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Port: Statewide Democratic-NPL candidate has yet to file a campaign finance report despite two deadlines

Shame on PSC candidate Melanie Moniz for not putting in more effort. And, frankly, shame on the delegates to the Democratic-NPL convention for endorsing a candidate who didn't aspire to be anything more than a name on a ballot.

Melanie Moniz.jpg
Melanie Moniz is a Democratic-NPL candidate for North Dakota's Public Service Commission in the 2022 election cycle.
Candidate photo
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MINOT, N.D. — This spring Melanie Moniz accepted the Democratic-NPL's endorsement to run for the Public Service Commission against Republican incumbent Julie Fedorchak.

Since then, Moniz has been a non-entity on the campaign trail. When I tried to get a hold of her to organize a debate between the candidates on my podcast , Moniz didn't respond. She hasn't been present in the headlines. If she's been holding campaign events, I haven't heard of them.

When the Forum Communications newspapers announced their endorsements in the PSC races, they wrote this of Moniz : "Moniz is a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes but little else is known about her."

She has been sporadically active in promoting her campaign on social media. She recently posted a link on Facebook to a profile the Bismarck Tribune did of the PSC candidates.

Moniz isn't running a serious campaign, but at this point, she doesn't even seem to be complying with election laws governing campaign finances.

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Candidates for statewide office in North Dakota (with the exception of the federal candidates who comply with federal reporting laws) have three deadlines to report campaign finances every year: There's a pre-primary election deadline in June, a pre-general election deadline in October, and then an end-of-year report due at the end of January. In addition to this, within 39 days of the primary and general elections, candidates must report any contributions of over $500 within 48 hours.

Moniz hasn't filed a single report this year according to an online search of the Secretary of State's campaign finance database. She missed the pre-primary deadline on May 13, and the pre-general deadline on Oct. 7.

"Neither report has been filed," Secretary of State Al Jaeger said when I contacted him for confirmation of what the online filings were showing.

Moniz did not respond to an email, or phone call, sent requesting comment.

Patrick Hart, chairman of the Democratic-NPL, declined to comment on the record.

"As has been done during the entire time of my tenure, all candidates of all parties, committees, etc., are contacted many times before and after the filing deadline," Jaeger told me of the situation. "Therefore, in this case, both the candidate and party have been contacted numerous times."

Jaeger provided me with a certified letter he sent to Moniz in August alerting her to the delinquency of her pre-primary report.

When asked what consequences there were for a candidate not filing their reports in a timely fashion, Jaeger referred me to section 16.1-08.1-06.1 of the North Dakota Century Code which sets a penalty of $25 for reports filed within six days of the due date, $50 for reports filed between 6 and 11 days late, and a maximum of $100 for reports later than that.

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Clearly, there aren't a lot of teeth in the penalties for violating North Dakota's already very loose campaign reporting laws.

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"At a minimum, the candidate owes a late filing fee of $100 for the June report," Jaeger said of Moniz.

What to make of this situation?

We can be candid and acknowledge that Moniz was always a longshot candidate. She hasn't campaigned. Nobody, including this very engaged observer of state politics, knows much about her, including what qualifications or life experiences she may have that are relevant to serving the state on the PSC.

But even so, candidates who seek statewide office should take that endeavor seriously. North Dakota's campaign reporting laws are not arduous. Filing these forms is a simple task, and the benefit to the public is enormous. Citizens deserve to know where candidates are getting their money. Transparency should be at the heart of public service. A candidate who can't be transparent with their campaign isn't one who deserves to hold elected office.

Shame on Moniz for not putting in more effort. And, frankly, shame on the delegates to the Democratic-NPL convention for endorsing a candidate who didn't aspire to be anything more than a name on a ballot.

Fedorchak has filed both her pre-primary and pre-general reports, and has filed one 48-hour report. Her campaign, per the pre-general report filed on October 7, has a roughly $100,000 balance.

Every other candidate for statewide office, including Republicans, Democrats, and non-partisan/independent candidates, have their filings on record.

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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