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Port: While Bastiat candidates flounder with fundraising, Becker sits on his hands

If I were a Becker Backer, I wouldn't be happy. Not with the half-hearted campaign, Becker ran for the U.S. Senate, or the lack of support for candidates representing the movement he founded.

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U.S. Senate candidate Rick Becker, a Bismarck state representative, speaks to delegates at the North Dakota Republican state convention on Saturday, April 2, 2022.
Kyle Martin / The Forum
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MINOT, N.D. — There are an abnormally large number of contested primaries in the North Dakota Republican Party's legislative races this year, thanks in part to redistricting, but mostly due to the ideological divide that has erupted in the party.

Traditional conservatives are taking on Trumpy, culture warrior populists aligned with the Bastiat Caucus in the Legislature.

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These races are almost impossible to handicap, but one solid data point we have available to us to help discern who might be best positioned to win is money. By that measure, the traditional conservatives are winning. I wrote about it last week , and Bismarck Tribune reporter Jack Dura reached similar conclusions in his review of campaign finance disclosures this week .

But there's a variable in these races that few are talking about. State Rep. Rick Becker founded the Bastiat Caucus and helped rally its candidates with his vigorous but ultimately unsuccessful convention challenge to incumbent U.S. Sen. John Hoeven this spring. If the Bastiats have a singular leader, it's Becker, but as those candidates struggle to raise money they're seeing little help from the man who was, at least at one point, at the top of their ticket.

A search of the secretary of state's campaign disclosure database shows Becker has made just three donations to legislative candidates this year for a total of $750. He also gave $2,500 from his legislative campaign (he's not running for re-election) to the North Dakota Young Republicans, which is a group controlled by the Bastiats.

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A table showing contributions from state Rep. Rick Becker
Database entries for four political contributions made by state Rep. Rick Becker in 2022.
North Dakota Sec. of State website

The money hasn't been flowing from Becker's Senate campaign coffers, either.

He just filed a termination report on May 19, closing the committee out, and it shows just over $50,000 in expenditures for the 2022 election cycle.

Becker had few financial supporters for his campaign — just 35 individuals made reportable contributions — and didn't spend much money on his challenge to Hoeven despite a $500,000 personal loan to his campaign and a lot of soaring rhetoric casting Becker as a sort of political superhero out to save America.

Apparently, saving America wasn't worth Becker spending any of his own money. When he cashed out the Senate campaign, he paid off the usual expenses, repaid the $500,000 loan to himself, paid one of his companies $4,250 for office rent, and made zero contributions to down-ballot Bastiat candidates who desperately need the cash.

Money isn't everything in politics, and its importance diminishes as you move down the ballot. Legislative races tend to be hyper-local, and campaigns are a lot of times won or lost based on how hard the candidates work to put themselves in front of voters in meaningful ways.

The person who spends the most money is not necessarily the person who wins.

Still, money helps a lot, and the Bastiat candidates are up against it. Not only are most of them behind their traditional conservative opponents in campaign fundraising, but they're contending with the headwinds of independent spending against them. Gov. Doug Burgum, though his independent committee, spending big money to defeat these candidates.

Even a couple of hundred dollars worth of support from someone like Becker would help, but that's not happening.

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The Bastiat leader seems to be sitting on his hand. He's not making donations. He doesn't even seem to be hitting the campaign trail for these candidates to help them raise their own money.

If I were a Becker Backer, I wouldn't be happy. Not with the half-hearted campaign, Becker ran for the U.S. Senate, or the lack of support for candidates representing the movement he founded.

This column originally indicated that Becker reimbursed himself for mileage from his campaign. That was inaccurate. Becker paid for his own mileage and other expenses out of pocket as an in-kind donation to his campaign. Only a $4,250 rent payment for office space to his company, Gulch Holdings, went from the campaign to him. The column has been edited to fix the error.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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