ND Legislature Week 2 Hall Of Shame: Senator Rich Wardner, Rep. Al Carlson


During the last legislative session we here at SAB awarded a weekly “RINO of the Week” award to a Republican legislator who strayed the furthest from what are supposed to be the principles of the party. I wanted to do that again this week, and we did name a RINO for the first week (Governor Jack Dalrymple in a rare executive branch pick), but I think it might be well if we change the name for two reasons.

First, RINO stands for Republican In Name Only, but the problem is that “Republican” means a lot of different things these days. Especially here in North Dakota, the NDGOP doesn’t seem to stand for anything more than winning elections. They’re very, very good at that, but not so good on the platform of ideas the advancement of which should be the goal of winning those elections.

Second, while it may sometimes seem like Democrats don’t really do anything in our Republican-dominated legislature, that’s only because they’re so thoroughly marginalized. But they do come up with a lot of bad ideas, and they should be included in this as well.

So, instead of RINO of the Week, we’ll be inducting new members to the SAB Hall of Shame this legislative session. And in the second week, as the legislature continues to sort the major issues into committees while picking off the legislative low hanging fruit, there were two clear winners.

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, and House Majority Leader Al Carlson.

Here’s why: On Monday of last week I sent an open records request to Legislative Council asking for all of the comments users of the new legislative bill tracking system may have posted on the bills they’re tracking. Not so much because I wanted to see the comments (I don’t believe they should be public), but because it was pretty clear that there was a loophole that might allow those records to become public and I wanted to see how Legislative Council, and the legislature, would react.

Boy did they ever react. My request still hasn’t received an official response, but it did spur Wardner and Carlson to rush through the House and Senate a bill closing off access to the records. That bill wasn’t subjected to any of the regular process a piece of legislation goes through. There were no committee hearings, and so no real opportunity for committee or even public input.

I actually agree with the legislation as passed, but this situation was handled poorly. There should have been a debate. There should have been public input. And the proper way for a legislature that is truly committed to openness and transparency isn’t to stonewall a good-faith, if controversial, open records request while playing hurry-up with legislation to block it.

Democrat leadership in the House and Senate objected to the bills being pushed through so quickly, and they were right to do so. Carlson and Wardner have kicked off this legislative session on a sorry note.

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.

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  • Kevin Flanagan

    I hope Rob isn’t singled out for retribution like I have been for shining a light on the shenanigans of the Bismarck bunch.

    • Dave

      Oh poor, baby. Life’s rough; buy a helmet, whiner.

      • Kevin Flanagan

        How long have you been slacking on the state payroll?

  • opinionated

    funny carlson did not mentions it while salivating with Joel Heitkamp on his show… How did we end up with these people representing us? We need to toss a bunch of these guys out with write in campaings next election. We will just pick a name from the phonebook and pass the word to elect them, some random joe could not possibly do a worse job

    • borborygmi

      You have come up with a perfect name, write in Random Joe……..

  • Captjohn

    I have no inside info on why Leaders Warner and Carlson pushed the legislation through. I do know that as a Legislative leader there are times you take on some issues you’d prefer to leave for others. Sen. Nelson and I did it a number of times because it was the expedient thing to do. Until the two leaders have a chance to explain their actions I’ll reserve judgement.

  • Clairvoyant

    No surprise here. These actions are consistent with Al Carlson’s character.

  • cylde

    They are cockroach types that scuttle away from the light. Expect retribution through third parties in state bureaucracies.

  • VocalYokel

    “…the problem is that “Republican” means a lot of different things these days.”

    The definition of ‘Republican’ remains the same and cannot be altered by its misappropriation.

    I am told Abe Lincoln once queried, “If you call a dog’s tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?”
    His reply, “Four…calling a dog’s tail a leg does not make it a leg.”

  • ec99

    I think ND would gain enormously if the myth of a citizen legislature were put to rest.