This is a time to get together and eat and talk , just time for our friends. There is no format, dues, agenda etc., We can meet anytime or place we decide, picnic pot luck, local food, anything we want to, even invite speakers. But for now please show up, eat and talk to like minded friends. No need to RSVP just stop by and eat. email Trana if you like.
The title of this blog post probably surprised you. I'll make no bones about the fact that this question surprises me, too. But it's a legitimate question. Let me explain why.
If you have a pulse and live in North Dakota, you've met lots and lots of disgruntled former Republicans. I can't tell you how many people I know (though it's a lot) who have parroted these words: "I did not leave the North Dakota Republican Party; the North Dakota Republican Party left me." The North Dakota Republican Party is full of cray cray. The offensive categories range from "corporate sell-out" to "morbidly manipulatable sheep" to "American Taliban." And everything in between. So the masses are leaving the Republican Party. Some are becoming politically disengaged. Many are signing on with the Democratic-NPL. (Welcome!) Some aren't signing on, but they're still supporting Democrats in North Dakota. It's all very interesting to watch.
But something I heard about this past weekend kind of surprised me. North Dakota Republican Party Chairman Bob Harms attended a $250 per supporter (recommended contribution) riverboat cruise last week on the Missouri River in Bismarck/Mandan. The event was held for supporters of the Democratic-NPL Party state Senate Caucus.
When I heard about this I did not believe it. I said, "Show me a picture and I might believe it." Well, I got pictures this morning. Here's one showing GOP Chairman Harms at the Democratic-NPL senate caucus supporter's cruise:
Now, you might be saying to yourself, "Chad; isn't having Harms -- the NDGOP chairman -- at a Dem-NPL meeting like inviting the fox into the henhouse?" Or, "He must have stuck out like a turd in a punchbowl." I would beg to differ. As more and more Republicans abandon the NDGOP and support Democratic-NPL candidates because of the level of crazy in the Republican Party, why not have the Republican Party chairman show his support for Democratic-NPL candidates?
From my perspective, by showing his support for Democratic-NPL candidates in the North Dakota senate race, Harms is trying to represent the views of the tens of thousands of disenfranchised former North Dakota Republicans who have completely abandoned their crazy party. He's thumbing his nose at the religious zealots and teabaggers, many of whom hold all the other leadership positions in his party, and telling them there is at least one person -- and only one -- in a North Dakota GOP leadership position who will bow to most of their nutbaggery, but not all of it.
I was glad to hear Democrats welcomed Chairman Harms to the event. It's good to see the Republican Party chairman supporting all the solid candidates the Democratic-NPL Party is offering up to serve the state in the North Dakota Senate.
I don't like starting a blog post with a disclaimer, but I'm going to today. Here it is: I do not like Town Hall meetings. I generally think they are stupid, pointless and a waste of the presenter's (and everyone else's) time and resources. If you've ever been to a town hall, what you know is that Town Hall meetings in North Dakota are basically an opportunity for two things to happen: (1) the town hall presenter can choreograph a bunch of "friendlies" to show up, praise the presenter, and ask soft-ball questions, and (2) the craziest opponents of the presenter can show up with duct tape across their mouths, stupid signs and lame, meme-filled t-shirts, and protest -- yell -- at the presenter for something the protester clearly doesn't understand.
Keep in mind, I'm being critical of ALL town hall meetings. Not just ones held (or not held) by Republicans (or Democrats). I've been to Republican town hall meetings, and to Democratic town hall meetings. Every one I've seen has been stupid and pointless. (Note: I might still go to them, just to watch the fireworks, shoot some photos, and remind myself of why I hate them so much.)
Also keep in mind I do not, in any way, mean for this to suggest I'm against "availability" and "transparency." I'm all for frank, open discussions between office holders and constituents. It's just not my experience that staged, "friendly"- and protester-filledTown Hall meetings are where those discussions happen. If there are opportunities for me to have access to my elected representative, I'm good. Example: Though Earl Pomeroy didn't hold a thousand "town hall meetings" when he was in Congress it wasn't that uncommon for me to run into him in the grocery store. When I had a question for him while he was in Congress, if I didn't feel like calling his office and talking to his staff about it, I could just ask him in the produce aisle. You can't ask for much more than that. (For the record, I've never seen John Hoeven or Kevin Cramer -- both of whom live here in Bismarck -- in a grocery store.)
