Are they representing you?

Theoretically, in a representative form of government, elected representatives actually represent our wishes. If that’s the case, apparently we want ourselves to shut up and look the other way. At least that’s how numerous Republicans read your vote on Measure 1 for transparency and oversight.

Let’s say–theoretically–that legislators are actually trading votes for donations, booze, meals, and vacations. No big deal. It’s a transaction–capitalism–and you know what would happen if all those good capitalists weren’t there capitalizing on their positions? Why, socialism would fill the vacuum, and the next thing you know North Dakota would become Venezuela, and we’d all have to learn Spanish. Eso seria desastroso!

There are two competing bills to enact Measure 1. One, SB 2148, introduced by Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo, with amendments by Sen. David Hogue, R-Minot, is a legitimate effort to represent your will. The other, HB 1521, is the legislative equivalent of flipping you off.

Making Rep. Jim “Frequent Flyer Miles” Kasper, R-Fargo, chairman of the House Ethics Committee, is like having Colonel Sanders guard the henhouse. Original or extra-unethical? There’s a guy who’s going places. He could write for Frommer’s.

HB 1521, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, and House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, ought to be called the Cookie Jar Bill, because its purpose is to keep their hands right in there. It mostly does the opposite of what voters intended. The bill, which defies constitutionality, would:

* Let politicians effortlessly divert campaign funds to personal use

* Create loopholes so contributions could remain secret

* Omit political action committees from disclosure rules

* Let lawmakers circumvent the law to receive gifts

* Allow legislators to be lobbyists even while in office

* Narrowly define the term “lobbyist” so special interests can buy legislation in anonymity

So, pretty much status quo. If that’s representative of your wishes, reelect them. If not, remember their votes. Slap a reminder on your refrigerator. It’ll be better than Jenny Craig, because every time you want a snack, it’s going to ruin your appetite. Then, next election, drag your skinny ass to the polls and flip them off right back.

If you’re not yet perturbed, consider SCR 4001, a Republican scheme to make sure voters never initiate a constitutional measure again without a chaperone. Constitutional measures would henceforth be subject to legislative approval. If legislators reject the measure, voters would have to prove they meant what they said in yet another election.

Part of the pretext is preventing “confused and uneducated” voters from being swayed by outside money–unless it’s the money laundered from secret donors they used to sway votes against Measure 1. The same money they’d use to convince you that giving up your constitutional right would be good for you. The real solution is easy. If a constitutional amendment needs tweaking, voters can do it with another measure.

Meanwhile, legislators would have you believe that they’re somehow immune to the influence of the same big money that “confused” you. They’ve got superhuman powers. Sneakier than a speeding ethics bill… smarter than the loco-voters… able to leap when lobbyists say leap…

Tony Bender writes an exclusive weekly column for Forum News Service.

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