MINOT, N.D. — Let me begin this account of the most remarkable floor session in the North Dakota House of Representatives I've observed in nearly 20 years of following the chamber by complimenting the women who had the courage to stand and speak even as their harasser glowered across the room from them.
It was my open records request, and my reporting, which divulged to the public Rep. Luke Simons' years-long history of harassment, but it was the courage of women such as Rep. Emily O'Brien, Rep. Brandy Pyle, and Rep. LaurieBeth Hager, who spoke up about their experiences with Simons even as he looked on, who carried the day.
Pyle, specifically, spoke with her 13-year-old daughter looking on from the gallery, something she references in her floor speech.
I hope her daughter saw Rep. Pyle as the hero she is.
Perhaps the most damning speeches came not from the harassed women, though their testimony was powerful, or other lawmakers supporting them, who were erudite in support, but from Simons' fellow Bastiat Caucus members like Rep. Ben Koppelman, Rep. Rick Becker, and Rep. Jeff Hoverson.
None of them could bring themselves to defend Simons' behavior. In fact, they prefaced their comments with disclaimers (however believable we may find them) that they weren't dismissing any of the comments from those Simons harassed.
It was telling.
Instead, these men engaged in a great deal of rhetorical thrashing about intended to muddy the waters around the expulsion question. To hear Koppelman, specifically, tell it, based on his squinting read of the law, it only allows the Legislature to punish misconduct if it happens in the House chamber in front of the assembled lawmakers.
This is patently ridiculous.
They will claim otherwise, but I don't believe Becker or Koppelman or any of the other lawmakers who support their position are serious about their arguments. I believe them to be contrived. The sort of nonsense dissembling you resort to when you can't make a more direct argument.
At one point Rep. Bill Tveit tried to suggest that Simons might have an undiagnosed disorder like Asperger's Syndrome.
In another inane moment, Rep. Kathy Skroch made vague reference to false claims that have since been retracted. What she was referring to was an email from Rep. Dick Anderson who mistakenly wrote in an email to colleagues that Rep. Luke Simons had asked what color undergarments Rep. O'Brien had been wearing.
He later admitted his mistake. Skroch and others tried to use Anderson's mistake to undermine the testimony from the women Simons harrassed.
The stench of desperation was thick.
The Friends of Simons tried to turn this floor session into a court proceeding, engaging in much Sturm und Drang about "due process," but the Legislature is not a court. Simons is not a "defendant." He is not facing a criminal charge or even a civil suit.
The Legislature is a fundamentally political body. A sovereign organ of the government that can establish its own rules and procedures for expelling members.
They have all of the authority to expel Simons they need, and when Simons marshals the paltry sum of money he's raised to make some sort of a legal argument in the courts, the outcome will almost certainly uphold that authority.
The Legislature is certainly capable of engaging in more process before expelling a member, but they don't have to.
North Dakota has never expelled a lawmaker before. This was history in the making. Everyone in the House chamber today - including his defenders - knows that Rep. Simons has behaved in ways that are reprehensible.
Ultimately the vote was 69-25 in favor of expelling Simons.
That's what justice looks like.
To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com
Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.