Port: Going to bat for billionaires and celebrity activists



North Dakota Voters First, which is organizing the opposition campaign for the PNDC amendment, is one of the most fundamentally dishonest organizations to ever participate in our state’s politics.

7:00 am, May 22, 2021

Rob Port


Rob PortForum News Service

MINOT, N.D. — There has been a rash of letters to the editor denouncing a new ballot measure campaign aimed at protecting North Dakota’s constitution.

These letters accuse the group backing the measure, Protect North Dakota’s Constitution, of wanting to diminish the voice of North Dakota’s voters. Which is a deep irony given the organizing force behind this blowback, but more on that in a moment.

The measure in question would amend North Dakota’s constitution to require that amendments address only one topic and receive 60 percent of the vote.

This is straightforward stuff. Right now, approving an amendment to the state constitution requires only a simple majority vote, which is the same as a statutory measure.

Amending the constitution should be harder than changing statute. And while larding a proposed amendment with a bevy of disparate changes might be a good political strategy – look at how often Congress passes bad laws and inappropriate spending simply because it’s inserted into the language of a far more popular and needful bill – it’s a bad way to make law.

North Dakota deserves a better process, and the PNDC campaign promises to deliver it. It’s an honorable endeavor, which is no doubt why retired Maj. Gen. Mike Haugen, who once led the North Dakota National Guard, is helping to lead this campaign.

So what’s with the wild-eyed activism against it?

We have to consider the source.

North Dakota Voters First, which is organizing the opposition campaign for the PNDC amendment, is one of the most fundamentally dishonest organizations to ever participate in our state’s politics.

I do not level that accusation lightly.

Their name is a lie. They are a local front group representing the interests of a national left-wing organization called Represent.us, which provides the bulk of their funding. Their disclosures have also shown heavy contributions from Hollywood celebrities and at least one activist billionaire.

They claim to be bipartisan, yet the group’s governing board is exclusively made up of familiar names from left-wing activism in our state, like former Democratic-NPL Lieutenant Governor candidate Ellen Chaffee. The current director of the group is former Byron Dorgan staffer Rick Gion.

Their tactics are repugnant. In 2020 the group gathered signatures for an amendment that would have made extreme changes to how North Dakotans choose candidates and vote, but the signature gatherers made it seem like the amendment was only about making voting easier for deployed members of the military.

The argument against the PNDC amendment would have us believe that it’s an effort financed by interest groups with deep pockets intent on diminishing the influence of individual citizens, which is an ironic thing given the provenance of their contributions.

The PNDC amendment is worthy of a serious debate, and while we serious people are having that debate, we can ignore the machinations of the partisan cranks from North Dakota Voters First.

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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 rport@forumcomm.com.

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