Teachers, Law Enforcement Officers, Medical Professionals, and Firemen all are are required to abide by an established Code of Ethical Conduct. Why then, shouldn’t Legislators like Kasper have to follow similar ethical standards?
‘There’s not one instance of impropriety,” Kasper said. “We don’t have a problem with unethical behavior in North Dakota.” (March 12, 2015, Associated Press)
Jim Kasper has dismissed every ethics reform measure to come before the House of Representatives.
Ethics Standards are about avoiding Conflict of Interest or the appearance of Conflict of Interest. On those measures, North Dakota scores poorly. The Center for Public Integrity’s most recent report gave North Dakota a D- overall and an F in categories of Political Financing, Legislative Accountability, Lobbying Disclosure, and Ethics Enforcement Agencies.
A code of ethical conduct and appropriate public disclosure would provide North Dakota citizens basic information on conflicts of interest, self dealing, and how interest groups are influencing legislators.
Kasper is the poster child when it comes to industry sponsored influence peddling. In 2005, Kasper sponsored legislation to provide the internet poker industry a U.S. location to conduct business. His bill was defeated in the Senate. Kasper was rewarded with industry sponsored vacations to Montreal, Antigua, Las Vegas, Costa Rica, and the Bahamas in exchange for short presentation. None of Kasper’s trips were reported. They were known only because of reports published by the industry.
Kasper at Poker Industry Expo, December 3-4, 2005 in Costa Rica.
Here’s the real truth – The reason we don’t have ethics violations in North Dakota is because WE HAVE NO RULES!
In 2015 the following Bills were introduced, sent to Representative Kasper’s committee, and with Kasper’s recommendation, killed on the House floor on a nearly party line vote.
HCR3060 – A Constitutional Amendment to create a State Ethics Commission
Three bills were introduced related to campaign funding. HB1253 would have prohibited personal use of campaign donations. HB1290 required reporting on expenditures of $200 or more. HB1289 required reporting of gross contributions of $200 or less and cash on hand.
HB1292 required reporting of ‘Scholarship Funds’ – money paid for travel and other expenses by interest groups and lobbyists to attend conferences, meetings, or other events.
In response to a question about creating an Ethics Commission at the LWV Forum on October 18th, Jim Kasper said, “They were terrible bills.” Shannon Roers-Jones said, “It was a bad bill, because it provided no due process.” Jim Roers completely confused criminal acts with ethics rules (meant to avoid conflicts of interest or their appearance) saying, “If you have a complaint, go to the States Attorney.”
Not one Republican candidate mentioned that D46 Republican Representative Kathy Hawken was a co-sponsor of HCR3060 in the 2015 session. Hawken broke from her caucus to vote in favor of HCR3060 and all four ethics related bills mentioned above.
Speaking in favor of the resolution, Hawken said she’s noticed a change during her 20 years in the Legislature, “and it’s a very sad one.”
In reality, language set forth to establish an ethics commission was model legislation adopted in other states. It is the non-partisan commission’s responsibility to recommend legislation, establish codes of conduct, and rules (including due process) of operation. An Ethics Commission clears the path for a more ethical state government.
North Dakota will never have an Ethics Commission or establish a Code of Ethical Conduct for Legislators until we get rid of Jim Kasper.
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