N.D. senators not happy with pro-life postcard campaign

UPDATED 4 p.m. BISMARCK—A group of North Dakota senators is not happy with the latest attempt to influence their vote.

Some senators—including three Republican members of the Judiciary Committee—have recently received stacks of fluorescent postcards at their home address urging them to support a pro-life bill.

Each postcard includes the typewritten name and address of the person who “sent it.”

But inquiries by suspicious legislators have found people who did not endorse or know about the postcards—and some of the people are dead or have moved away.

“When someone resorts to these kinds of tactics, which are obviously not honest and above board, they have the opposite effect they’re intended to have,” said Sen. Curtis Olafson, R-Edinburg, who has received more than 200 postcards.

The postcard states, “I am pro-life. I vote. I live in your district. Your support of HB 1450 is important to me and my family. Please support HB 1450.” In smaller print at the bottom of the postcard is “I signed an NDLL petition to encourage my legislature to enact personhood measures.”

NDLL stands for North Dakota Life League. Its description on the Secretary of State’s website is “education in relation to the preservation of respect for human beings at every stage of life, from fertilization to natural death.”

Sen. Dave Nething, R-Jamestown, said his stack of 50 to 60 postcards included two from his daughter and his son-in-law—both of whom said they never told anyone to send a card on their behalf.

North Dakota Life League State Director Tim Lindgren said the majority of the names on the postcards were collected during state fairs or meetings. The group collects signatures from people favoring personhood legislation. Others sign sheets asking for more information from the organization, he said.

Olafson said every postcard he received had a fake address. Every “sender’s” street address is the same as his street address. Some of his postcards also were reported to come from towns that aren’t in his district. All of his postcards had a Bismarck postal mark on them.

“We pride ourselves in North Dakota on transparency and honesty in government,” he said. “There are obviously several things that they tried to do here to cover up who they were, and they obviously have used people’s names without their permission and that is inexcusable.”

Lindgren said a printer made a mistake on some of the postcards and printed the wrong addresses. He said they try to keep their list updated on a regular basis, and he could get correct addresses to senators who would like them.

“It’s probably a mistake in hindsight (to send the postcards),” Lindgren said. “We probably shouldn’t have.”

He said he didn’t think it was fair to write an article about the matter. The organization tries to keep its mailing list updated, but some people slip by, he said.

Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, the sponsor of the pro-life bill, said he did not approve of the postcards or know about them in advance. He said he planned to check into the matter.

Sen. Stan Lyson, R-Williston, held up a stack of postcards that he received and said he did not favor the campaign.

“I’m not happy with it, and that’s the nicest thing I’ve said about it,” he said.

Olafson said he has constituents who are very angry that postcards were sent on their behalf without their knowledge. He planned to go to the post office to file an official complaint.

“It’s kind of disturbing when I receive postcards, which are alleged to have come from constituents, and they in fact deny that they had anything to do with it,” he said.

North Dakota Life League lobbyist Daniel Woodard said he apologizes to the senators and individuals. He said they are working to get senators the names of only the people who signed petitions in support of the personhood legislation.

He told Forum Communications that he would e-mail an official statement on the matter. You can find the statement–which was also sent to senators–below:

Dear Senators,
I am writing this letter to inform you about some issues that have arisen as a result of a mailing of postcards in support of HB 1450.
I am in possession of a list of North Dakota voters that have signed a petition encouraging their legislators to adopt legislation that will protect all human beings absolutely at every stage of development.  We at North Dakota Life League collected these petitions mostly at summer fairs starting in 1999.  Ten days ago I divided this list into your senate districts and sent each of you a post card from voters in your district who signed our pro-life petition.

The purpose of this email is to explain that due to a printing error, the street address of your constituents was replaced by the listed address of each senator.   

After I had already printed and stamped them but before sending them, my state director sent me a list of names of people who have received our NDLL newsletters in the past, but who had not signed our personhood petition.  My state director told me to remove those postcards, as he only wanted you to receive postcards from people who had signed our pro-life petition.  I removed by hand many of the names, but I did not remove all of the postcards that I was supposed to, because honestly I was lazy with it.

I would like to sincerely apologize for this mistake as well as for any mistakes that might have occasionally surfaced such as persons who have moved or passed away since they signed the petition.

The postcard represents the sincere hope of over 4000 of your constituents that you support HB 1450 and laws like it that protect all persons born and preborn.
Again, I would like all of you to know that we are in communication with these voters and they are counting on your principled support of HB 1450 and all other authentically pro-life legislation. 

At your request, my state director will email you the corrected names and addresses of only the NDLL members who signed this pro-life petition out of a desire for the legislative assembly to pass personhood legislation.  I want to apologize to my state director, Tim Lindgren, and to all of you for this confusion.  When appointed with a task, I will do it diligently and completely in the future.
Kind regards,
Daniel Woodard,
Lobbyist for NDLL (North Dakota Life League)