of options being studied for the park include new and improved visitor centers in both the north and south units as well as at the Painted Canyon overlook.
Summer traffic in Medora, North Dakota, could double once the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library opens in 2026.
The harvest of native plant seeds, including some taken from Theodore Roosevelt's Maltese Cross and Elkhorn Ranch sites, marks a "hands-on-the-ground" step forward for the future western North Dakota attraction.
The donated land is for shared parking, hiking paths and an enhanced access road to the Burning Hills Amphitheatre and adjacent presidential library.

But that's not what a staggering letter to the editor recently espoused. The headline said, "I think Harold Hamm owes North Dakota a bit more." The writer wants to spend other people's money. Here we go. He's not even some politician, just a guy writing a letter. See what I told you about how easy it is?

Let's set aside the $50 million donation. Is this guy aware of how much Harold Hamm has spent in North Dakota? Does he know how risky and expensive it is to drill here? I once heard a statistic of how many people have been made millionaires by leasing their mineral rights to Hamm's Continental Resources. It's mind-boggling. He has made so many people so much money.

Now this genius letter writer says a $50 million gift is not enough. Man, it's easy from the cheap seats.

The guy is from Fargo, so maybe he needs to spend some time in the Bakken learning from the experts. It would save him the embarrassment of writing this:

"So, North Dakotans have lost millions of dollars from natural gas flaring/venting..."

What about the revenue we have gleaned from oil drilling while capturing 94% of the gas flared? Flaring is a by-product of oil drilling. Think of the oil as $100 bills and the flared gas as $1 bills. Everybody wants to capture both but things take time. You have to build more gathering pipelines.

Then he says, "I think Gov. Burgum should see if Hamm is willing to double or triple his 'donation.' I think North Dakotans have earned it."

I'd recommend a "thank you" instead of ill-informed greed.


Scott Hennen hosts the statewide radio program “What’s On Your Mind?” On AM 1100 “The Flag”, AM 1090 KTGO “The Flag” and AM 1460 KLTC. Email him at

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

Opinion by Scott Hennen
Scott Hennen hosts the statewide radio program “What’s On Your Mind?” On AM 1100 “The Flag”, KFYR AM 550, AM 1090 KTGO “The Flag” and AM 1460 KLTC. Email him at

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