With that in mind, let's talk about outrage over town hall meetings.
Remember the phony Republican outcry over Earl Pomeroy's alleged lack of scheduled townhall meetings in 2010?
Well, good news, if you've forgotten; the North Dakota Republican Party still (as of the time this goes to print) has it on their YouTube page (let me know if they take it down; I've pulled it from their page and will just reload it on mine, if they do):
They deleted their entire Youtube page, so I've posted it on mine.
Isn't that cute? They made a little graphic of Earl Pomeroy's face on a "Where's Waldo?" cartoon drawing and made t-shirts.
And do yourself a favor: Google the words "Where's Earl Pomeroy" (don't use quotation marks). You'll find four or five garbage-filled blog posts and other crap from teablogging morans on the right, complaining Earl didn't schedule enough opportunities to show up and yell incoherent Rush Limbaugh talking-points at him.
So here's my question: If the 2010 outrage was real and not a bunch of fake, normal, NDGOP politlcal nonsense, where is the NDGOP's outrage over Kevin Cramer's lack of town hall meetings? Cramer promised to hold 100 town hall meetings every term. If you think about it, a Congressional term is two years. There are 52 weeks in a year. So a two-year term is 104 weeks. And he promised to hold 100 Town Halls every term. That's almost one every week, average. That's a pretty big (not to mention stupid) promise he made.
I did some Google searching looking for info on Town Hall meetings Cramer has held since he was elected. I only found info on one town hall meeting, and it wasn't even held in North Dakota. It was in Moorhead. He's about 30 weeks into his final term. He should have had 29 or 30 Town Hall meetings by now. How many has he held in North Dakota?
Cramer is several days into his month-long August vacation right now. If you go to his official congressional website, you know what it says about his "upcoming events"? It says, "There are currently no posted events." It lists no "town hall" meetings. No public appearances. Here it is:
If he is not going to dishonor his name and his word, Cramer has a lot of catch-up work to do. He needs to hold a lot of Town Halls, and fast. This month-long vacation he's got would be a great opportunity to do that. But is he? No.
You know what he did do though? Yesterday, Cramer had a "veteran's roundtable" in his office in the Federal Building. Know what I know about the Federal Building "roundtable"? No public invitation. No cameras. No cell phones. No questions from constituents. No produce.
So where is the NDGOP outrage t-shirt? Where's their Waldo graphic? Where's KFYR's TV crew interviewing the outraged executive director of the Republican Party about Cramer's lack of Town Hall meetings?
The nice thing about a rally like this is that you could fit all the participants in a single clown car. I'm totally serious. I could have given all these people a ride to the psych unit in my car. Admittedly, I drive a big car. But still.
The pictures of two signs at the rally that really emphasized the level of crack-pottery going on there on Saturday were the ones that said, "Phony Potus" and "Kenyan."
I think one of the protesters was "Lauren Gray" (stage name) from MOJO radio. Can anybody confirm that? I think she's one of the people who commented quite a bit on the Fan Page. But I wouldn't be able to pick her out of a crowd, no matter how small. If that's her at the "protest," I'll have to continue to not listen to MOJO radio if she was involved. I'd ask if people would be interested in boycotting MOJO, but that would presume I thought anybody I know listened to MOJO. And I don't.
You're getting bad information. The media keeps understating the severity of the oil spills in the Bakken. They're getting bad information from state government officials. With respect to one oil well blow-out, a government official has written, "It is a lot worse than has been reported on radio and print media." The media isn't smart enough to figure it out. (Or they're bought off.) I'm gonna try to help them. And you.
Remember back in December there was an oil well blow-out a little ways southeast of New Town, North Dakota, a couple miles from the lake-front resort community of Van Hook? If not, I'll refresh your memory.
