My inbox has been full of messages saying, “Did you see this?” with links to stories about the Republican Attorneys General Association participating in Wednesday’s U.S. Capitol riots, and asking, “Is Wayne Stenehjem a member of this club?”
My answers are “Yes” and “Yes.” The links they sent say that an arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association sent out robocalls encouraging people to march to the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday. “At 1 p.m., we will march to the Capitol building and call on Congress to stop the steal,” said the voice on the recording, according to NBC News.
Yes, I saw that, and yes, Wayne is a member. In fact, he’s the senior member of that association, having been an attorney general longer than any other Republican attorney general in America.
Apparently, the fundraising arm of RAGA, called the Rule of Law Defense Fund, sent out the robocalls Tuesday, although I haven’t been able to find out who got the calls — most stories I’ve read just said they went to “Trump supporters.” The group was also listed as one of the sponsors of the event. According to a blog post by KFGO radio host Joel Heitkamp, the group also paid for buses to get people to the event. I haven’t been able to verify that, but I’m looking.
So far, at least five people have died as a result of the even, which prompted me to ask in a blog post here earlier this week, “Does Wayne Stenehjem have blood on his hands.” I’d say the answer is “Yes” one more time.
Because not only is Wayne the senior member of this group but that seniority has gotten him more than $200,000 in campaign funds (I reported $160,000 in an earlier post, but I found more) from various incarnations of the group since he took office in 2000.
Just an aside — the first $150,000 of Stenehjem’s campaign money came from the Republican State Leadership Committee, the precursor to RAGA. Both groups collect corporate money, launder it through the association and dole it out to the candidates across the country. It’s called “dark money.”
Of course, North Dakota law prevents candidates from taking campaign money from corporations. When I first wrote about this in 2014, I asked Stenehjem how it was possible for him to take RSLC money when the funds came from corporations. He replied that the RSLC segregated corporate contributions from personal contributions and distributed noncorporate funds to candidates who weren’t allowed to take corporate funds, like in North Dakota. I said “Uh-huh.”
RAGA is a spinoff of RSLC targeted at states’ chief law enforcement officers. Half of the nation’s attorneys general are Republicans. Last month, 17 of those 25 Republicans, Stenehjem among them, filed a frivolous lawsuit seeking to overturn the results of the Nov. 3 election. This week, they joined Trump in sponsoring a violent march on the Capitol, trying to overturn the election.
The NBC news link I was sent said RAGA raised more than $18 million for candidates in 2020 from big corporations, including Pepsi, Microsoft, JP Morgan Chase, Comcast, Melaleuca and organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the NRA.
Stenehjem, incidentally, was not on the ballot in 2020, but he got $10,000 from RAGA in 2018, when he last sought re-election. That was one of two $10,000 checks he got in 2018 for his $100,000 war chest. The other was from Las Vegas gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson.
Why, you might ask, does a Las Vegas casino owner get involved in a North Dakota attorney general’s race? Well, it might have something to do with a letter Stenehjem signed (along with about a dozen other AG’s — RAGA members) supporting Adelson’s attempt to ban online poker, which competed with his casino businesses. Turns out signing that letter was a pretty good bet on Stenehjem’s part. Paid 10,000 to 1.
But back to 2020, when Stenehjem joined the lawsuit trying to overturn Trump’s defeat. Stenehjem has been called on the carpet by Bismarck resident Darrell Dorgan, who has asked for a formal investigation into a misuse of state resources for political purposes. My understanding is that an “inquiry committee” of the State Bar Association of North Dakota is looking into Darrell’s allegations right now.
At the national level, there is talk of removing President Trump by use of the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, or by impeachment. Republicans and Democrats alike say he must bear responsibility for the riots at the Capitol which claimed five lives.
Now, others are saying that the Republican attorneys general should share the blame for those deaths for their role in promoting the riot. I agree. Because it wasn’t just the robocalls that incited the riot. My friend, Sarah Vogel, who SHOULD have been our state’s attorney general, pointed out to me a series of television commercials this group produced. Take a look at these and decide. Here. And here. And here.
I don’t know if anyone has asked our attorney general yet if he approves of these incendiary commercials or condones the riot and his organization’s support for it, but certainly as the group’s senior member he needs to either admit that he shares responsibility for all that has happened or he needs to immediately resign his membership and send back the $200,000 in campaign funds he’s received from the association.
“At 1 p.m., we will march to the Capitol building …”
Wayne Stenehjem and his fellow Republican attorneys general are guilty of inciting a riot and insurrection against our government.
They must not go unpunished.