A petition filed in Dunn County this week calling for a grand jury to investigate whether oil industry campaign contributions to Gov. Jack Dalrymple constitute bribery is being called “baseless” by campaign officials.
A petition with 173 signatures was submitted Wednesday in Dunn County. The petition calls for a grand jury investigation into approximately $81,600 in oil industry contributions made to the Dalrymple campaign between Jan. 1, 2011, and May 23 of this year.
“I think it’s obvious that the petitions are politically motivated,” said Amanda Godfread, communications director for the Dalrymple campaign.
The petition was crafted by Grand Forks attorney David Thompson. Thompson and a colleague, Erik Escarraman, wrote a report that alleges that the contributions constitute bribery. Which is a Class C felony.
The report, published online on Oct. 8, tied the contributions to Dalrymple with a case heard late last year by the North Dakota Industrial Commission, of which he’s a sitting member. The commission heard a controversial case relating to drilling a large area in Dunn County that includes the Little Missouri State Park. The oil companies involved in the case received a favorable ruling.
“The governor’s contributions are 100 percent legal and transparent,” Godfread said. “The accusations are baseless.”
Grassy Butte resident Nikki McAlpin turned in the petition on Wednesday. She said efforts to circulate the petitions and turn them in began immediately after learning of the Thompson-Escarraman report.
“This isn’t some political agenda,” McAlpin said. “It has everything to do with law.”
McAlpin, a former volunteer for Dalrymple gubernatorial challenger Paul Sorum, said the grand jury route was seen as the most likely avenue to see action taken.
“We’re tired of the corruption. They (residents) will never see justice unless they get together and demanded a grand jury,” McAlpin said.
Campaign contribution reports for all local and state candidates can be found at the North Dakota Secretary of State’s website at www.nd.gov/sos. Reports can be found by clicking on the Campaign Disclosure link and performing a search.
The convening of grand juries is covered in state law. The petition portion of the law has rarely been used. In part it says:
“A petition in writing requesting the same is presented to the judge, signed by qualified electors of the county equal in number to at least ten percent of the total vote cast in the county for the office of governor of the state at the last general election.”
Dunn County had 1,670 voters in 2008, meaning the required number of valid signatures would be 167.
The signatures were turned in to Dunn County Clerk of Court Lisa Guenther on Wednesday and state’s attorney Ross Sundeen was reviewing the petition.
Multiple messages to Guenther and Sundeen as well as emails to both of them for comment weren’t returned Friday.