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Michael Connor, Starkweather, N.D., Published August 21 2013

Letter: Anyway you spin it, coal money to ND PSC members smells bad

The story in the Aug. 17 editions of the Grand Forks Herald and The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead (“Groups argue about coal interest contributions to PSC”) deserves comment, but first to clarify:

• I am not a supporter/adherent of the Sierra Club or the Dakota Resource Council – never have been, never will be.

• My opinion is not cast in stone on the various issues surrounding the coal industry in North Dakota.

But I am disgusted that, according to news stories, North Dakota taxpayers are stuck so far with a bill of $150,000 in legal fees for defending two members of the Public Service Commission for accepting “donations” (some of us folks out in the boondocks might use another word for that) from individuals connected to the coal industry. It is also disgusting that one of the defense attorneys has the audacity to state “nowhere is that the test of the law” when the presiding judge made the statement” ... But in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety, it’s probably not prudent.”

Most folks from North Dakota know how political action committees work, and other ways that contributions can be channeled to various candidates of, unfortunately, both political parties. It is disappointing in this case that two members of the PSC (former member Kevin Cramer and current member Brian Kalk) soiled their hands by stooping to accept these tainted “donations” (wink-wink).

The “donations” have been made, Cramer is in Congress and Kalk is still on the PSC, so maybe someone can explain to me and other North Dakotans why the taxpayer is getting stuck for the bill to clear their political record for accepting “donations.” U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland hit the nail squarely on the head with his comment, “But in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety, it’s probably not prudent.”

Politicians who believe otherwise would do well to conduct their future campaigns in Chicago where “donations” are the name of the game.