Episode 2: Where Campaigns and Tax Dollars Collide


Welcome to episode 2 of ND xPlains. In this part, we begin to look at who is in the “good old boys network” candidate Doug Burgum hinted at and campaigned against in the 2016 election. People involved in North Dakota politics know that perhaps the most influential person in state politics is Pat Finken and the organization of Odney Advertising.

This year they have again been very active in political campaigns. The highest profile is with Kevin Cramer’s Senate campaign. Finken is leading that campaign which has placed him as a more public figure. He was likely selected because he has a track record of winning in North Dakota. Cramer’s campaign spokesman indicated Finken would take a leave from Odney to run the campaign when the news broke earlier this year.

Odney Advertising, under Finken’s leadership, has been incredibly successful at helping candidates win elections. Their media strategy for campaigns has been top notch. Nobody can dispute that, but it does raise questions about the coziness in North Dakota. While the organization is highly active in partisan political campaigns, they also receive millions in tax dollars. Does being the public relations firm for politicians and their campaigns provide any favor for procuring state contracts? I don’t know, but the question has certainly been raised over the years. What we do know is Odney has been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign work while also being paid tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds for state contracts. Those are all available in public records.


Source documents:

  1. According to public records at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) hundreds of thousand of dollars from Republican candidates, political parties, and election committees have been paid to Odney Advertising for media placement, political strategy consulting, web service, rent, and research. The link provided breaks down disbursements to the agency over 2017 and part of 2018. Records in previous years are also searchable at that link.
  2. Contracts from the State of North Dakota paid to Odney Advertising dating back to 2007. The public report provided below indicates information is no longer available for the 2009-2011 biennium. Nor is information available prior to 2007. 
  3. Campaign Finance Disclosure reports published on the North Dakota Secretary of State website include in-state payments from political parties, measure committees, and Political Action Committee (PAC). This is searchable at www.nd.gov/sos



Tyler Axness
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