BISMARCKâ€”Kevin Cramerâ€™s campaign reports show â€œa disturbing patternâ€ of accepting money from companies and executives affected by his decisions as a Public Service Commission regulator, his Democratic challenger said Monday.
In turn, Cramer called the attacks â€œdesperation at bestâ€ and said Brad Crabtreeâ€™s reports show a â€œfar more disturbing patternâ€ of funneling money from Washington, D.C., â€œwithout any accountability attached to them.â€
Crabtree sent a news release to the media saying certain campaign contributions made to Cramer â€œthreaten the independence and integrity of the PSC and its decisions.â€
Crabtree specifically points to $9,800 from Corbin Robertson and his wife of Houston, saying Robertson is managing partner of Quintana Capital Group.
Quintana owns Great Northern Power Development, which has sought a mining permit from the PSC for a lignite coal mine near South Heart.
Crabtree also said Cramer accepted $7,800 from the political action committee and top executives of Florida Power & Light. Subsidiary NextEra is a wind energy developer in North Dakota, and the siting of its wind farms falls under PSC jurisdiction, Crabtree said.
Cramerâ€™s campaign received $4,800 in contributions this year and $3,000 during 2007-2008, Crabtree said.
Throughout the campaign, Cramer has said he regulates with a light touch, Crabtree said.
â€œHow are we as North Dakota voters to know whether that light touch is because of the contributions heâ€™s received?â€ Crabtree said.
â€œThereâ€™s nothing wrong with money from industry, but money from industry where they have a direct benefit from the outcome of a particular case, that is corruption of the regulatory process. It happens to be legal in North Dakota, but it still corrupts the process,â€ he said.
Cramer said Crabtree has received $75,000 â€œlaundered through Washington, D.C.â€
â€œIf he thinks that laundering his money through the Democratic Party makes him clean, I guess Iâ€™d take full transparency over that any day,â€ Cramer said.
He said he would expect people making investments in North Dakota to support a regulator who â€œregulates without bias as opposed to somebody who brings as much ideological baggage to the table as Brad Crabtree does.â€
Cramer called his contributions â€œnoble activism by a corporate citizen.â€
â€œWe expect people to demonstrate their corporate citizenship by supporting people that are good public servants,â€ he said. â€œI donâ€™t see that as bad or wrong. I donâ€™t think most North Dakotans will, either.â€
Cramer pointed to $2,500 in contributions Crabtree received from connections to Kinder Morgan, described on its website as â€œone of the largest pipeline transportation and energy storage companies in North America.â€
â€œOn the one hand, he criticizes me for taking from companies and then he does exactly the same thing and somehow thatâ€™s OK,â€ Cramer said. â€œAll you have to do is look at my record. If thereâ€™s any place in my record that you can tie a contribution back to a decision I made, then you might have an issue. Until you can do that, he has no issue.â€
Referring to his Washington, D.C., contributions, Crabtree said he wonâ€™t be regulating Kent Conrad, Byron Dorgan and Earl Pomeroy if elected to the commission. As for Kinder Morgan, Crabtree said he knows the contributors through his family and said the company doesnâ€™t have any business before the North Dakota PSC.
Crabtree said North Dakota has â€œterrible regulation of campaign financeâ€ and said state legislators should take a hard look at it.
â€œThe idea that you can legally take unlimited contributions from a company or an institution that, as a regulator, youâ€™re supposed to regulate, to me is unethical on the face of it,â€ he said.
Cramerâ€™s report lists his total of all contributions at $164,541.39. Crabtreeâ€™s is $155,413.40.