Anti-Measure 2 Activists At North Dakota Association Of Counties Got Nearly $450,000 In Tax Dollars In 2011
One interesting side-issue in the debate over Measure 2, which would abolish property taxes, is that a number of the organizations who have backed a political campaign called Keep It Local ND are heavily funded by our tax dollars.
Section 16.1-10-02 of the North Dakota Century Code prohibits the use of taxpayer funds, or goods/services paid for by taxpayer dollars, to be used for political activities. Here’s the pertinent text, which is rather unambiguous:
No person may use any property belonging to or leased by, or any service which is provided to or carried on by, either directly or by contract, the state or any agency, department, bureau, board, commission, or political subdivision thereof, for any political purpose.
Previously I’ve noted that the North Dakota Chambers of Commerce, a very political network or organizations that is outspoken in their opposition to Measure 2, had received $450,515.07 in payments from state taxpayers through December of last year. Now another organization that is partners with the Chamber of Commerce in the Keep It Local ND campaign is revealed to have taken significant sums of money from the taxpayers.
According to an open records request filed with the North Dakota Association of Counties, that organization received $449,101 in “dues payments” from counties in 2011. A document showing a break down of payments by county is below.
Most of what the Association Counties does is lobby on behalf of the state’s counties. That on its own is a questionable use of taxpayer dollars. After all, what do we elect mayors and commissioners for if not, in addition to making policies and administering their jurisdictions, also communicating their needs to other levels of government? Given that every corner of North Dakota is represented by squads of commissioners, school board members, legislators, etc., etc. the need to dole out hundreds of thousands of dollars to what amounts to a government lobbying firm seems a bit odd.
But going beyond that, to see this organization which wouldn’t exist were it not for the membership made up of our counties engage in an explicitly political campaign is downright illegal, I think.
Setting aside the Measure 2 debate, what good are our laws prohibiting the use of taxpayer dollars for political activities if our politicians can shovel our tax dollars to a group like the Association of Counties (or the Chamber of Commerce, for that matter) and have them engage in political activities?