Oil, gas and formation water spewed out, sometimes higher than utility poles, covering fields with a yellow mist Thursday at the site of a blowout at an oil and gas well near Van Hook.
The site is about 2 miles east of Van Hook, a resort community in southern Mountrail County along Lake Sakakawea. Van Hook, southeast of New Town, is on the Fort Berthold Reservation.
The well site is near Lake Sakakawea to the north. Officials at the scene said Thursday afternoon there was no threat to the public or the lake.
State officials said the wind was blowing the mist away from the lake. Roberts said they were ready to put booms on the lake if needed.
One observer said the well was blowing oil all night and the sound was loud.
Well, thank goodness there was no threat to Lake Sakakawea, right? Luckily, reports (and reporters) were telling us the blow-out was contained nicely on the well pad or within a berm, with no oil or other contaminants reaching Lake Sakakawea.
Lake Sakakawea, less than one mile to the south of the well, was not in danger of being affected, Roberts said.
The well sprayed oil, gas and water containing brine, Roberts said. The mist drifted more than 2,000 feet to the southwest of the well before the wind shifted, he said. The mist was spraying to the north, and Roberts estimates it has affected an area of about 1,500 feet. The amount of oil released is unknown at this time, Roberts said.
More confirmation from the press that Lake Sakakawea was safe:
Lake Sakakawea is just 1/2 mile north of the well and as of Friday morning, Capt. Dan Murphy, a spokesman for the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, said there were no reports of and [sic] contaminants having reached the lake.
Back to your hum-drum life where you don't worry about oil companies poisoning the drinking-water supply for Williston, New Town, Bismarck, Mandan, Washburn and every other town or city along Lake Sakakawea and the Missouri River.
These are not the droids you are looking for.
But... Hey, wait a minute. Here's an email from Kent Luttschwager, Wildlife Resource Supervisor, at ND Game and Fish.
From: Luttschwager, Kent A.
Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 5:18 PM
To: Steinwand, Terry R.; Link, Greg W.
Cc: Kreil, Randy L.; Williams, Jeb R.; Buckert, Greg A.
Subject: RE: Van Hook blowout
Terry and Greg:
It goes out onto the Lake approximately 4,100 feet. (ie below 1850'msl- so some is dry lakebed other is on the ice)
We are in the process of proceeding with application of Eco-biotics to approximately 150 mature conifers; with reapplication at budding to those conifers and another 250; and some deciduous trees.
We also GPS-d the boundary for what I want the oil company to contract burn affected grassland this spring.
Also staked out where hay barriers are to be placed in drainages leading to the lake.
Marked where snow had to be removed from ice.
Monday was Kris Roberts NDHD; Ryan Neuman, and Will and another ranger COW; Greg Buckert and I NDGF Williston, Dave Fryda and Russ Kinzler NDGF RIverdale, USFSW contaminants girl; USFWS endangered species biologist Carol Aaron; Slawsons rep and contractor, and two oil Safety officers from MHA tribes.
It is a lot worse than has been reported on radio and print media.
Hey, wait a minute! I thought all the news stories said the wind blew the poisonous fracking liquids away from the lake! I thought all the newspapers and radio and TV told us the oil and poison blow-out was contained to the well pad and an area around it surrounded by a berm! And a guy in state government says "it is a lot worse than has been reported" in the press and oil sprayed out 4,100 feet onto the lake?!? Forty-one hundred feet is more than three quarters of a mile. That's like nine (9) city blocks. The news reports suggested the well is "1/2 mile north of the lake." A half-mile is 2,640 feet. So they're saying the well sprayed 6,740 feet?!? I thought the news stories said the mist only blew 2,000 feet to the southwest, and only 1,500 feet to the northeast.
What the Hell?!?
