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Dexter Perkins, Grand Forks, Published September 08 2012

Letter: Cramer’s denials pathetic

Recently, bike racer Lance Armstrong was found guilty and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency took away his seven Tour de France trophies. Although the evidence was clear, Armstrong argued that he was innocent. When that didn’t work, he sued the USADA, claiming the agency broke the law by calling him a cheater.

Sound familiar? Change the name, and Kevin Cramer’s Aug. 30 op-ed could have been written by Armstrong.

There is no argument about whether North Dakota Public Service Commissioners Cramer and Brian Kalk took money from the very industries and executives they regulate. Some of the payments came just before the PSC made important decisions, some just after. The timing could be coincidental but has every appearance of bribery and graft.

Yet, Cramer denies he broke the law, despite the overwhelming evidence. He also claims his opponent, in the race to become North Dakota’s member of the House of Representatives, broke the law by accusing him.

Cramer says that the money did not influence his decisions in any way, and claims the payments were no different than any other campaign contribution. He is ignoring reality. When people make a campaign donation to someone, they do so because they agree with the person’s policies. But when a person or company makes payments to a PSC commissioner who regulates their business, that is bribery because there is a direct financial gain involved.

Not only that, payments of this sort are clearly illegal under North Dakota and federal laws.

North Dakota’s Anti Bribery law is 100 percent clear (NDCC 12.1-12-01). If a Public Service commissioner receives a contribution from a company that could be affected by PSC decisions, it is illegal. Because intent is difficult to prove, the statute was specifically worded so that intent does not have to be established. It need not matter whether a decision is being made or will be made in the future.

Taking money from regulated industries is also illegal under the Federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.

The story gets even worse. There are currently two lawsuits related to this bribery scandal. At the urging of Cramer and Kalk, the Public Service Commission has intervened. So, North Dakota taxpayers’ money is being used to defend the actions of the two commissioners.

So, why hasn’t North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem brought charges against Cramer?

Stenehjem has always seemed a person of integrity. His lack of action, however, makes it appear that he is protecting fellow Republicans. Cramer and Kalk are up and coming Republican politicians, and Cramer is currently running for the U.S. House of Representatives. Charging him with a felony at this time could affect the election outcome.

In 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned while proclaiming “I’m not a crook,” although the evidence said he was. It is time for Cramer to do the same thing.