Port: 'Badass Grandmas' doth protest too much
We're lucky that the current commissioners have acted with principle, diligence, and restraint, but we shouldn't have to rely on their forbearance in the face of caterwauling from the "grandmas" who want the commission to be their tool in sensationalist gotcha campaigns.
MINOT, N.D. — The ballot measure which created North Dakota's ethics commission was pushed by a front group for national left-wing interests called, ironically enough, North Dakotans for Public Integrity .
The two women who were the face of this campaign, Dina Butcher and Ellen Chaffee , are rank partisans (the latter contributed financial support to the man who took an ax to Sen. John Hoeven's office last year ) less concerned with accountability for government than creating a venue where North Dakota's current Republican majority could be assailed with innuendo and gotcha claims.
Perversely, these two women, who, forgetting how unseemly it is to bestow a nickname upon oneself, now style themselves the "Badass Grandmas," are using words like "transparency" and "accountability" as cover for their political machinations.
They were successful with their ballot measure campaign, funded as it was with big-money contributions from out of state, including from an Enron billionaire , but now they've run into some frustration.
The ethics commission isn't doing their bidding.
The people put in charge of it don't share their hyperpartisan inclinations.
The commissioners have been building out policies and procedures, but the "grandmas" wanted some blood on the ground by now.
Their out-of-state backers aren't getting what they paid for.
So, at a recent public hearing over proposed conflict of interest rules for state regulators, Chaffee and Butcher threw a fit, throwing around some contrived claims that the ethics commission hasn't been sufficiently open and transparent.
What information, specifically, have Chaffee and Butcher been unable to access? The Bismarck Tribune published a lengthy article about their gripes this week and having read it, for the life of me I can't figure it out.
The commission's meetings are open. All open meeting and records laws are seemingly being followed. Butcher, specifically, told the Tribune that she and her fellow activist cranks are going to file some sort of complaint about the commission, but it's not clear what that complaint would be or who it would be filed with.
One is left with the impression that Butcher and Chaffee are creating a public spectacle as a ham-handed attempt to bully the commission into being more pliable to their agenda.
Which is precisely the danger in creating this sort of commission in the first place.
We're lucky that the current commissioners have acted with principle, diligence, and restraint, but we shouldn't have to rely on their forbearance in the face of caterwauling from the likes of Chaffee and Butcher who want the commission to be their tool in sensationalist gotcha campaigns.
Their motivations are puerile and ugly, all the more so because they're hidden behind what they'd like the public to see as a push for accountable, accessible, transparent government.
North Dakota's government, flawed though it is, was already those things, and if Democrats were winning elections in our state, that's how Chaffee and Butcher would see it too.
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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 .