MINOT, N.D. - Amid a cloud of smug self righteousness a group calling themselves the North Dakotans for Public Integrity announced this week that their constitutional measure was approved for the November ballot.
After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to circulate their petitions using paid signature collectors they were, not surprisingly, able to collect about 10,000 more signatures than they needed.
The group says they're promoting ethics - they call their measure the North Dakota Anti-Corruption Amendment - yet their very name is a deception.
The people behind this effort are, for the most part, not North Dakotans.
Nor do they have integrity.
For a group that's supposedly interested in transparency their financial disclosures are confusing to the point of being opaque.
I'm something of a veteran when it comes to reading campaign financial statements and even I had to call the secretary of state's office for help deciphering what has been filed by NDPI.
I found out the personnel there was confused as well.
When I spoke to a member of that office Tuesday, July 24, she told me they were working with the group to resolve "a fairly large discrepancy between the donations and the expenditures" in the report. Also problematic is that this group launched not one, not two, but literally three different organizations to back this ballot measure each with their own disclosures.
On Tuesday, the secretary of state's office told me the best they could tell the group had raised over $379,000 to draft and circulate their ballot measure.
Most of that money was funneled through far-left groups like Represent.us and End Citizens United, the latter a group that is supposedly against the influence of well-monied interests in politics. A rather hypocritical position given the laundry list of Hollywood stars who poured money into this North Dakota ballot measure process.
Just $4,250 of the group's itemized donations came from North Dakotans.
The rest came from out of state people with names you probably recognize:
Olivia Wilde, Molly Shannon, Christina Applegate, Kirsten Dunst, Steve Carell, Tyler Perry, Jerry Bruckheimer, Judd Apatow, Bob Odenkirk, Tim Meadows and Whitney Cummings all poured money into this effort.
That's just a sampling of the recognizable Hollywood names from NDPI's financial disclosures. I don't have enough space in this column to list all the famous names in the report.
The question, though, is why these people are spending big money on amending the constitution of the state of North Dakota?
Why is the group backing this measure pretending like they represent some movement of North Dakotans when really it's seemingly just a few North Dakotans acting as a front for celebrity activists?
The "North Dakotans" For Public Integrity tells us they're, well, North Dakotans. And they want integrity in our government. They've even claimed they efforts are bipartisan.
None of this is really true given what their financial disclosures show.
Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.