North Dakota Tax Commissioner Cory Fong Resigns

fongdalrymple

North Dakota Tax Commissioner Cory Fong, appointed to his position by then-Governor John Hoeven in 2005 and re-elected in 2006 and 2010, has sent a letter to Governor Jack Dalrymple today announcing his resignation effective December 31st.

This is a surprising move. Back in July I had emailed Fong asking him if he intended to run for re-election. “I’m making plans to run again for Tax Commissioner next year,” he said in a written reply. ”An official announcement will likely not come until later this year or even the early part of 2014.”

No word yet on the reasoning behind Fong stepping down. The move could be a tactical one. If Fong had a change of heart and decided not to run in 2014, stepping down now would allow Governor Jack Dalrymple to hand-pick a replacement.

This gives that replacement the advantage of roughly a year in office, thus allowing him/her to run as an “incumbent” in 2014 against the Democrat challenger. It also preempts the NDGOP nominating process, as it’s unlikely that a Republican already in office would draw a serious challenger, particularly in a down-ballot race.

Assuming Dalrymple nominates someone intent on running in 2014, and not a placeholder candidate, that person would almost certainly get the NDGOP nomination with little chance of a challenge.

Update: According to the Fargo Forum, Fong is going to work for Odney Advertising, joining another Hoeven-era appointee Shane Goettle:

According to Fong’s announcement, he will specialize in business consulting and public and government affairs at Odney and also will work to continue expanding the firm’s capabilities in government relations as they merge with its media relations, campaign and public relations services.

“Throughout my career I have enjoyed most those opportunities where I have worked directly with North Dakota businesses to help them be successful,” Fong said in his announcement. “I am thrilled to be able to take that experience to the private sector where I will work with businesses every day so they can take full advantage of the great opportunities of doing business right here in North Dakota.”

Update: I spoke with Fong via telephone this afternoon and asked him why he had a change of heart after telling me he would be running earlier this year. “In July it was still my intention to run,” he told me. “This opportunity came about in the last couple of months and it won’t exist in a year.”

I asked him why the Odney position wouldn’t exist in a year, and he said it’s because the company is trying to get their public affairs division off the ground. “They’re trying to get things together for the next legislative session,” he said. “The opportunity wouldn’t be available for me in a year.” Which means, according to Fong, if he didn’t take the job someone else would get it.

Fong said he’s served in government “for 19 years” and looks forward to working with Goettle who he had worked with in the past at the state Commerce Department.

Here is Fong’s resignation letter:

Cory Fong Resignation Letter

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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  • meh

    Pardon my ignorance, but is he the one responsible for constantly under reporting tax revenues? Not a direct slam against him, but might be something to it also?

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      The revenue forecasts are distributed by the OMB. Fong’s office reports numbers, but only after the fact.

  • John_Wayne_American

    this is too bad, Mr. Fong has always been one of the most accessible state office holders, he has a great rapport with his staff and he will be missed in the ivory tower.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I was disappointed in some of Fong’s handling of the Measure 2 debate, but I’ve always found him to be a very nice man and, as you said, very accessible.

      • kevindf

        He had no business sticking his nose into the Measure 2 situation. It was a conflict of interest and unethical of him to do so!

        • [email protected]

          Agreed. You make a very valid point. The state is awash with revenue that easily could have and would have replaced property tax, and Mr. Fong was an intricate part of the defeat of Measure 2, his departure from government is long overdue. I believe he may be a nice guy, but his actions during the debate of Measure 2 most definitely hurt property owners in North Dakota.

  • Dakotacyr

    hhmmm….who could it be…..yup…..Shane Goettle.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I could see that, maybe, though when I talked to Fong this afternoon he was making a big deal about working with Goettle at Odney. So, at least based on that, it seems Fong believes Goettle is staying where he’s at.

      I’m guessing someone younger.

  • Eric

    This is too bad. He iswas a good man for the job. He is level headed and usually researches before answering off the cuff. A true people person too. Good luck to him in whatever he is going to do next.

  • kevindf

    He must have scored another cushy gig. Maybe he tired of being between a rock and a hard place.

