Two far-left environmentalist groups, in an attack that was no doubt carefully coordinated for an election year, have sued Public Service Commissioners Brian Kalk and Kevin Cramer for accepting perfectly legal, 100% disclosed contributions from coal interests.
These same coal interests also have a mining permit that the PSC will eventually be ruling on, and according to the Dakota Resource Council and the Sierra Club, because Kalk and Cramer took the aforementioned legal political contributions they are somehow unfit to to regulate the project. Which is patently ridiculous. The PSC applies state and federal laws to the regulatory process. Absent some evidence that Kalk and Cramer didn’t follow the law during any part of the regulatory process, these groups don’t have a leg to stand on.
But remember, this isn’t so much about the law as it’s about making political hay. Which is just what Brad Crabtree, the Democrat-endorsed candidate for the PSC this election cycle, is doing:
Bismarck, ND – A Public Service candidate says getting campaign contributions from companies or owners regulated by the state agency is unacceptable.
Democrat Brad Crabtree says he will reject campaign donations from political action committees of companies and cooperatives regulated by the PSC.
He says he also won’t accept contributions from officers or executives of regulated companies. …
Crabtree says, “As regulators, PSC Commissioners must be held at a higher standard than other elected officials. The reason for this is clear, in a regulatory proceeding, even the perception of a conflict of interest matters. This legal form of corruption must end.”
If Mr. Crabtree thinks it’s wrong to take money from groups that the PSC would regulate, it’s a belief he apparently just found this election cycle. You see, Mr. Crabtree has run for the PSC before (Cramer gave him a shellacking, getting over 61% of the vote) and during that campaign he took thousands of dollars from at least one energy company that would have been under his regulatory purview had he won that election.
The donations came from Great River Energy (a power company that manages coal plants among other things) in two payments, one for $1,500 and one for $1,000 according to disclosures on the Secretary of State website.
That’s not a lot of money from energy interests (though Crabtree could certainly have gotten more filtered through the thousands he got from the state party and various PAC’s), but it does make him a bit of a hypocrite.
Clearly, he thought it was ok to take money from groups he would regulate, until his friends at the DRC and the Sierra Club filed this lawsuit.