Questions Surround the Friday News of Commissioner Rauschenberger’s DUI

At approximately 3:30 p.m. on Friday, October 20th, news broke of Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger’s charge for driving under the influence. The news became public three weeks after the occurrence in what is termed a “Friday news dump.” A “Friday news dump” is when someone releases information that is less than flattering and is usually published when people have checked out for the weekend. It is a premeditated, orchestrated, decision. Because of the deliberately delayed release, questions remain on how this whole situation was handled in Bismarck from the Governor’s office on down.

Since Friday night, a lot of people have called into question Rauschenberger’s judgment. Though those questions are warranted, I’m not going to use this post to try and pursue those answers. Like you, I sincerely wish him well. If Rauschenberger stays in his public role and pursues re-election, you’ll have a chance to let it be known what you think. Rather, I’m writing to point out questions regarding process and ask whether this was intentionally held under cover by the administration.

First, I question the claim Rauschenberger made to the Associated Press when he said, “I felt it was best in this situation, as a public official, to be out in front of it and be honest about it.” Is keeping this quiet for three weeks, then releasing it in a late Friday afternoon news dump really being “out in front of it?” Not in my opinion. In fact, he’s had other public opportunities to disclose what happened. For example, he was at a public forum sitting right next to Congressman Kevin Cramer talking tax reform three days before the prepared announcement on Friday. On October 5th – five days after his arrest – Rauschenberger wrote a letter to the editor published in papers across the state talking about tax reform. There were opportunities to disclose this prior to October 20th.

Secondly, in his report, John Hageman with Forum Communications said, “Republican Gov. Doug Burgum was aware of the arrest, his spokesman Mike Nowatzki said.” This makes me question if the Governor’s office played an active role in the timing and wording of this Friday news dump. I’ve made an open record request to see if there was any coordination between the two offices in how to publicly handle this situation. I’ll let you know what, if anything, is revealed.

I get this is a delicate situation. It is a mixture of personal challenge, but also of politics, and public information. On ND xPlains, we’ll focus on the latter.

Tyler Axness
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