Port: Shame on Gov. Burgum for saying nice things about the candidates he supports, I guess?

The Lizard King of North Dakota politics (OK, they didn't actually use that particular epithet) is a "mafia boss" and a "tyrant" who is figuratively assassinating people with ... positive campaign messaging?

North Dakota Rep. Jeff Magrum, R-Hazelton, criticizes Gov. Doug Burgum on Thursday, May 26, 2022, for his political donations. Rep. Jeff Hoverson, right, also appeared at a news conference about 20 feet from the governor's office.
Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service
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MINOT, N.D. — Gov. Doug Burgum is a "mafia boss" with a "hitman" thundered state Rep. Rick Becker at a Bastiat Caucus news conference yesterday .

He's "a tyrant and dominating over everybody," said a shouty Rep. Jeff Magrum (he's seeking the NDGOP Senate nomination in District 8, Becker isn't running for re-election to his House seat).

Unfortunately, for the people making them, these hyperbolic claims don't exactly match up with the facts of what Burgum is doing.

As our Jeremy Turley reports , "None of the Dakota Leadership ads reviewed by Forum News Service this year have overtly portrayed Republican candidates in a negative light."

The Lizard King of North Dakota politics (OK, they didn't actually use that particular epithet) is a "mafia boss" and a "tyrant" who is figuratively assassinating people with ... positive campaign messaging?


To put an exclamation mark at the end of this point, go check out the Bismarck Tribune's banner image over their article about this news conference . It features a peeved Magrum waving around a flier with positive messaging about his opponent Dave Nehring.

It'd be funny if it weren't so dumb.

Perhaps there is negative messaging coming — Burgum and his people are reticent to a fault when it comes to talking about these efforts — but there's no evidence so far that Gov. Burgum has done anything more than say nice things about his preferred candidates.

Local leaders shouldn't be on the hook for evaluating the national security implications of a Chinese-owned company building a corn milling plant.

The only people in this fracas who are doing the name-calling and negativity so far are people like Becker and Magrum.

Yesterday's news conference was supposed to be about a legal argument against what Burgum is doing. According to Becker, Magrum, and the Bastiat crowd, Article V, Section 10 of North Dakota's constitution denies governors their First Amendment rights to support or oppose candidates.

It's a mind-numbingly stupid argument, as I argued yesterday , and I'm not convinced that the Bastiats really believe it, though we should consider that legal efficacy probably isn't the port in this exercise.

"I don’t think they care about if they are right or wrong," a friend who isn't involved in politics in any official way texted me after the news conference. "They want the spotlight. If they get that enough then more people will believe it right or wrong."

Let's explore that theory.


If the Bastiats are so certain that what Burgum is doing is illegal — and they were certain enough to hold a big news conference about it — why not hire a lawyer and take the matter to court?

Why litigate this in the media?

Because lawyers cost money.

As I've pointed out, the Bastiat candidates in the Republican legislative primaries are not doing so good when it comes to fundraising . They're behind the traditional conservatives Burgum is backing. In some cases, far behind.

And Becker certainly hasn't been opening his wallet to support his people.

Starved for attention, and desperate for a message that resonates with North Dakota voters, the Bastiats decided to pursue some earned media, a term of art in the political marketing trade that means publicity or exposure achieved through methods other than paid advertising.

The Bastiats don't have much money to buy ads, so they opted to organize a circus outside the governor's office in the capitol building instead.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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