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Bill would bar contributions from North Dakota governor

January 12, 2021 GMT
FILE - In this April 10, 2020, file photo, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum speaks at the state Capitol in Bismarck, N.D. Lawmakers convene Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021 either in person wearing masks or remotely for North Dakota's 67th legislative session, where they will face tough spending choices amid a pandemic that's hit a state economy already reeling from depressed oil and agriculture prices. The Republican governor is set to talk about the coronavirus' impact on the state and other pandemic-induced challenges, including to the state's budget.(Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP)
FILE - In this April 10, 2020, file photo, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum speaks at the state Capitol in Bismarck, N.D. Lawmakers convene Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021 either in person wearing masks or remotely for North Dakota's 67th legislative session, where they will face tough spending choices amid a pandemic that's hit a state economy already reeling from depressed oil and agriculture prices. The Republican governor is set to talk about the coronavirus' impact on the state and other pandemic-induced challenges, including to the state's budget.(Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP)

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A bill that would prohibit a North Dakota governor from giving cash or endorsing a member of the Legislature is getting a cool reception from both GOP and Democratic legislative leaders.

The legislation introduced by Rep. Jeffery Magrum comes after GOP Gov. Doug Burgum contributed millions of dollars to several candidates in elections last year in an attempt to remove some incumbents from his own party.

Magrum, an incumbent who was targeted by Burgum in the June primary, said Burgum, a wealthy former software executive, crossed the separation-of-powers-line by reaching deep into his own pockets to buy a Legislature more obliging to his wishes.

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“Even if he isn’t it does look like he is,” Magrum said of Burgum buying his own Legislature. “The optics are bad.”

Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki said the governor typically does not comment on pending legislation and would not on Magrum’s bill.

Burgum gave more than $3.1 million to a political action committee that targeted several legislative seats. Most of Burgum’s cash was spent to help defeat fellow Republican Jeff Delzer over Delzer’s opposition to him on budgeting matters. After Burgum’s hand-picked candidate died after winning the election, Republicans won a court fight to fill the seat and chose Delzer. Delzer continues to head the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

House Majority Leader Chet Pollert signaled it was unlikely he would support Magrum’s bill.

“Political contributions are freedom of speech,” Pollert said.

House minority leader Josh Boschee said he and his fellow Democrats, who are badly outnumbered in the Legislature, probably won’t support the legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner said the bill probably would not make it over to his chamber.

“I won’t support it,” Wardner said. “I think it tries to encroach on someone’s privacy rights. The governor has privacy rights, too.”

Magrum said Burgum’s willingness to spend millions of dollars to back certainl lawmakers has created a chilling effect in the legislature.

“I believe he has created a fear in the Legislature that he may target them next,” Magrum said.

Burgum has been criticized before for pulling out his wallet in a perceived attempt to curry favor with lawmakers. In 2016 and just ahead of the Republican nominating convention, Burgum sent checks to several legislators, and many of them returned the money.

Burgum was not endorsed by his fellow Republicans but went on to win in the primary that year.