There is an understandably growing outrage among the American people when they believe their elected officials are enriching their family and themselves while in office. They rightfully believe the purpose of running for office is to serve, not to fill your personal bank accounts. In fact, it was part of the undercurrent that lifted the red wave in 2016. “Drain the swamp” people shouted referring to D.C. and the sometimes unethical questionable behavior of career politicians. Turns out, one of those career politicians may be North Dakota’s own Congressman Kevin Cramer. The signs are there.
According to the Politico Morning Score, Kevin Cramer has “paid his family members more than $150,000 and received more than $200,000 in reimbursements from his campaign account.” The report went on, “FEC records show Cramer has paid his wife, Kris, nearly $140,000 since 2013. That includes $119,000 in salary, plus thousands more in mileage, per diems and other reimbursements. He’s paid Reel Love Videos, a video production company owned by one of his daughters, over $11,000. Other family members have received about $12,000, including a $327 payment for “event babysitting” to one of his daughters.”
As Cramer is under the federal guidelines since first announcing his Congressional candidacy in 2011-2012, this is alright legally. North Dakota state laws that recently changed as far as candidates using campaign contributions for personal gain do not apply to him. The question is ethical and whether or not those who think we should, “drain the swamp” are alright when one of their own has played in the mud.
Recall in 2013 when the federal government shutdown. Some in Congress refused their salary saying it wasn’t right for them to get paid when they couldn’t fulfill the basic function of government. Congressman Cramer refused to give up his salary. He took a shot at Senators Hoeven and Heitkamp who both agreed to donate their salary by saying, “If you want a Congress that’s full of millionaires and doctors’ spouses, this is a great little trick.” In the meantime, he was filling his personal piggy bank with political contributions. A “great little trick” that should raise some eyebrows to North Dakotans and potential campaign donors.
Cramer attempted to defend this questionable slush fund practice by saying he is saving taxpayer dollars. All expenses are through his campaign he claims. If that is the case, perhaps with those savings he could afford to pay his interns who do a lot of work. Cramer is the only member of our federal delegation who refuses to pay his interns.
Padding the personal piggy bank isn’t the only questionable behavior Cramer has displayed lately. In response to a Tweet from WDAY’s Mike McFeely, Cramer bragged about his partisan polling numbers from his official government Twitter account. A press release from the North Dakota Democratic-NPL is calling for an ethics probe.
— Rep. Kevin Cramer (@RepKevinCramer) December 30, 2017
I’d like to point out this isn’t the first instance of Cramer using government property for political reasons. In his 2014 race against State Senator George Sinner, Cramer used the North Dakota Veteran’s Cemetery as the backdrop of a campaign ad. The ad had many worried the cemetery would lose their funding due to the stunt. Though he was forced to take down the ad, Cramer never apologized for using veteran’s headstones as political props.
I bring this forward because it shows a troubling trend. Personally enriching himself and his family with political donations while in office, using official government accounts and property for his partisan political advantage, coupled with multiple political jobs makes Kevin Cramer the very definition of a “career politician.” To truly “drain the swamp” we need to establish a set of standards worthy of election and behavior in office and remove those who have taken advantage of the system’s lax rules.