ND House Passes Bill Aimed At Dalrymple Grand Jury Petition

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In a sad spectacle, a group of seriously misguided political activists have been trying to get North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple indicted for bribery because he accepted and disclosed perfectly legal political contributions. These activists contend that Dalrymple, who is generally favorable to oil development in the state, accepted political contributions from individuals and PAC’s who work in and/or represent the oil industry.

That every single person who makes a political contribution to a candidate is supporting a candidate who is friendly to their interests apparently escapes this people. This is democracy. This is how it works. These people are trying to criminalize what ought to be protected speech.

Anyway, these activists have been gathering signatures to empanel a grand jury to investigate their charges as is allowed by North Dakota law. They’ve chosen Dunn County as their battle ground, but a judge there (while rejecting the petition for including signatures from people who don’t actually live in the county) noted that they’ve picked the wrong venue. Governor Dalrymple lives in Bismarck, which is where the grand jury ought to be organized.

The activists, who seem to have more passion than intelligence, insist that the judge is wrong and that Dunn County is the proper venue. That Dunn County’s low population makes the signature threshold for the petitions several orders of magnitude lower than that which would be required in Burleigh County is no doubt the true motivating factor. The truth is there just isn’t a lot of support out there for this fool’s errand, and any petition effort in Burleigh County is likely to fail.

Which brings us to HB1042, which amends the North Dakota Century Code to require that action be brought against a defendant either in the place where that defendant lives or in the place where the defendant lives (it passed the House yesterday with a unanimous vote). In the “case” against Dalrymple (I use that term lightly because the “case” for bribery here is a fantasy) it is bribery being alleged. Since Dalrymple lives in Bismarck, and since his campaign’s office is also in Bismarck, then Burleigh County is the proper venue.

Some of the activists have been in touch with me angry about this bill which they feel is targeting them specifically. They’re no doubt right, the bill is almost certainly a response to their actions, but it’s also a common sense clarification of existing law. That it’s inconvenient for their silly cause is irrelevant.

And I don’t feel a bit sorry for them.

I’m quite outspoken in my criticism of Governor Dalrymple, but I’m not about to support efforts to brand the man a criminal for engaging in democracy.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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