Port: Democrats asking some of the right questions about the State Investment Board

The American political system works through adversity. At any given time a governing faction holds majorities, and the out-of-power faction serves as the loyal opposition, holding the majority accountable. The Democratic-NPL is clearly terrible at this.

An exterior view of the North Dakota State Capitol building
The North Dakota State Capitol is seen Jan. 17, 2021. Michelle Griffith / The Forum

MINOT, N.D. — Even stopped clocks are right twice a day, the saying goes.

Yesterday, the North Dakota Democratic-NPL sent out a news release asking some pertinent questions about some genuine problems at the State Investment Board though, as is their wont, they managed to muddy their message with an insipidly partisan attack on completely unrelated lines and a bit of personal score-settling from the party's new chairman.

First, some background.

The SIB seems to be in the thrall of a consultant named Callan, hired by the board to hire other money managers for the state's Legacy Fund. Reporting from our Patrick Springer revealed that Callan "has received payments from 12 of the 14 companies that manage the investments for the $8.7 billion Legacy Fund."

When Treasurer Thomas Beadle , who was just elected to that office last year and is by law a member of the SIB, sent a letter to Callan to inquire about past accusations of pay-for-play against the company, he was castigated by some of his fellow board members who also sought to create a new policy limiting the ability of board members to speak to the news media .


The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, in an editorial this weekend , said the SIB "has been on autopilot, uncritically accepting the advice of investment consultants including Callan, which recommends money managers — some of which pay Callan through its educational and research arm, Callan Institute."

When Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread , another member of the SIB, pushed for a program of in-state investments to be funded by the Legacy Fund, something that resulted in a popular bill that sailed through the Legislature with bipartisan majorities and was signed into law by Gov. Doug Burgum , he also met resistance from some elements of the SIB.

And, seemingly, Callan.

As I pointed out in a June 7 column , while Callan and outgoing SIB executive director David Hunter have claimed that they made a good-faith effort to reach out to in-state financial firms to handle the Legacy Fund's investments, the state's banking industry says they've been trying for more than a decade to get some of that business.

“We’ve been banging our head against the wall for 12 years,” Rick Clayburgh , head of the North Dakota Bankers Association, told Springer .

There are a lot of earnest questions to ask about this situation, which, based on the facts available to us now looks, in a word, ugly. To their credit, the Democratic-NPL is asking some of them.

"Why has the board continuously refused to invest in the state of ND?" they ask. "Has the NDGOP-controlled board ceded and lost all control over investment decision making to a California-based firm?"

Those questions deserve answers, though, predictably, the press release from the Democrats quickly devolved into stupid pettiness and a bit of score-settling on behalf of new party chairman Patrick Hart .


The news release repeatedly loops Auditor Josh Gallion into this unfortunate situation. Gallion doesn't actually serve on the SIB and isn't party to their decision-making and money management, but he did give Hart a flogging as the incumbent in the 2020 election, earning nearly 70% of the vote.

Hart's news release also references some recent spending on repairs to the governor's residence in Bismarck because that's ... relevant?

"Until these, and other, questions are answered by Sanford and the State Investment Board, the people of North Dakota will be wondering if the Burgum-Sanford administration has chosen the good ol’ boys club, outside interests, and spending $150,000 for luxurious tax payer funded renovations to the Governor’s mansion over the hardworking men and women of this state," Hart is quoted as saying in the release.

The American political system works through adversity. At any given time, a governing faction holds majorities, and the out-of-power faction serves as the loyal opposition, holding the majority accountable.

The Democratic-NPL is clearly terrible at this.

The problems at the SIB are genuine, needful of public scrutiny and the accountability that comes with it. Normally an entity like the Democratic-NPL would be well-positioned to provide that, except that our Democratic friends seem too beholden to personal vendettas to do it.


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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

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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