Let's dig into this a little bit more. Let's look at this the way a REAL journalist would look at it. First, are there any reports that have been put together (besides this email) discussing the spill? Who would write up such a report? Hmmmm... Think, think, think. Well... I'm sure Slawson brought in a hired gun clean-up firm. They've probably done a report. (They did. Got it.) How about... Game and Fish probably put together some reports and things, since it was their Wildlife Management Area that got soaked with oil and poison. (Got 'em.) This wildlife management area is on the lake shore, so it's USACOE land. Maybe they did a report. (Yep. Got that.) No North Dakota "journalist" has time to read all those. So let's just go with the one with the fewest big words? How 'bout the report? Let's see what it says:
It was determined the crude extended approximately 6,490 feet onto COE lands (measured northeast to southwest using Google Earth Pro and GIS). The crude extended approximately 4,100 feet into Lake Sakakawea (i.e., 4,100 feet measured from the 1850’ operating pool elevation). Approximately one half of the 4,100 feet was on ice. Crude was observed on snow, ice, bare ground, grass and trees (both deciduous and evergreen) during the site visit. The crude was visible as either a layer within the snow (as previously discussed) or a sheen on vegetation.
Yeah, no sh!t. One spark, and the whole place goes up in flames. Imagine the wind blowing straight to the West and some guy in Van Hook lights one cigarette and his whole community is smoked over. That wouldn't be good, would it?
So here are the questions we should walk away from this with:
First, why are we letting oil companies frack oil wells so close to a wildlife management area? Don't we have these areas so we can protect wildlife?
Second, why are we letting oil companies frack oil wells so close to people's homes and communities? It seems fairly clear that blow-outs are going to happen. And when they do, it's dangerous. And it can go undetected -- as here -- overnight.
Fourth, shouldn't it be clear to all of us that it's not a question of whether there's going to be a major fracking disaster that devastates Lake Sakakawea, but when the disaster is going to happen, and how huge it is going to be? We were lucky, frankly, that this happened in the middle of the winter. Most of the poisonous fracking juice and oil could be scraped off a frozen lake pretty easily. But it can't be scraped off an unfrozen lake.
Fifth, Who is lying to us? Is it Jack Dalrymple, Wayne Stenehjem and Doug Goehrring, all of whom are directly responsible for what happens at the Industrial Commission's Oil & Gas Division office? Is it the State Health Department, under Dalrymple? Is it the media? Can you think of a reason why North Dakota's media under-reported this event? Could it be that they are making massive amounts of money from oil companies who run ads in their papers and on their radio stations. Might it be that they're a bunch of cowering, pathetic chicken-shits, afraid they'll lose their gravy train? Or is it all of them?
Sixth, is this sort of lying happening all the time? (Hint: Yes.) Seriously, when is somebody going to do a story about the systemic lying from government officials working for Dalrymple, Stenehjem and Goehring in Oil & Gas? Have you noticed that every time there's a spill or a blow-out, initial reports say it was just one barrel of oil that spilled? Or maybe five? Then, months later, the spill report is quietly amended to show it was a lot more oil than initially reported. The initial spill report always makes the news. It never makes the news when they change the number from "one barrel" to "one hundred barrels." It's not unlike our media's interest in the Oil & Gas Division press release about the initial report of millions of dollars in fines being levied, but then no reporting on the 90% reduction of those fines. I'd like a side of truth with my news.
Lastly, does anybody know what a ""USFWS contaminants girl" is? I'm imagining the Fish & Wildlife Service has hired a 12-year-old female to test for toxins around oil blow-outs. You'd think they'd want someone older and with a college degree, maybe.
One day, somebody is going to put on their haz-matt suit and trek across the baren, toxic wasteland that is Mordor in Western North Dakota and hate all of us for letting them get away with this.
My favorite parts of these decisions are the parts where Judge Corwin outlines, very candidly, his perceptions of the credibility and qualifications of the "experts" hired by the State of North Dakota. Read footnote #1, for example. To understand what the judge is explaining, you'd probably have to read his earlier decision. If you need help finding that decision, let me know. (It is and was worth the read.) But also keep reading as Corwin explains the problems with the State's expert's affidavit, in which he expresses opinions he's clearly not qualified to make, about things he seems to know nothing (or little). (See the botom of p. 5 through page 7, for example, and footnotes 3 through 10.)
