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New Fargo group joins national effort to tackle corruption

FARGO - During an era of deep division, Whitney Oxendahl hopes people of all political persuasions will join a new group to take on what she sees as a universal cause: fighting corruption.Oxendahl is the chapter leader of Represent Fargo, a local...

Represent.Us / Special to The Forum
Represent.Us / Special to The Forum

FARGO - During an era of deep division, Whitney Oxendahl hopes people of all political persuasions will join a new group to take on what she sees as a universal cause: fighting corruption.

Oxendahl is the chapter leader of Represent Fargo, a local version of the Represent.Us national grassroots effort that champions new legislation and other efforts to battle government corruption and end political bribery.

Represent.Us, a nonprofit group based in Florence, Mass., was founded in November 2012 and now has 42 state and local chapters across America, according to its website.

That includes Represent North Dakota, a chapter in Bismarck that launched late last year. At the same time, the separate group North Dakotans for Public Integrity was formed and is now heading up the effort to get the so-called North Dakota Anti-Corruption Amendment on the November ballot.

That second group has said it aims to force an amendment that would create an ethics commission in the state while regulating things like lobbyist gifts, personal use of campaign funds and conflicts of interest.

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Oxendahl said Represent Fargo, which will officially launch at a kickoff meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 11, at Natural Grocers, 4517 13th Ave. S., will make its first task helping North Dakotans for Public Integrity collect signatures to get such an amendment on the ballot.

But that's not all this chapter will work on, said Oxendahl, who hopes it will also eventually be a part of reforms and anti-corruption efforts at city or state levels wherever possible.

In addition to policy work, Oxendahl said Represent Fargo will also try to spread the word about corruption through education and awareness campaigns.

North Dakota received a grade of D- for its corruption risk, according to The Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative journalism group. But Oxendahl said there's risk just about everywhere in the country, which is why grassroots efforts like this are becoming more common.

"I don't think we're any more corrupt," she said of the Fargo area. "I think we just need to safeguard against corruption."

If you go

What: Represent Fargo chapter kickoff meeting

When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 11

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Where: Natural Grocers community room, 4517 13th Ave. S., Fargo

Online: www.facebook.com/Represent-Fargo-153429745334524/

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