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Measure 5 backers say ads by American Petroleum Institute violate state law

BISMARCK - Backers of a North Dakota ballot measure that would create a conservation fund with oil tax revenue complained Thursday that the American Petroleum Institute's campaign ads against the measure violate state law. Steve Adair, chairman o...



BISMARCK – Backers of a North Dakota ballot measure that would create a conservation fund with oil tax revenue complained Thursday that the American Petroleum Institute’s campaign ads against the measure violate state law.

Steve Adair, chairman of the measure’s sponsoring committee for Measure 5, filed an election complaint with Secretary of State Al Jaeger, alleging violations of campaign disclosure laws by API.

Adair argued in the complaint that API is violating the law because its ads include “Paid for by the American Petroleum Institute” but don’t list the name of the “chairman or other responsible individual” as required by law for trade associations.


“To us, the materials are clearly illegal, so we would hope that they would stop sending illegal material and we would hope that the people who have put up illegal material in their yards would take them down,” Adair said.

Eric Wohlschlegel, a spokesman for API, said via email that a forwarded copy of Adair’s complaint was “the first I’ve heard of this … and frankly it doesn’t make much sense.”

North Dakotans for Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks is asking Jaeger to issue a cease-and-desist order directing API to stop distributing the campaign materials and to refer the matter to the Burleigh County state’s attorney’s office for further investigation and possible prosecution.

Deputy Secretary of State Jim Silrum said he had received the complaint and reached out to Jaeger, who was out of the office for travel to attend the commissioning of the USS North Dakota submarine on Saturday in Connecticut.

“I am not going to do anything until I’ve had a chance to speak with him,” Silrum said.

Campaign ads are increasingly being scrutinized in the battle over Measure 5, a constitutional amendment that would funnel 5 percent of the state’s oil extraction tax revenue into a fund and trust for the next 25 years to enhance conservation efforts and outdoor recreation. The state budget office projects the fund and trust would collect $308 million by July 2017.

The campaigns also have increasingly accused each other of being driven by out-of-state interests. Memphis, Tenn.-based Ducks Unlimited, which is spearheading the pro-Measure 5 campaign and has a regional office in Bismarck, has spent nearly $2.4 million on the campaign, while Washington, D.C.-based API has spent more than $1 million fighting the measure, according to disclosure reports.

Last week, measure opponents slammed supporters for using images of the South Dakota Badlands in a campaign mailer. Adair said the photos were incorrectly labeled by a stock photo vendor.


Supporters responded Thursday to what they called “false and personal attacks” against Amy Walker, who referred to herself in a pro-Measure 5 TV spot as “a teacher from Mandan” and is listed as a “High School Teacher, Mandan” in a campaign mailer.

Political blogger Rob Port called Walker a “fake Mandan teacher” in a post on his Say Anything Blog, noting she currently isn’t employed as a teacher in Mandan. He also pointed out that her husband is a Ducks Unlimited employee whose job would benefit from Measure 5’s passage. Johann Walker is director of conservation programs for Ducks Unlimited for North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.

In a phone interview Thursday, Amy Walker said she taught at Mandan High School for at least eight years – a district official said she was hired in 2005 – and worked the first week or so of the 2013-14 school year before going on maternity leave. She resigned later that fall so she could stay home with her baby, she said, adding she recently signed up to be a substitute teacher in Mandan.

“That hurt, because I really felt like I am a teacher, and just because I’m at home taking care of my daughter right now … doesn’t mean than I’m any less of a teacher,” said Walker, whose North Dakota educator license is valid through 2016.

Walker also took offense at the suggestion that she was only appearing in the ad because her husband works for Ducks Unlimited, “as if I do not have an autonomous voice and opinion of my own.

“I found those comments to be very sexist,” she said.

Meanwhile, results of a DFM Research poll commissioned by Valley News Live and Say Anything Blog showed 55 percent of respondents opposed to Measure 5, 34 percent in favor of it and 11 percent undecided. The poll of 430 certain or very likely voters between Oct. 13 and 16 had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percent.

Adair said internal and external polling has shown measure supporters ahead and behind, and he still considers it “a very tight race.”



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