Published March 22 2011
Postcards urging support for pro-life measure criticized
Some senators – including three Republicans on the Judiciary Committee – have received stacks of fluorescent postcards in the mail, urging them to support a pro-life bill.
Each postcard includes the typewritten name and address of the person who “sent” it.
But inquiries by suspicious legislators have found people who did not endorse or know about the postcards – and some of the people are dead or have moved away.
“When someone resorts to these kinds of tactics, which are obviously not honest and above board, they have the opposite effect they’re intended to have,” said Sen. Curtis Olafson, R-Edinburg, who has received more than 200 postcards.
The postcard states, “I am pro-life. I vote. I live in your district. Your support of HB 1450 is important to me and my family. Please support HB 1450.” Small print at the bottom says, “I signed an NDLL petition to encourage my legislature to enact personhood measures.”
NDLL stands for North Dakota Life League. Its description on the secretary of state’s website is “education in relation to the preservation of respect for human beings at every stage of life, from fertilization to natural death.”
Sen. Dave Nething, R-Jamestown, said his stack of 50 to 60 postcards included two from his daughter and his son-in-law – both of whom said they never told anyone to send a card on their behalf.
North Dakota Life League State Director Tim Lindgren said the majority of the names on the postcards were collected during state fairs or meetings. The group collects signatures from people favoring personhood legislation. Others sign sheets asking for more information from the organization, he said.
Olafson said every postcard he received had a fake address. Every “sender’s” street address is the same as his street address. Every postcard had a Bismarck postal mark.
“We pride ourselves in North Dakota on transparency and honesty in government,” he said. “There are obviously several things that they tried to do here to cover up who they were, and they obviously have used people’s names without their permission and that is inexcusable.”
Lindgren said a printer made a mistake on some of the postcards and printed the wrong addresses. He said they try to keep their list updated on a regular basis, and he could get correct addresses to senators who would like them.
“It’s probably a mistake in hindsight (to send the postcards),” Lindgren said. “We probably shouldn’t have.”
Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, the sponsor of the pro-life bill, said he did not approve of the postcards or know about them in advance. He said he planned to check into the matter.
Olafson said he has constituents who are angry that postcards were sent without their knowledge. He planned to go to the post office to file an official complaint.
North Dakota Life League lobbyist Daniel Woodard said he apologizes to senators and individuals. He said the organization collected pro-life petition signatures mostly at summer fairs starting in 1999.
After the postcards for legislators were printed, he said he was told to only send postcards from those who signed a petition, not all of those in the organization’s records.
“I removed by hand many of the names, but I did not remove all of the postcards that I was supposed to because honestly I was lazy with it,” Woodard said in a statement.
Teri Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.