No Longer Business as Usual

Republican Representative Jason Dockter has been charged with a class A misdemeanor. Charges were brought because of his involvement with the Attorney General’s building and the cost overrun. These charges were brought by State’s Attorney Lad Erickson who received the criminal referral following a complaint I and others had filed with the Ethics Commission. Some of the responses from others in ND politics are pretty telling.

I wonder how many other lawmakers are nervous with this charge.” was a common response. The reason for that, the charge is for “speculating or wagering on official action or information.” Dockter has pleaded not guilty. The assumption is this is business as usual in Bismarck. They might not be far off.

It is no secret some lawmakers own property or businesses that intimately interact with state activities. They claim because they are part-time legislators, they shouldn’t be restricted from this process. However, the concern is whether or not they’re using their part-time office for personal gain while blocking out competition.

At what point does their official capacity weigh into who receives the contracts? Or, when does their personal relationship with the head of a major department put the thumb on the scale in your favor? Those are fair questions. As long as they are transparent and go through the normal bidding process for leases and contracts for state work, there shouldn’t be nerves tingling in other lawmakers. Ethics, level playing field, etc. go a long way here.

Earlier this year, lawmakers were caught abusing their process by throwing unrelated policy decisions into the Office of Management and Budget bill. They had been doing this for years. Business as usual. Until they got caught and were forced into a special session. Now, a lawmaker with a cozy relationship to the former Attorney General allegedly steered state dollars to his private businesses. Some think that is business as usual. Until he got caught and will now have his day in court.

Tyler Axness
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