Brad Crabtree’s Ethical Cop Out
Over the weekend I had a viewpoint column published in the Grand Forks Herald calling out Democrat Public Service Commission candidate Brad Crabtree for some hypocrisy on conflicts of interest and campaign contributions. Crabtree has been insinuating that Public Service Commissioners Brian Kalk and Kevin Cramer (the latter currently the NDGOP’s House candidate) have been breaking ethics laws by accepting contributions from employees of companies regulated by the PSC. What Crabtree hasn’t been forthcoming about is the fact that he’s accepted contributions from similar interests both in 2010 and 2012.
Today Crabtree had a series of press conferences objecting to the State of North Dakota making itself party to an ethics lawsuit filed by some of Crabtree’s political supporters (Crabtree doesn’t want North Dakota to defend against the federal takeover of surface mining regulation the lawsuit asks for), and during one of those press conferences mentioned my column and tried to explain away the facts (Crabtree references my column at about 18:30).
Crabtree explains that some of the contributions I mentioned came in 2010, before he had his ethical epiphany. Fair enough. But then he claims that the 2012 cycle contributions I mentioned were from interests “not regulated by the PSC.” No doubt he means the money from the attorney for the Dakota Resource Council, an environmental group that has sued the PSC, and other environmental interests.
The problem is that while these activist groups aren’t regulated by the PSC, they certainly have an interest in the rulings made by the PSC and attempt to influence those rulings all the time with testimony during commission hearings and legal actions. It seems to me that, if we’re going to talk about conflicts of interest, a contribution from a member of an activist group that wants to stop a coal mine is as pertinent as a contribution from an employee of a company that wants to build a coal mine.
Crabtree seems to have one standard for one set of citizens, and a different standard for another set of citizens, with the standard hinging on where those citizens stand politically. That’s just plain wrong.
But beyond that, Crabtree also couldn’t explain a contribution from Sue Shaper, a member of the family which operates the Texas Intrastate Pipeline Group, a subsidiary of which as a case before the PSC right now.
Either Crabtree isn’t all that familiar with the cases before the PSC – troubling for a candidate who would sit on that commission – or he just doesn’t want to admit that he can’t live up to his own ethical standards.
Though, to be clear, I don’t find anything unethical in Crabtree’s contributions. I think people, environmentalists and coal company executives alike, should be allowed to engage in the political process up to and including financial support for the candidates of their choice.Tags: Brad Crabtree, Brian Kalk, election 2012, ethics, Kevin Cramer, North Dakota News, Public Service Commission