North Dakota Auditor Has More Explaining To Do

The list of politicians opposing Measure 1 continues to grow with the latest being State Auditor Josh Gallion. Gallion made his view known as he spoke to lobbyist groups who have gathered to oppose the measure according to Prairie Public. Measure 1 would place a waiting period on politicians becoming lobbyists, increase transparency on campaign finance, and create an ethics commission. The measure has power-brokers in Bismarck banding together.

Gallion reportedly claimed the Auditors Office already undertakes some of the proposed processes of the measure. He should elaborate on this for the general public. He should demonstrate that politics and lobbyists don’t influence the decision-making in what investigations and audits they undertake. As an example, Gallion should talk about why the Auditor’s Office has not conducted a performance audit of the North Dakota Industrial Commission specifically the Oil and Gas Division.

There have been repeated calls for a performance audit on the Oil and Gas Division. Democratic legislation was turned away in 2015 to pursue the performance audit. Republican lawmakers on the Political Subdivision Committee said they’d pursue it through a different committee called the Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee who has more of a direct say in the audit. Nothing happened. Candidate Doug Burgum said he would support a performance audit on the oil and gas division as he challenged Wayne Stenehjem. Governor Doug Burgum has not pursued it. In 2017, an internal situation at the oil and gas division became public after 38,700 emails were deleted. Again a performance audit was called for. Again nothing. Why does this particular audit keep stalling? Gallion should publicly explain the reasoning.

There certainly are cozy relationships with lobbyists, the Governor, Ag Commissioner, and Attorney General who make up the Industrial Commission. Just one example is the Petroleum Council. They receive tax money from the Oil and Gas Division for education and advertising of oil and gas development. Their political PAC then contributes to those candidates and promotes their socials on official Petroleum Council communications. And now, the Petroleum Council has contributed $60,000 to oppose measure 1. $30,000 on September 19th, and another $30,000 on October 22nd. It is just one example of coziness in state government. There are many.

I’m not claiming anything improper. I’m simply pointing out that if the Auditor is saying he has the authority to do part of the measure’s process, then the office should. This is a glaring example of work chosen to not be pursued after repeated calls from both Republicans and Democrats. If his office won’t do the job, then he should explain why. The answer to “why” might lead you back to Measure 1.

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