The use of state-owned property is limited specifically when it comes to “political purposes.” Chapter 16.1-10 is the Corrupt Practices section of the North Dakota Century Code and lays out the guidelines. Last week, a Legislator used his state-owned email to announce his political reelection. The question is whether or not that is a violation of the corrupt practices in North Dakota.
The below email shows Rep. Larry Klemin announcing he and House-mate Rep. George Keiser’s political reelection for District 47. At the bottom of this post is the attachment of Klemin’s state-owned email.
Is this a corrupt practice? You be the judge. A “political purpose” is defined in pertinent part as “any activity undertaken in support of . . . the election or nomination of a candidate . . . and includes using ‘vote for,’ . . . or any similar support language in any advertisement[.]” Here, Klemin and Keiser are using the state email service to “announce . . . that they plan to seek re-election” and are planning “an aggressive campaign to continue to represent the people of District 47.” They puff their credentials as “leaders in the Legislature” and pledge to “put their experience to work[.]” Sure seems like activity undertaken in support of the election of candidates using “support language.”
This issue has been raised before yet, nothing has resulted from it. This type of question was part of the discussion of why North Dakota could use an Ethics Commission. The Ethics Commission proposal has been rejected because legislators claim there is no unethical behavior in the Legislature. This is a potential example that there may be.
Klemin’s email isn’t the first instance of questionable state-owned email use I’ve pointed it. The first instance I published was almost a year ago when Rep. Todd Porter sent the answers to the NRA survey to other Republican legislators and then directed them to copy the answers to get in “A rating.” Seeing as this isn’t an isolated event, someone in authority needs to clarify whether these are permissible or not.
There has been a renewed call for an ethics commission in North Dakota as of late. Public discussions are being held that focus on good government. Other individuals are looking at their options at the ballot box. I have little confidence in the current make-up of the Legislature to establish oversight with enforcement. If the public wants it, they’ll likely need to create their own through an initiated measure.