BE IT ENACTED BY THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NORTH DAKOTA
The Constitution of North Dakota is amended by adding a new Article as follows:
Section 1. Transparency.
- The people of North Dakota need information to choose candidates for office, vote on ballot measures, and ensure that their representatives are accountable. This transparency must be sufficient to enable the people to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages. The people therefore have the rights to know in a timely manner the source, quantity, timing, and nature of resources used to influence the state’s elections, ballot measures, and government actions. These rights are essential to the rights of free speech, assembly, and petition guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and shall be construed broadly.
- The legislative assembly shall implement and enforce this section by enacting, no more than three years after this article takes effect, laws that require prompt, electronically accessible, plainly comprehensible, public disclosure of the ultimate and true source of funds spent in an amount greater than two hundred dollars, adjusted for inflation, to influence the state’s elections or ballot measures, or to lobby or otherwise influence, in any medium, governmental actions. The legislative assembly shall have an ongoing duty to revise these laws as necessary to promote the purposes of this section in light of changes in technology and political practices. The legislative assembly shall vest by law one or more entities with authority to implement, interpret, and enforce this section and legislation enacted thereunder. If the laws or rules enacted or an implementation, interpretation, or enforcement action taken under this section fail to fully vindicate the rights provided in this section, a resident taxpayer may bring suit in the courts of this state to enforce such rights.
Section 2. Lobbyists and Conflicts of Interest.
- A lobbyist may not knowingly give, offer, solicit, initiate, or facilitate a gift to a public official, and a public official may not knowingly accept a gift from a lobbyist. “Gift,” as used in this subsection, means any item, service, or thing of value not given in exchange for fair market consideration, including gifts of travel or recreation, but does not mean any purely informational material or campaign contribution. However, to advance opportunities for North Dakota residents to meet with public officials in educational and social settings inside the state, the ethics commission shall adopt rules by two years after the effective date of this article that allow limited gifts under conditions that do not raise ethical concerns. So as to allow for the adoption of these rules, this paragraph shall take effect two years after the effective date of this article. This prohibition does not apply if the lobbyist is an immediate family member of the public official. Appropriate civil and criminal sanctions for violations of this paragraph shall be set by the legislative assembly.
- An elected public official may not be a lobbyist while holding office or for two years after holding office. Appropriate civil and criminal sanctions for violations of this paragraph shall be set by the legislative assembly.
- A lobbyist may not knowingly deliver a campaign contribution made by another individual or entity. “Deliver” as used in this subsection means to transport, transfer, or otherwise transmit, either physically or electronically. This prohibition does not apply to a person who delivers a campaign contribution to the person’s own campaign, or to the campaign of the person’s immediate family member. This prohibition may not be interpreted to prohibit any person from making a campaign contribution or from encouraging others to make a campaign contribution or otherwise to support or oppose a candidate. Appropriate civil and criminal sanctions for violations of this paragraph shall be set by the legislative assembly.
- A statewide candidate, candidate for the legislative assembly, or public official may not knowingly use a campaign contribution for personal use or enrichment. Appropriate civil and criminal sanctions for violations of this paragraph shall be set by the legislative assembly.
- Members of agencies shall avoid the appearance of bias, and shall disqualify themselves in any quasi-judicial proceeding in which monetary or in-kind support related to that member's election to any office, or a financial interest not shared by the general public as defined by the ethics commission, creates an appearance of bias to a reasonable person. The legislative assembly and the ethics commission shall enforce this provision by appropriate legislation or rules, respectively. So as to allow for the adoption of such legislation or rules, this paragraph shall take effect three years after the effective date of this article.
- Governments of foreign countries, foreign nationals not lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States, and corporations organized under the laws of or having their principal place of business in a foreign country, are prohibited from making contributions or expenditures in connection with any statewide election, election for the legislative assembly, or ballot-issue election.
Section 3. North Dakota Ethics Commission.
- In order to strengthen the confidence of the people of North Dakota in their government, and to support open, ethical, and accountable government, the North Dakota Ethics Commission is hereby established.
- The ethics commission may adopt ethics rules related to transparency, corruption, elections, and lobbying to which any lobbyist, public official, or candidate for public office shall be subject, and may investigate alleged violations of such rules, this article, and related state laws. The ethics commission shall maintain a confidential whistleblower hotline through which any person acting in good faith may submit relevant information. The legislature shall provide adequate funds for the proper carrying out of the functions and duties of the commission.
- The ethics commission shall consist of five members, appointed for four-year terms by consensus agreement of the governor, the majority leader of the senate, and the minority leader of the senate. No member of the ethics commission may hold other public office or be a lobbyist, candidate for public office, or political party official.
Section 4. General Provisions.
- This article is self-executing and all of its provisions are mandatory. Laws may be enacted to facilitate, safeguard, or expand, but not to hamper, restrict, or impair, this article. This article shall take effect sixty days after approval.
- For the purposes of this article, “public office” or “public official” means any elected or appointed office or official of the state’s executive or legislative branch, including members of the ethics commission, or members of the governor’s cabinet, or employees of the legislative branch, and “agency” means each board, bureau, commission, department, or other administrative unit of the executive branch of state government, including one or more officers, employees, or other persons directly or indirectly purporting to act on behalf or under authority of the agency.
- If any provision of this article is held to be invalid, either on its face or as applied to any person, entity, or circumstance, the remaining provisions, and the application thereof to any person, entity, or circumstance other than those to which it is held invalid, shall not be affected thereby. In any case of a conflict between any provision of this article and any other provision contained in this constitution, the provisions of this article shall control.