Last November, with about 54% of the vote, North Dakota voters approved a long-needed ethics measure over the objections of many members of the Legislature. The measure mandates transparency with campaign contributions, prevents gift giving from lobbyists and creates an ethics commission. So, all the lawmakers had to do last session was implement the measure. Sorry to say they gutted it. The Legislature was unethical.

A key provision was to let the public know who is contributing money to politicians. However, the legislators approved a loophole larger than Russia. The lawmakers deviously allowed contributions for dual purposes to be kept confidential. For example, if you donate $500, with $490 of that for a political ad and $10 for postage, then the contribution doesn’t need to be reported. Thus, many donors will likely give money to a political campaign for two purposes, so nobody in the public will know where the money came from.

Another giant loophole passed by the Legislature pertains to the gift giving. Lobbyists are banned from doing so, but other people —including those who hire lobbyists — are free to give gifts to legislators, who will enthusiastically accept them. So, the gifts will keep on coming.

Also, the lawmakers have shamefully voted that the names of whistleblowers can’t be kept confidential. That will scare away many people from reporting corruption, especially if it means reporting your boss or a co-worker. Whistleblower complaints will be looked into before any decision is made, but there will now be fewer legitimate complaints coming forward.

Because the ethics measure is a constitutional amendment, the lawmakers had no right to change it. They might not have liked the measure, or having real ethics, but that doesn’t matter now. Their job was to keep the intent of the voters in the state constitution. Instead, they failed miserably.

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