It's also interesting that Judge Corwin notes video testimony from Republican legislator Ricky Becker, and provides the URL for the video of his floor testimony.
Also interesting is Corwin's discussion of the requirement, in North Dakota's new law, that doctors have admitting privileges at a local hospital, and that they have privileges to perform abortion procedures at those hospitals. Then he discusses how there are only three hospitals in the Fargo/Moorhead area. One is a Catholic hospital where no abortions can be performed. Another is the VA hospital, that's barred (by federal law) from performing abortions. The third -- presumabely Sanford -- only bestows admitting priviles to doctors who "generate a specified minimum volume of business -- the provision of inpatient services to a minimum of five patients in the last twelve months." Well, of course, the Fargo Women's Clinic hasn't provided Sanford with five patients in the last twelve months, so its physicians wouldn't qualify. (And the law's drafters surely knew this.)
Footnote 11 is also interesting. Governor Dalrymple, when he signed the bill into law, referenced the burdensome "added requirement that the hospital privileges must include allowing abortions to take place at [that] facility." He links to Dalrymple's statement to that, available online. Then he points out the State's disingenuous effort, in the legal proceedings, to ignore that requirement.
It's another interesting, well-written decision. It's only 14 pages long. You should read it.
[Update X 1] North Dakota Senator John Hoeven has again repeated his demonstrably false statement that the Keystone XL pipeline would create 42,000 construction jobs.
See that sentence I just wrote? You could probably call that sentence "the lede." There's a word in that sentence that's kind of important. The word is "demonstrably." The word "demonstrably" is an adverb that means "in an obvious and provable manner." (Source.) When paired with the word "false," the phrase "demonstrably false" suggests there is incontrovertable, findable evidence that would show that the thing being descibed is not true; the thing is a lie. The notion that something can be proved to be false is something completely foreign to North Dakota journalists.
President Obama has said, recently, that the Keystone XL pipeline won't create as many jobs as Republicans claim it will create.
"Any reporter who is looking at the facts would take the time to confirm that the most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline -- which might take a year or two -- and then after that we’re talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 jobs in a economy of 150 million working people."
John Hoeven says he's outraged because President Obama is making up numbers about jobs that might be constructed by the potential construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Hoeven should know about making up numbers, as he's always pulling numbers out of his ass. Here's Hoeven's latest Keystone XL nonsense.
“He’s just flat wrong on the numbers,” Hoeven said. “He’s talking about 2,000 construction jobs, but his own State Department says it will create 42,000 construction jobs. (Obama) talks about the oil not being used in the United States and gas prices being higher when his own Department of Energy did a report stating the oil will be used in the U.S. and will lower gas prices. The president is contradicting his own agencies.”
So Obama says the most realistic estimates suggest KXL will create "maybe 2,000 jobs" and John Hoeven says there's a State Department report pegging it at "42,000 construction jobs." It seems like a semi-competent reporter could look into those numbers and "demonstrate" who is closer to the truth. Am I right?
Or... if you were a completely incompetent reporter, you'd just leave it as a "he-said-she-said" disagreement. Only you'd leave it with the President's quote, and Hoeven saying the President's administration has estimated the 42,000 construction jobs number.
Okay, so... Let's pretend I'm a competent journalist. Here's what I'd do: I'd look for the Obama administration's State Department report. And do you know what I'd find?
Construction of the proposed Project would generate temporary, positive socioeconomic impacts as a result of local employment, taxes, spending by construction workers, and spending on construction goods and services. Including direct, indirect, and induced effects, the proposed Project would potentially support approximately 42,100 average annual jobs across the United States over a 1-to 2 year construction period (of which, approximately 3,900 would be directly employed in construction activities).
