Omdahl: Ethics becomes offensive to some…

Lloyd Omdahl

By Lloyd Omdahl

Some of the legislative leaders have taken offense at my “left wing” clarification of what the legislature did to the new citizen-initiated ethics commission.
First of all, I want to deny that I am some kind of “left wing” radical, even though I was born prematurely and have been in a rush ever since. “The proof is in the pudding” they say but the only thing I ever found in pudding was tapioca.
If believing that a Christian nation ought to manifest the ethics of Christian teaching is left-wing, then I must be a left winger.
If believing that all lives of all people, including South Americans on the Mexican border, are sacred is left-wing, then I confess I must be a left wing radical.
If fighting earth warming caused by human beings threatens the lives of future generations is left-wing, then I admit I must be left wing.
If believing that the United States should be a community within which we all care for each other is left wing, then I must be left-wing.
If believing that the lives of school children are more important than assault weapons is left wing, then I must be left-wing.
If supporting the “have nots” in a society dominated by “haves” is left wing, then I must be left wing.
If fearing that polarization is going to be the end of our democracy is left wing, then I must be a leftwinger.
When we tear apart such sweeping exaggerations as “left wing” we are hard pressed to find anything that is more radical than the Bank of North Dakota and the North Dakota Mill and Elevator.
We were accused of presenting numerous inaccuracies and misstatements about their work in the legislature even though our legislative leaders enumerated none. Instead, they glossed over this generalization and went to the primary target of their criticism: denying whistleblowers anonymity when reporting wrong-doing in government.
First, they denied that they framed legislation so that the names of whistleblowers would be in public view where they could be fired, demoted and/or transferred by superiors or interest groups until they would be forced out of government service.
In their understanding, whistleblowers would be evil people who would lie about illegal government activities or interest group exploitation.
After 40 years in practical politics and 25 years of study and teaching political science, I have learned to read between the lines where the real meaning of discussion is hidden.
Between the lines of their criticism we find the basic truth: the legislators don’t want to know about corruption or conflicts-of interest that may exist and if the ND Ethics Commission doesn’t protect whistleblowers there will be no whistleblowing.
Keep in mind that these legislators in three previous sessions had voted down the proposal for an ethics commission. And most, if not all, of the members appointed to the commission voted against the measure when it was on the ballot. So implementation by the legislators was assumed to be treacherous. And it was.
In a flair of rhetoric, the criticizing legislators allege that the people of North Dakota want honest government and fair politics. That’s exactly the reason they voted for an ethics commission.
A combination of polls indicated that North Dakotans have serious reservations about governments and the legislature.
The legislators claimed that the people approved the ethics commission because they trusted their legislators to pass good laws to establish the details. Now you try to figure out what that convoluted claim means when multiple polls proved otherwise.


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