There are a lot of great things about writing on a blog. There are no deadlines. You can write when you feel like it. Late Saturday night. Early Sunday morning. It doesn’t cost anything. You don’t have staff to supervise. You don’t have editors looking over your shoulder. And you can pretty much say anything you like, which I often do.
This past week, I’ve been writing about North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and his partisan antics, which really have pissed me off. I’ve had some help from a couple of longtime friends, Darrell Dorgan and Sarah Vogel.
Darrell provided me the impetus to write by taking the attorney general to task, filing a complaint against him with the North Dakota Supreme Court for unethical behavior, conduct unbecoming a member of the State Bar Association of North Dakota, and maybe even illegal.
Sarah, a keen legal mind, started doing research on Wayne and his fellow attorneys general and providing me with info I hadn’t thought to look for. After I wrote Saturday about the activities of the Republican Attorneys General Association, she did some digging and showed me a couple of incendiary TV spots RAGA produced in the run-up to last weeks’ riot in our nation’s capital.
The spots spouted phrases like “Stop Lawless Liberals” and “Defeat Socialism” and a cheesy flag-waving, bible-thumping video behind an old Ronald Reagan voice-over. They are the kind of TV spots that set off riots like we saw at our Capitol building this past week. In fact, RAGA was one of the sponsors of the rally that led to the riots. The TV spots told Trump supporters, “This is a movement. We’re not going to stop.” And they didn’t, until they had overrun and trashed the Capitol.
Sarah pointed out to me there is a Democratic Attorneys General Association, too, and its members noticed what their Republican counterparts did. The Democrats issued a statement decrying what the Republicans had done. Here’s what they said:
“The continued peddling of conspiracy theories and pandering to President Trump’s dangerous lies by the Republican Attorneys General Association, the Rule of Law Defense Fund and some current and former Republican Attorneys General has gone unchecked for too long. Current and former Republican AGs have been directly involved with efforts to undermine the results of the 2020 presidential election, and now the party of so-called ‘law and order’ played a role in recruiting the domestic terrorists who breached the U.S. Capitol to attack Vice President Mike Pence for doing his Constitutionally-mandated job to certify the Electoral College.”
“RAGA, RLDF — and the Republican AGs who blindly take their support — have no legal or moral ground on which to stand here: The organization paid for robocalls to recruit attendees, it was listed as a sponsor of the event, its former chair spoke at the rally that incited a mob, and former GOP AG Josh Hawley led the effort in Congress to undermine the election.
“The committee’s unfortunate choice to compare insurrectionists and white nationalists who stormed the Capitol to Americans protesting this summer for racial justice further illustrates the radical and racist underpinnings of RAGA’s most recent efforts.
“It is not enough for Republican Attorneys General to denounce the violence at the Capitol; they must publicly distance themselves from the Republican Attorneys General Association and its leadership. And we encourage any individual and entities financially backing the committee to abstain from further supporting an organization that makes such a mockery of the rule of law and our beloved democracy.
“Leadership requires taking responsibility for your actions. It’s now or never.”
Did you read that, Wayne Stenehjem? Are you willing to “distance yourself from the Republican Attorneys General Association and its leadership?” If not, you are condoning the kind of violence that took five lives in our Capitol on Wednesday.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for Wayne to bail out on this radical organization. There are just too many perks for being a member. In addition to the $200,000 in campaign contributions I wrote about Saturday, there are nice little junkets for members, like the one Wayne attended at a lavish retreat on an island off the coast of South Carolina in 2018.
At least nine of the RAGA attorneys, including Wayne, spent a nice long four-day weekend rubbing shoulders with corporate lobbyists, many of whose companies were under investigations in various states. The lobbyists paid more than $100,000 to sponsor that event. It’s a nice little club. Most of the attorneys general attending the retreat were also signers of the lawsuit last November to overturn the 2020 election. It was when that lawsuit failed that the Republican attorneys general turned their attention to sponsoring the big rally in Washington last week that erupted into the riot.
Y’know, I don’t take any pleasure in writing articles like this one. But somebody has to. Somebody needs to point out elected officials who go astray. Wayne Stenehjem used to be a good guy. He used to be a friend of mine. He even used to invite me into the Legislature’s smokers’ lounge for a cigarette break 30 years ago, in the days after Bud Sinner banned smoking in the Capitol everywhere except that one legislators’ smoking room.
But something happened to him. Maybe 44 years in the state Capitol will do that.