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Commentary: Measure 1 opponents running scared

Mike McFeely

FARGO - The opponents of North Dakota's Measure 1 are putting on the full-court press as election day nears, ginning up all kinds of scary scenarios that could happen if -- gasp! -- the state was forced to assemble an -- OMG! -- ethics commission that would act as -- EEEEK! -- a watchdog and hold state government -- egad! -- accountable.

The horror.

I think it was Morgan Freeman's character in "Shawshank Redemption" who said, "Ethics are a dangerous thing. Ethics can drive a man insane." Or maybe it was the corrupt warden. Or the sadistic prison guard. Or was it the Fargo state legislator who took free trips from lobbyists to Antigua, Montreal and Las Vegas?

Anyway, the point is the same. Those who don't want voters to OK an ethics measure are using that tact in trying to convince them North Dakota will collapse under the weight of good government.

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ethics are unethical.

It's malarkey on the highest order, perhaps even higher than the idea Kevin Cramer doesn't want to take away health insurance for folks with pre-exisiting conditions.

For Measure 1 opponents to come out and be truthful about their true intention -- to protect the swamp that is Bismarck and all the free steak dinners and comped bottles of good Scotch that reside there -- would be asking too much. It might have the peasants considering whether their hometown legislator is under the influence of a lobbyist from the People's Republic of Minnesota.

And so the opponents are playing to fear. They are painting pictures of Mom and Pop from Montpelier wanting to drive to the state Capitol to talk to their legislator about an important issue, only to be discouraged because an overreaching, onerous, socialist and probably Nancy Pelosi-loving ethics commission would require them to fill out a pile of paperwork higher than Sentinel Butte just to meet with their state senator.

The nerve of these ethics-loving people. Next thing you know, they'll want to stack the commission with Chuck Schumer, Maxine Waters and migrants from the Honduran caravan. What Measure 1 opponents won't trumpet is who is really driving the opposition. One can check campaign finance reports to see that Mom and Pop from Montpelier haven't given a dime to voice opposition.

No, all $430,000 that's been raised to squash Measure 1 has been given by the likes of Americans for Prosperity ($65,000), Basin Electric Power ($30,000), the North Dakota Petroleum Council ($60,000), the Lignite Energy Council ($35,000), the Greater North Dakota Chamber ($100,000) and the like. The list goes on. In all, 19 big boys have written big checks. What are they afraid of? Why don't they want an ethics commission? Why are Republican state legislators speaking out against it? Why are they feeling threatened?

To them, apparently, ethics are a dangerous thing. Enough to drive a man insane. Having to pay for your own steak in Bismarck or Antiguan vacation will do that to a person.