Vicki Voldal Rosenau, Published April 02 2012
Kalk, Cramer foxes in henhouse at ND Public Service CommissionBrian Kalk and Kevin Cramer don’t seem happy these days. Two highly respected conservation and citizen-watchdog organizations have released powerful evidence that both North Dakota Public Service commissioners illegally accepted sizable political contributions from the same coal-corporation interests whose for-profit activities they’re supposed to be regulating.
For almost a year, Dakota Resource Council and the Sierra Club have urged these public servants to do the right thing by removing this conflict of interest, and Cramer and Kalk are starting to get annoyed.
How have the two reacted since, in June 2011, DRC and the Sierra Club politely asked them to recuse themselves from further PSC rulings on coal-industry issues directly tied to the generous donors’ interests?
Certainly not in the much-touted “North Dakota way.” Cramer publicly scorned the documented concerns as “Mickey Mouse,” while Kalk ridiculed them as “frivolous.” But the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act prohibits financial contributions to PSC regulators by coal companies under their administrative jurisdiction – no wiggle room. That makes accepting such money illegal, not “frivolous.”
Making things worse, Cramer recently rushed to defend big business’s right to exercise “free speech” by handing out corporate money. How in the world has the right wing duped people into thinking that “words” and “dollars” mean the same thing?
Even if they hadn’t broken the law, Kalk and Cramer should have demonstrated respect for good government by returning the money or appropriately recusing themselves. Conscientious, regular North Dakotans serving on various (non-governmental) boards routinely recuse themselves from certain decisions in order to avoid even the slightest appearance of conflict of interest.
North Dakotans know who gets slaughtered when the fox is guarding the henhouse. They’re not likely to fall for rhetoric dismissing concern over $16,650 in coal corporations’ political donations as “Mickey Mouse” or “frivolous.”