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George B. Sinner, Fargo, Published April 10 2012

North Dakota’s political machine resists government transparency

Lately, the world has been hearing and reading all the positive reports coming from North Dakota, with our state’s coffers overflowing and business booming.

But what they have not heard is the negative. According to an analysis of all 50 state governments by the Center for Public Integrity, North Dakota is the seventh most corrupt state in the nation. We have received an F in eight of 14 categories, including redistricting, ethics enforcement agencies, lobbying disclosure and political financing. And there are no laws in place to prevent civil servants from entering any part of the private sector after leaving office. Here is a link to the story on the integrity of state governments: http://tinyurl.com/73qroz9.

And you ask: How can this be? Well, let’s examine how and why this is. Since 1992, the Republicans have held a stranglehold on North Dakota government. There have been private trips by legislators funded by lobbying groups to extravagant resorts around the globe and campaign donations from lobbyists to state officials who regulate them.

In fact, The Forum recently noted the conflict of interest by both Republican candidates for the U.S. House in taking money from the energy industry as they are contemplating a permit request while serving on the Public Service Commission. Here is a link to that story: www.inforum.com/event/article/id/355413/publisher_ID/1/.

Today, Republicans hold 75 percent of legislative seats and are philosophically opposed to disclosure rules and ethics investigations. Why? Because many don’t want the public to know what they are up to and do not want to give up these unknown and untaxed perks. According to the center’s spokesperson, “Machines tend to want to protect themselves.”

Last year, the North Dakota political machine voted overwhelmingly against a bill to create an ethics commission. With an entrenched political party, there is a huge risk for corruption, and I suspect that an investigation would find some right now as noted in The Forum’s story on candidates Brian Kalk and Kevin Cramer.

Wake up, North Dakotans. This is not a positive environment, and we need a change in Bismarck.

Sinner is District 46 Democratic-NPL candidate for the state Senate.

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