In The Public Service Commission Controversy, We Should Remember What “Consent Of The Governed” Means
The Fargo Forum has a “special report” out this weekend about the on-going kerfuffle over political contributions to members of the Public Service Commission from employees of the companies/interests the PSC regulates.
According to Forum reporter Marino Eccher, “A review by The Forum of known PSC donations tied to regulated industries shows that the practice – whatever one thinks of it – is indeed extensive.”
Of course, Mr. Eccher left out of his review contributions to Democrats, such as liberal PSC candidate Brad Crabtree who has led the left’s charge on this issue, by environmental interests who while obviously not regulated by the PSC certainly engage in legal and political activism involving the PSC.
Mr. Crabtree argues that those who want to build wind farms or coal mines shouldn’t be allowed to contribute to the campaigns of the Public Service Commissioners. But doesn’t that leave open contributions from interests who want to close coal mines and block wind farms?
Which brings me to an important point that has gone ignored in this debate. Whither the consent of the governed? Shouldn’t those who are regulated get a say in who regulates them?
Republican PSC candidate Randy Christmann worries that the standard being set by Crabtree in Democrats in their attempt to silence energy sector interests while leaving the door open for environmental activists simply goes too far:
Taken to its logical conclusion, Christmann said, the philosophy would also bar farmers and ranchers from giving to agricultural commissioner candidates, or teachers from giving to gubernatorial hopefuls.
“I just can’t imagine where you would ever draw the line,” he said. “It’s a standard that really can’t be met.”
Campaign contributions are legally-protected political speech. The Supreme Court has ruled as much, and for good reason. Why shouldn’t coal companies and the wind energy industry, etc., etc., have a say in who regulates them? We should have no problem with interests who hate coal companies and wind farms trying to elect regulators who will govern according to their philosophies, and we should have no problem with supporters of coal companies and wind farms (up to and including their political action committees and executives/employees) expressing their views with contributions.
Insurance agents get to help pick the Insurance Commissioner. Farmers and ranchers get to help pick the Ag Commissioner. Why shouldn’t those industries regulated by the PSC get to help pick the members of that commission?
The ethical issues being brought forward by Crabtree and Democrats are more about winning elections than ethics. They’re willing to trample the notion of the consent of the governed to win at the ballot box, which perhaps should tell you all you need to know about whether or not they should hold office.Tags: Brad Crabtree, Brian Kalk, consent of the governed, free speech, Kevin Cramer, North Dakota News, Public Service Commission, randy christmann