MINOT, N.D. — North Dakota's Ethics Commission was created by a ballot measure sponsored by a group of people funded, for the most part, by left-wing groups and left-wing activists from other states.
So it's fitting, then, that the bureaucratic abomination they've created is now lobbying the Legislature to pass a bill allowing for people who do not live in North Dakota to file ethics complaints against our state's leaders. Those complaints could even be anonymous so that the public would never know they might be coming from some celebrity activist in Hollywood.
The bill is HB 1043, and it was introduced not by any lawmaker but by the Ethics Commission itself by way of the Judiciary Committee.
Because allowing executive branch agencies to introduce bills in the legislative branch is a very dumb thing we do in North Dakota.
Here are the pertinent amendments the bill makes to current law:
The one redeeming part of this bill, making a terrible idea a somewhat less bad idea, is that at least anonymous complainants can't also be witnesses against the accused. If they want to do that, they have to be identified.
But this is still Pandora's box waiting to be opened even with that stipulation built into it.
Imagine, for a moment, a situation like the Dakota Access Pipeline protests when our state was flooded by left-wing activists who came here to foment chaos. If it had been available to them, do you think that they wouldn't have availed themselves of the opportunity to flood our state with anonymous ethics complaints?
You could argue that our Ethics Commission would weed out spurious accusations. Or maybe they wouldn't. Remember, the members of the commission aren't elected. They aren't really accountable to the public at all. We have little in the way of recourse should members of the Ethics Commission begin acting unethically. Earlier in this column, I described the commission as a part of the executive branch, and technically that's true. Still, as a practical matter, we've effectively created a sort of fourth branch of government empowered with vast with almost nothing in the way of checks or balances.
By the way, this bill would also give the commission subpoena powers:
Those refusing to comply with subpoenas could be ordered to do so by a court of law.
Which, on its own, might not be a bad power for a properly constituted body intended to enforce ethics. Unfortunately, our commission was created to be an instrument of partisan politics.
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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.