  • Denny

    I realize how stupid this question/request is before I ask it (and how off-topic) but: Why do you use the light grey as your text color instead of the simple dark black? I realize I could copy/paste it and read it anywhere but if I could: I’d like to put in a request for black font.

    Thanks for listening to an old fart. Our eyes don’t always work as well.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I guess I’m not sure, I hadn’t really thought about the font that much. It looks ok to me, but I’ll experiment with changing it.

  • GameND

    I remember when Roger Johnson walked away from the AG position a few years back being very frustrated. I would not have worked so hard to get him elected if I knew he was going to quit for some better job. I wonder if any Republicans are feeling that way today?

    If Cory Fong wanted to work in the non-government world, he should have waited until the end of the term he was elected to serve. It is one thing to resign becuse of some inablity to perform the job, but to walk away just becuse you want to use your elected job to cash in is wrong.

    • actual dem

      hahaha, your not-actually-a-Democrat, “left wing” columnist thinks he elected Roger Johnson Rob. Now I know why you hired him: He’s a delusional as you.

      • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

        I didn’t “hire” GameND. Unfortunately, the SAB budget doesn’t allow for me to pay contributors, though I’d like to get to that point one day.

        But he is, in fact, a real-life Democrat as his comments and columns illustrate.

        • actual dem

          Really, so being pro-life and writing for this website indicate being a Democrat?

          Oh yeah, and advocating for a former Republican Governor to take over a non-partisan (ok, yeah yeah “non-partisan” but still) position. That was my favorite.

          Again, I don’t know why you have a supposed Dem writing for an explicitly (and self-diagnosed) conservative website but if you are going to get one could it be one who actually represents us and isn’t the Alan Colmes to your Hannity.

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            I actually have two liberals writing for the site. Game and Will Toms, who publishes a column every Monday.

            I like Game because he’s a) from ND (Toms isn’t and writes about national topics) and b) is, in fact, a liberal.

            I don’t see abortion as a partisan issue. It’s a question of science. Believing that life begins at conception and is a continuum of growth and development until death doesn’t really have anything to do with being a liberal or a conservative.

            And one can be a liberal while still recognizing former Governor Ed Schafer’s leadership skills.

        • GameND

          I was going to say, if I was “hired”, the checks are way behind. ;)

          I hate the party purity crap. Considering the record of the North Dakota Dem-NPL party, we need more pragmatism and less purity.

          It reminds me at a post election party I attended in 2008. I remember to drunk dudes arguing about how Hillary or Howard Dean would have been better than Obama. We had just elected Obama, and we had control of the House and the Senate. But the purity crowd could not find anything to be happy about that night.

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            I have to think that Obama would have more appeal to the purity crowd than Clinton, who I thought of as more pragmatic. Dean I could see, I guess.

            But as an atheist who thinks gays should be allowed to marry, that drugs should be legal and that not all Muslims are part of an international terror conspiracy I know a thing or two about not being “pure.”

          • actual dem

            Seriously, how do you think Obama is somehow appealing to the ‘purity’ crowd? (Or as I would put it: those that stand up for progressive policies that would lead the nation out of a 30 year nightmare of Reagan corporatism). Do you not read?

            http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/19125-obamacares-shameful-and-lethal-three-year-history-and-future

            http://www.thenation.com/blog/176200/larry-summers-out-boys-club-ever

            There are two quick examples of liberal (actually liberal, not weird, SayAnythingBlog VideoGame people liberals) establishments opining at the sell-out nature of the Obama administration. There are plenty, plenty more at the end of any simple google search.

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            I dunno, it sure seems like President Obama is a pretty consistent liberal to me. Though, granted, my perspective is from out here in right field.

            ;-)

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      You make a good point. Setting aside the Democrat/Republican thing, a lot of these people are resigning before their term is up.

      Tony Clark left the PSC last year and Bonnie Fetch was appointed to replace until Randy Christmann was elected. That’s actually the right way to do it. But Julie Fedorchak was appointed to replace Kevin Cramer when he was elected to the House, and she’ll be on the ballot next year.

      Jim Poolman left the Insurance Commissioner spot leading to Adam Hamm getting appointed. Roger Johnson stepped down and Doug Goehring replaced him. Now Fong.