See? That's the actual report Hoeven is talking about. It really wasn't that hard to find. (I used "the Google" again.) Hoeven says the State Department report says the building of the Keystone XL would "create 42,000 construction jobs." The report says "3,900" construction jobs over a 1-to-2 year period. Is there a "42,000" number in there? Well, there's the number of jobs the KXL would "potentially support." And I bet there's a definition somewhere for "potentially support." A good reporter could look into that and would probably find out that it means the estimated 3,900 Keystone XL construction workers would stop in at businesses that employ 42,000 people. That's probably gas stations, convenience stores, grocery stores, restaurants, gift shops, hotels, clinics, hospitals and lots of other businesses. Supporting those jobs is not the same as creating construction jobs.
And, admittedly, 3,900 construction jobs is not the same as the President's "maybe 2,000 jobs" number, right? But he said "maybe" and he said "most realistic estimates." So what might he be talking about? Well, I don't know what "realistic estimate" he's talking about, but I do know that Cornell University did an indpendent study and concluded the jobs number could be as low as 2,500, and as high as 4,650. (Source.) Maybe there are other estimates out there, but that appears to be an objective report.
So maybe the President thinks the independent Cornell University study is more realistic than the optimistic State Department study. But that leaves a bigger question: Whose statement was "demonstrably false?" The guy who said the "most realistic" estimate was "maybe 2,000" when there is an independent study saying the construction jobs estimate is as low as 2,500? Or the guy who says the State Department report says KXL will create 42,000 construction jobs when the State Department report says it will create 3,900 construction jobs? And why didn't the Dickinson Press (ForumComm) reporter tell us about that demonstrable evidence? Is it incompetence again? Or just bias?
I report. You decide.
[UPDATE: I just realized I forgot to pick apart one of the other obvious lies in Hoeven's quoted statement, above. He says building the pipeline will lower gas prices. I've written about this before, so I'm just going to cut and past what I wrote, and provide a link. But I want you to know that it's not ME making up these facts; it's the company that wants to build the pipeline. They're the ones who insist building the pipeline will cause gas prices in the Midwest to increase. Here you go...
Gas prices are guaranteed to increase in North Dakota and surrounding states because Canadian oil will no longer be available to North Dakota's refinery and others in the region. By advocating for the Keystone XL pipeline, John Hoeven, Rick Berg and all the Republican oil company puppets are advocating for higher gas prices for North Dakotans. How do we know this is true?!? The company proposing the pipeline openly admits it -- even brags about it -- in Canada. "According to TransCanada, KXL will increase the price of heavy crude oil in the Midwest by almost $2 to $4 billion annually, and escalating for several years. (Click here) It will do this by diverting major volumes of Tar Sands oil now supplying the Midwest refineries, so it can be sold at higher prices to the Gulf Coast and export markets. As a result, consumers in the Midwest could be paying 10 to 20 cents more per gallon for gasoline and diesel fuel, adding up to $5 billion to the annual US fuel bill. (Click here, go to page 27, for source)
Once again the Oil & Gas Divison of North Dakota's Industrial Commission has made a statement about a fine it says it is imposing. The Division claims it is imposting a huge -- HUGE, I say -- fine against an oil field company for violating rules relating to the disposal of poisonous fracking water. Once again, one of the rookie reporters at the Bismarck Tribune regurgitates the press release-like statement without asking a single hard question. From the Tribune...
By Nick Smith
Bismarck, N.D. - The North Dakota Industrial Commission is seeking a $1.5 million civil penalty against a company for violating saltwater disposal well regulations.
State Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms outlined the case involving Halek Operating ND, LLC to the three-member commission Tuesday.
“It is the largest civil penalty that you, as a commission, have ever levied,” Helms said. “This was a very serious crime. It sends a strong signal to companies and operators that come into the state.”
The Industrial Commission had announced earlier it would be pursuing the civil case against the company, along with a criminal case against Nathan Garber of Executive Drilling, LLC.
So why ever would I think the Tribune's cub reporter -- Nick Smith -- is being naive? Well, mostly because my memory goes back prior to last week. I "Remember those huge fines imposed on ND Oil Companies" back in May of 2011. I also have access to "The Google." Maybe some of you folks are new here, so I'll take you back in time.
