MINOT, N.D. — North Dakota's reliance on consultants, at all levels of government, is an epidemic.
From state boards down to local school boards, our state's leaders can't seem to even tie their shoes without hiring a consultant.
Everybody knows it.
People in political circles joke about it.
The smartest person in the room, the oft-made quip goes, is the person from out-of-state with a briefcase.
Case in point, on April 8, Gov. Doug Burgum signed into law House Bill 1425, sponsored by Rep. Mike Nathe (R-Bismarck), which directs some of the principal of the Legacy Fund into an in-state investment program that directs capital to infrastructure projects and business ventures.
HB 1452 moves us into the next 50 years as leaders in a carbon-constrained, low-emission world. We can produce more power and be looked at as leaders for how to do this in a clean, sustainable, carbon-negative, carbon-neutral environment.— Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford (@BrentSanfordND) April 26, 2021
Full release: https://t.co/Eyvn7SvEk1 pic.twitter.com/gYP14IESJI
This was a hugely popular bill, passing 87-8 in the House and 47-0 in the Senate before Burgum put his signature on it, and it was needed, too. Historically the Legacy Fund has had a lot of money invested with the Putin regime in Russia, and in puppet companies for the Chinese Communists, and almost nothing invested in North Dakota.
Among the legislation's requirements is that the State Investment Board, which oversees the Legacy Fund, "give preference to investment firms and financial institutions with a presence in the state."
Per this hugely popular law, passed with broad bipartisan support, the SIB is supposed to make an effort to use North Dakota firms for managing investments.
So it was remarkable to see that by April 23, with the ink of Burgum's signature on HB 1425 barely dry, the SIB went ahead and followed the advice of their out-of-state consultant, Callan, to select an out of state firm from Chicago to manage North Dakota's brand new in-state investment program.
This firm, 50 South Capital of Chicago, may get a contract at the next SIB meeting in May.
Treasurer Thomas Beadle, a member of the SIB, tells me that, though he voted for 50 South, he's still making inquiries as to the proposal process that led to these finalists. He also said that he expects 50 South to act as an "umbrella" and will hire North Dakota-based firms to work under it.
Dave Hunter, the executive director of the SIB, assured the board members in the agenda for their April 23 meeting that whichever out-of-state firm they chose would be sure to open a North Dakota office as soon as they got the state's business.
I'm not joking. You can read it for yourself.
People talk about "North Dakota nice."
This is North Dakota self-loathing.
This is simpering, craven deference to powerful consultants even despite what our own laws say.
Certainly, HB 1425 doesn't require the hiring of an in-state firm, but it does require that preference be given to such a firm. How did the State Investment Board even solicit proposals from North Dakota firms between April 8, when this program was created by the Legislature, and April 23, when the SIB made their decision?
The idea that 50 South Capital of Chicago can satisfy the preference language in HB 1425 by establishing some offices in our state is an insult to our intelligence.
One gets the idea that Hunter and his board feel they can do what they like, because nobody is really paying attention.
Nobody, at least, who isn't cowed by the legions of consultants from outside of North Dakota who always seem to know better than we do.
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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.