      It’s one thing to leave one office to run for another – the electorate can decide with their ballots whether or not that’s a good idea – but there’s something unseemly about leaving office early for the private sector. Fong could have waited a little more than a year and finished his term.

      • Eric

        Why is Mr. Fong leaving any different than a long term employee leaving a business? He does not have a contract with us the electorate does he? We live in a free market society and in ND we are a right to work state and thus can leave when we want or be fired when the boss wants no questions asked. I commend Mr. Fong for giving the Governor 90 days to find his replacement.

        • Lianne

          I see elected positions being similar to that of contracted positions and therefore, agreeing to work for the designated length of time. Employees are not contracted for certain lengths of time, but are free to come and go as they please unless they have taken a sign on bonus agreeing to remain for the specified time.

          • Eric

            If that is the case, then it should be a contract in writing. As it is now there is nothing in writing saying you must fulfill your term. Peoples ideas, needs and wants change and thus they should be able to act upon what they think is best for them and their family. All of the recent resignations are fine as it is now. If the public feels we need a change then a new law or petition to create a new law is needed. We have a process to replace anyone who does resign and it seems to work well.

          • Lianne

            Commitment to one’s obligations is not what it once was, I guess. Why would he be looking or why would anyone offer him a gig until his term was up? Similarly, we as voters have the expectation of those we vote to represent us to live in the district from which they were elected. But, that too, sadly, is found to not be the case.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          Fong is free to do whatever he wants. He can resign his office when he’d like to.

          But I think it’s unseemly, especially in light of some of the other resignations and appointments in the past under Hoeven.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          I wish Fong had waited until the end of his term. I just spoke with him (post updated) and he said the job wouldn’t be available to him in a year.

          That is what it is, I guess, but I guess I expect a little more out of our public servants. At least at the federal level they wait until after their terms are done to become lobbyists. ;-)

      • Flyby_Knight

        I think we should start calling this move “the Poolman.”

  • Rick Olson

    As the saying goes, nothing happens by accident in politics. It’s always a calculated move, after having considered every possible angle. Cory Fong steps down to enter the private sector. This allows Gov. Dalrymple to appoint a replacement for Fong as the next Tax Commissiioner, knowing that person will have to run for a full term in 2014. This will allow whoever Dalrymple picks to be, as Rob said, “the incumbent,” who would not likely face either a challenge at the state convention for the endorsement, nor a primary election challenger.

    The question which begs to be asked is which fellow Republican will Jack Dalrymple tap to take over as head of the Tax Commissioner’s Office? If I had to throw a name out right now, it would be Representative Blair Thoreson from the 44th Legislative District here in Fargo. Blair has already made one run at statewide office, he campaigned in all of North Dakota’s 53 counties at various Republican events and district nominating conventions in order to secure the GOP nomination for the Public Service Commission, a nomination which he lost at the convention. He bowed out gracefully and did not challenge the GOP endorsee, Randy Christmann in the primary election. Instead, Thoreson ran for re-election to his District 44 seat in the House of Representatives, which he won in a more closely-fought race than many observers had foreseen.

    Having run a statewide campaign already, I think Thoreson would be an ideal candidate for Gov. Dalrymple to appoint. Blair is a sincere, compassionate and very eager guy. I think he would do well in statewide office.

  • Dallas

    Likely left to help plan the oil industry assault on oil taxes for the next session. Lots of money for guys like he and Goettle.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      Right. I mean, how dare business interests advocate for lower taxes and lighter regulation.

      What do they think this is, a democracy or something?

  • Zodiac

    Tom Brusegaard, Tom Nelson, or Bette Grande are my choices for possible replacements.

  • kevindf

    Fong is leaving to be a lobbyist for state media. Will his wife still remain on the state payroll?

  • DelawareBeachHouse

    I agree with Rob. “Unseemly.” Question from a reporter during a campaign: “Do you foresee yourself leaving office anytime during your term for the private sector or another job?”
    I have no problem with somebody running for a higher office. It’s in the nature of lower offices. But running for four years and bailing out for a more remunerative job — bad form.

  • Real Repubs

    More like Cory Dong.

    • Yuna Braska

      Won’t the other kids on the play ground play with you today?

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