Yesterday the Greater North Dakota Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual Policy Summit. The event houses a number of panels to discuss issues in ND. One of them was on the anti-corruption measure. Since it’s beginning, I’ve said we’ll need to watch where the opposition comes from and ask why they’re opposed to transparency. Rep. Jim Kasper of Fargo was the lead opposition yesterday. My question, do opponents really think Kasper is the right person to be the poster-child of the opposition?
Let’s take a trip back to 2005 and talk about some other trips. Kasper sponsored legislation to provide the internet poker industry a U.S. location to conduct business. It would have been right here in North Dakota. The ND Senate rejected his bill. In turn, Kasper was rewarded with an industry sponsored vacation to Montreal, Antigua, Las Vegas, Costa Rica, and the Bahamas in exchange for a short presentation. The only way we learned of these trips is because of reports published by the industry. Kasper didn’t report his trips. He has been upset when asked who paid for his lavish vacations ever since. Six years later, the Bismarck Tribune wrote about Kasper’s trip along with a number of other lawmakers’ adventures.
Kasper, as Chair of the House Government and Veterans Affairs, has routinely rejected attempts to create ethical standards in the Legislature. More directly, in 2015 he rejected a bill that would have required reporting of ‘Scholarship Funds’ which is money paid by special interest groups and lobbyists for travel and other expenses to attend conferences, meetings, or other events. Why shouldn’t this be reported as it influences legislators’ decisions over North Dakota laws? What exactly is it that scares Kasper and other lawmakers about a little sunshine?
Jim Kasper’s trips are just one example of very questionable behavior of a sitting Legislator. His continued rejection of transparency backed by legislative leaders should raise eyebrows. That is why a group of North Dakotans have decided to take it straight to voters. Other opposition has begun to organize and we’ll dive into why. For example, the North Dakota Petroleum Council has begun sharing right-wing spin on the measure in their member’s emails. I wrote about Americans For Prosperity taking a negative interest in this measure. The bottom line, if I were the proponents of the anti-corruption measure, I would welcome Jim Kasper as being the face of the opposition to government transparency.