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$40,000 Contribution Exposes Roers Conflicts at NDSU Foundation

Why would a California developer make the largest donation to a ND legislative race in the history of the state?

What’s the connection?

The answer is found within the NDSU Development Foundation where both serve as Trustees and until only a few months ago, were both on the Property Management committee of the Foundation.

The nexus between their activity on the Foundation Board and on the Property Management Committee exposes a troubling conflict of interest within the foundation.

On March 2nd, the Foundation’s Property Management committee met to discuss development of the 1600 Block of University Drive and 12th Street N.   Committee Chair Jeff Volk advised about conflicts of interest for people who would be serving on the Foundation Board and bidding on the project. According to the Forum report, Volk’s comments were directed at Jim Roers and Bob Challey.

“I caution those of you that want to be on the other side of the table at the end (bidder for the project) to figure out where the conflict starts,” said Volk.

Challey and Roers appeared to argue with Volk, not understanding the issue.

“I don’t think the committee should try to exclude the expertise that’s there, certainly in the early part of the process,” Challey said.

Jim Roers appeared to want to continue to serve on the Property  Management side of the project until it came to voting.

Other prospective developers likely heard is that Jim Roers would advise the Committee as they lay out the plans, timelines, and work on the requirements of the project.  They should have also understood that Roers Development would likely have inside information on the project well in advance of other firms – putting Roers in the drivers’ seat.

On March 6th, the Forum opined that both were missing the larger point. ‘some developers appear to have an inside track on foundation/university projects…, by virtue of insider status with the foundation, enjoy what other builders might see as unfair advantage’

Roers eventually resigned from the Property Management Committee, but not the Foundation that the Property Management Committee represents.

This fall, the Property Management Committee narrowed the list of proposals from developers down to three.  Roers Development was one of the three selected.  Robert Challey remains on the Property Management Committee as do numerous other members who served with Jim Roers.

The Forum editorial continued, ‘The university and foundation are being scrutinized as never before..  The foundation, in particular, has found itself in a harsh spotlight in the past couple of years.  If ignored or even minimized, the conflict-of-interest matter could be a headline-making blowup.’

Well, blowup time has arrived.  Given Bob Challey’s willingness to buy a win for Roers in a Senate race, why would anyone believe Challey wouldn’t try to deliver the 1600 project to him as well?

Roers Development already appears to have received favored treatment in several University area projects including: T Loft Apartments; Stop & Go Center; and STEM Building.

Given all of this, how could any other developer believe bidding on a Foundation driven project is anything other than a stacked deck?

Just because Jim Roers resigned from the Property Management Committee doesn’t mean that the conflict was removed.  Roers is still a Trustee and he submitted a development proposal for the 1600 block while still a Trustee.  And unless he resigns his position, Roers will be on the Development Foundation Board when the 1600 block project is awarded.  Roers will be on the board of a non-profit that may award a development contract to himself!

The ONLY WAY for Jim Roers to remove himself from this glaring conflict of interest is to withdraw his development proposal.

If Jim Roers is really concerned about the future of NDSU and possible harm that will come if Roers Development is selected as the contractor, he would withdraw now.  If he thinks people will believe Bob Challey (and other foundation friends) won’t give him favored treatment – he needs to think again.

If Jim Roers doesn’t want to harm President Bresciani as he faces challenges before the SBHE, he should pull his bid and quit attacking the NDSU’s Nursing Program with campaign fliers in the district.

District 46 already has one Legislator in Jim Kasper who can’t see a conflict of interest in a forest full of them.  We don’t need to elect someone else who doesn’t get it to join him in the State Senate.

Jim Roers Misleads and Violates the Law

It seems that Republican Senate Candidate Jim Roers has a terrible time following the law when it comes to political activity.

We’ve just discovered that an televised attack ad unleashed against Senator George Sinner illegally misrepresents the sponsor of the ad.

The ad is laughable in one respect.  It refers to Senator Sinner as a ‘career politician’.  Let’s see, is one term in the ND Senate is a ‘career’?  Really Jim?  Perhaps you were referring to Jim Kasper who has been in the ND House for 15 years!

At the end of the ad, the disclaimer reads, ‘PAID FOR BY DISTRICT 46 REPUBLICANS, MARK THELEN, CHAIR.’

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The only problem is that the disclaimer if ABSOLUTELY FALSE!

A quick check of the Federal Election Commission public inspection files for WDAY, KVLY, and KX4, clearly show that the sponsor paying for the was JIM ROERS FOR SENATE.

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So, what is the penalty for violating the law when it comes to proper campaign disclosures?

For small items, failure to have a disclaimer on a brochure (which D46 Republicans have already done this year), it is unlikely that authorities would do anything.

This, however, is a much bigger issue.  The reason Jim Roers didn’t want to claim his purchase is because some people might not think kindly of him for sponsoring a nasty attack ad.  By diverting attention, he can try to look like a ‘good guy’.  This is, of course, precisely why state law requires disclaimers on ads – so voters know who is actually sponsoring political advertising.

Jim Roers needs to apologize for attempting to deceive voters in the District for violating the law.

If not for the District 46 Democratic-NPL shedding light into the matter, nobody would know this rule breaking was going on.  But then again, we are used to Roers breaking campaign rules.

You’ve already read about sign violations in this campaign. (A Matter of Respect)

In 2012, Roers violated city sign ordinances by placing mobile billboards within the district.  It took numerous requests from the city to get Roers to remove them.

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In the same campaign, Roers appeared to have violated state law prohibiting corporate contributions.  Those trailers belonged to Roers Construction.  His campaign website was hosted by Roers Construction, and Roers Construction pickups were regularly seen within the district as employees were distributing campaign literature.  None of these contributions from Roers Inc. were reported.  And frankly, it appears that this activity allowed Jim Roers to deduct campaign expenditures as a business expense – and that also would be illegal.

Certainly, Jim Roers should have known better.  And his corporate attorney, Shannon Roers-Jones, should have known better too.

UNPRECEDENTED

Finally, it is important to point out that Roers’ television buy of $35,250 unprecedented by one candidate in a ND State Senate race.

The ND Secretary of State’s website shows a Jim Roers Senate campaign received an astounding $40,000 contribution from one wealthy California businessman.  Clearly, this was intended to finance the television media buy.  (For more on the Roers-Challey connection, click here.)

It seems that Roers and his friends are intent on purchasing a ND Senate Seat in 2016.  District 46 Democratic-NPL is committed to keeping that from happening.  We need a Senator who represents District 46, not a wealthy California businessman.

We need to re-elect Senator George Sinner!

Kasper: Ethics and Legislators Don’t Mix

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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.

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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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