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Editorial: Kasper’s wrong call on records

Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, did the right thing by withdrawing public records requests that would have cost taxpayers, at minimum, an estimated $440,000. However, he was wrong in the first place to make such an over-the-top demand.

In his quixotic quest to force North Dakota to scrap Common Core education standards, Kasper cranked up his multi-faceted campaign with open records requests that sought anything and everything related to the implementation of the standards in the state. In addition to the cost, there would be so many documents that it would take one person about six years to read all the material, according to Sen. Tim Flakoll,

R-Fargo, who characterized Kasper’s request a “broad fishing expedition.” Flakoll requested an item-by-item cost estimate of Kasper’s fishing trip.

Kasper made his first request

Jan. 24. He dropped it a few days later, apparently having become aware of how ridiculous it was, although he likely would not characterize his change of mind that way. But no matter how he spins it, it was a foolish sideshow.

When told what the minimum cost could be, Kasper said he expected it to be costly, but the estimated price tag “was news to me.” Really?

Kasper has been a lawmaker for nearly 15 years. He’s a committee chairman. He’s a savvy veteran legislator. He readily describes himself as a fiscal conservative. He knows how the Legislature operates and how state government works. If you don’t believe it, just ask him. Yet, it was news to him that a sweeping open records harvest would cost a helluva lot of money. Curious, indeed.

Sen. Flakoll is a sponsor of a bill that would prevent Kasper-style abuse of the open records law. It would end anonymous requests (there were several in the 2013 session regarding higher education), and put a $5,000 cap a biennium on requests lawmakers could make without being charged. It’s good legislation that does not erode reasonable access to public records, but does require legislators to be transparent about and accountable for their stunts. The bill has the support of House and Senate leaders of Kasper’s political party. Apparently they are tired of being embarrassed by one of their own.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum

management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.