Back in May of 2011, there was a big story about the Oil & Gas Division assessing huge -- HUGE, I say -- fines against oil companies. They were assessing "Three MILLION dollars" in fines. That's what the big press release said. So it must have been true back then, right? Well, no. Nobody else covered it, but NorthDecoder did. Ultimately virtually every one of those huge -- HUGE, I say -- fines were reduced by 90% or so.
The last time I wrote about this, all those enforcement actions against companies involved in the "$3 million" Oil & Gas Division fines had been completed. The final tally for the "$3 million" in fines ACTUALLY paid in those cases was closer to $350,000. That NEVER got reported anywhere but here at NorthDecoder. If it would have been reported in the mainstream media, more citizens of North Dakota would have had actual knowledge of the fact that these Oil & Gas companies are getting away with murdering our state. And at a low price.
So here's a tip for young Nick Smith for the next time he's going to pretend to write a worthwhile story about some huge -- HUGE, I say -- fine being imposed upon a law-breaking oil field company by Lynn Helms and his rollicking regiment of revolving-door regulators: Ask them how much of a fine they're REALLY asking the oil company to give them.
North Dakota reporters and others with short memories all forgot, a long time ago, about the frivolous Federal Elections Commission (FEC) complaint filed by Bob Harms -- then the Treasurer for the ND GOP -- against 2012 ND Public Service Commission candidate Brad Crabtree. Crabtree, like most honest North Dakotans, thought it was troublesome for statewide elected officials -- including two PSC members Kevin Cramer and Brian Kalk, not to mention Governor Dalrymple -- to be accepting money -- some might even call it illegal bribe money -- as political contributions from people and/or entities who had matters pending before government agency bodies they were elected to serve in an unbiased, ethical, objective way. Crabtree had published an ad in which he compared his own ethics to the ethics of Cramer and Kalk, both of whom were taking these questionable campaign moneys. Here's a transcription of what Crabtree said in his ad. (For a more official transcription, click on the first -- 001 -- link at the end of this blog post.)
I'm Brad Crabtree, candidate for Public Service Commissioner. I believe you deserve more from your public officials. It's wrong for regulators to take political money from interests diey regulate. But Public Service Commissioners Kevin Cramer and Brian Kalk have taken thousands of dollars from the very companies and executives whose projects they approve. Our PSC Commissioners are supposed to watch out for folks like you, not just the people who sign the checks.
That's why I've pledged not to accept any contributions from companies or executives with interests before the PSC. It's not what candidates say, but what they do that matters. See for yourself at crabtreeforpsc.com where I post the contributions my campaign receives.
I'm Brad Crabtree, candidate for Public Service Commissioner. I'd appreciate your vote to help me put you - the public - back into the Public Service Commission.
Get the rest of the story at crabtreeforpsc.com Paid for by Crabtree for PSC, Perry Miller, Treasurer.
Harms was concerned that Crabtree's ad was exposing an NDGOP problem so, in his capacity as a leader in the ND Republican Party, he filed an FEC complaint against Crabtree at the end of September, 2012; around the time early voting started for the 2012 election. In his one-page, four-paragraph letter to the FEC, Harms complained that Crabtree's ad was federal "electioneering" which meant Crabtree's campaign should have -- but did not -- file a 24 Hour Notice of Disbursments/Obligations for Electioneering Communications (FEC Form 9). The NDGOP also, promptly, issued a press release that got traction primarily with the crackpots in the right-wing blog-o-sphere, but also with the dupes in North Dakota's regular press.
For background, when a person or organization spends $10,000 or more on an advertisement that "promotes, supports, attacks or opposes" a federal candidate during a 60 day window before an election, the purchaser has to submit a discloser to the FEC within 24 hours. If they don't, it's a violation of FEC rules and federal law.
