Burgum’s Super Bowl adventure shows ND doesn’t need an ethics commission

i am going to make an argument to you that, at first blush, may seem illogical.

Gov. Doug Burgum’s decision, amid mounting criticism from myself and others, to reimburse Xcel Energy for $37,000 worth of luxury Super Bowl accommodations for himself and his wife demonstrates why we don’t need that ethics commission like the one proposed in a ballot measure organized by a coalition of left wing activists from around the state.

Here’s how I reach that conclusion.

The reason we know that Xcel Energy paid for Burgum’s tickets is because of a report from Fargo Forum reporter Patrick Springer.

The reason Burgum felt the need to pay Xcel back for the tickets is because of public criticism he received from people like me.

Not only did Burgum take action to remedy the situation (one he shouldn’t have created in the first place), but the public is well informed on the matter. They can do with that as they please, whether it’s continuing to support Burgum or voting against him in the next election.

Or starting a petition to recall him over the matter if they feel this ethical lapse is serious enough for that (I don’t).

We can argue that more transparency might have helped in this matter. Should public officials like Burgum have to disclose these sort of gifts?

We can also argue that the state needs clearer and more consistent ethics policies. One thing I revealed during this short-lived scandal is that the Governor’s office has no written down ethics policy. Burgum’s staff says they’re developing one, but previous administrations apparently didn’t have a policy, either.

These things would make questions about ethical behavior from our public servants easier for the public to understand.

What would not help is an ethics commission made up of political appointees given a massive budget and a mandate to investigate every aspersion cast across their desks.

Even from anonymous accusers.

That’s not going to help.

I’d rather keep the ethics apparatus in North Dakota simple. We need strong, and prudently updated, disclosure laws. We need good journalists, sharp commentators, and an engaged public to review what those laws cause to be disclosed.

Beyond that, the only ethics commission we need is the one which turns up at the ballot box to vote.

Public servants should be accountable to the public. Not political appointees sitting on a committee.

Burgum’s Super Bowl adventure demonstrates the efficacy of that statement.

Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Follow him on Twitter at @RobPort