Crabtree submitted a response through his attorney. I'm going to paraphrase Crabtree's response. You can read it on your own, if you like, but my perception is that Crabtree responded to the Complaint saying this: A central theme of Crabtree's PSC campaign was that then-sitting PSC members were engaging in sketchy and/or unethical conduct by accepting campaign contributions from persons who were executives for companies the PSC regulates while those persons' companies had matters pending before the PSC. The then-sitting PSC members Crabtree was talking about were Brian Kalk and Kevin Cramer. Cramer -- in the middle of his PSC term -- also just happened to be running for federal office. Crabtree's position -- in his FEC response -- was that Crabtree's federal candidacy was "incidental" to the criticism Crabtree was making regarding the unethical conduct of both Kalk and Cramer in their capacities as PSC members. Crabtree never mentioned Cramer's federal candidacy in his ads. Translation: If Cramer hadn't been running for U.S. Congress, Crabtree could have, would have, and should have made the same argument in his campaign; Cramer's federal campaign had virtually nothing to do with Crabtree's criticism of the ethics of two sitting PSC members accepting money from executives and organizations with matters pending before the PSC.
The FEC did some investigating. As part of its investigation, because of the $10,000 threshold, it needed to know how much Crabtree had spent on the ad, and when it spent the money. It contacted Harms and asked him for information about when the ad buys had been made. Harms apparently provided that information, generally, to the FEC. The FEC investigators apparently contacted Harms back and asked where Harms had gotten the information. According to the FEC, Harms informed the FEC "that the North Dakota Republican Party's media vendor obtained the information directly from the radio stations, but [ ] offered no other details or documents." Instead, Harms asked the FEC to "exercise [ ] some discretion" and "refrain[ ] from further prosecution of the complaint" because the complainant now believes that the violations were "inadvertent." (The foregoing apparently quotes fairly heavily from an email from Harms to the FEC dated January 14, 2013.).
I feel obligated to translate a few things here. First, when the North Dakota Republican Party says they got information from their "media vendor," they're almost certainly talking about Odney Advertising. Odney Advertising is a Bismarck-based advertising firm that is so tangled up with Republican elected officials in North Dakota state government that the two can barely be distinguished. It's important to know that since 2007, Odney Advertising has taken in over $23 million -- that's MILLION with an "M" -- in North Dakota state contract money. (See ND.gov). Second, when Harms -- also a partner in a big state government contractor business -- tells the FEC he'd like them to "exercise some discretion" and "refrain from further prosecution" because he believes Crabtree's alleged violation was "inadvertent," what he's really saying is, "We never really had a legitimate complaint. We know it. We were just smearing Crabtree's good name while manipulating North Dakota's unsophisticated reporters into writing another pro-Republican/anti-Democrat story. And it worked. Our guys won. Bygones."
The FEC issued its decision about a month ago. (You can access the decision through the FEC's website, but it's a little tricky. I'll post links to the FEC filings at the end of this blog post.) Under FEC policies and rules, those decisions remain secret for 30 days. This decision became public last week. In the decision the FEC does a breakdown of Crabtree's expenditures for this particular ad. It says Crabtree spent a total of $28,304.40 to air the advertisement. Of that $28k, $5,913.10 worth of ads aired within the 60 electioneering window rule. $6,163.20 aired during a 12-day period, of which only one day was within the 60 day electioneering window. And $15,728.10 aired completely outside the 60 day window.
Based upon that breakdown, the FEC concluded that -- regardless of whether Crabtree's advertisement was "electioneering" -- the NDGOP's complaint was completely without merit because Crabtree hadn't spent $10,000 on the ad during the 60-day window. Here's how the FEC's analysis went:
Thus, regardless of whether the advertisement was an electioneering communication, the available information shows that the costs of Crabtree's advertisement did not surpass the $10,000 threshold requiring disclosure . 2 U.S.C. § 434(f)(1). Therefore, Respondents had no obligation to file a 24-Hour Notice with the Commission.
Accordingly, the Commission finds that there is no reason to believe that the Committee violated 2 U.S.C. § 434(f) by failing to file a 24 Hour Notice in connection with the radio advertisement and closed the file.
This is how North Dakota politics work, folks. Republicans and their operatives quietly collect tens of millions of dollars in state contracts, they take campaign contributions from executives in the companies they're supposed to be regulating, and then they manipulate the media into writing stories about their frivolous complaints about the ethics of Democrats. Because the Democrats in North Dakota are unethical. Got it?