Anybody Want to Have a Fundraiser? Here’s a List.

This one is for North Dakotans, and those who follow North Dakota politics.

I received an e-mail this week from some thoughtful person who thought I might be interested in a fundraising event for State Representative Al Carlson, the Republican Legislative leader. Turns out I wasn’t interested in the fundraiser, but I was interested in the e-mail.

The e-mail, which was actually forwarded to me—I wasn’t an original recipient—was sent by Bismarck advertising executive Pat Finken, on behalf of himself and Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council. The invitation was to join about 350 of my best friends at a $200-per-person fundraising event for Carlson, to be hosted by the two of them, next Wednesday, December 6. I only know that number because Pat had invited 350 of HIS best friends, and had listed them, and all their e-mail addresses, right at the top of the invitation

They must have been his best friends, because he had their e-mail addresses. And he showed off the fact he had those e-mail addresses by showing them to all 351 of us, now. Or else he just didn’t know how to hide those addresses, a task even my fifth grade grandson knows how to do. Me too, a 70-year-old English major with no technical skills.

Actually, I’m pretty sure he did it on purpose to let all 350 of those people know who else he had invited. And he did it in all capital letters, so it just shouts at you to read through the list. Or not. I mean, who does that? Who types a list of 350 e-mail addresses in all capital letters? Yeah, e-mail addresses, unlike the 100 or so passwords I have in my computer, are not case sensitive, but still . . . And who includes all 350 of them in an e-mail?

And who did he invite? Well, it looks like almost every registered lobbyist in North Dakota. Including the Lutheran Bishop, three North Dakota Catholics, the FM-YMCA, the Home Birth Freedom people, the director of the Anne Carlson Center (no relation–I’m pretty sure), and the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library (Sorry, but TR hated lobbyists).   I don’t know everyone on the list, but I know a lobbyist when I see one, and there were enough of them I know on this list that I just figured the ones I didn’t know were lobbyists too.

Finken is president of Odney Advertising, and has long been involved in Republican politics in North Dakota. He rose to a pretty high level in the Republican heirarchy here because he was a high school friend of former Governor and now U. S. Senator John Hoeven. Most recently, he directed Wayne Stenehjem’s failed effort to get the Republican nomination for Governor last year. He recently added a lobbying division to his agency’s other work.

I suspect he and Ness are moving their political priorities into the Legislative arena because they’ve lost their overnight privileges at the Governor’s residence since the election of Doug Burgum. Carlson is now one of two power brokers in the state to be reckoned with (if you ask him, he’s the only one—Burgum doesn’t count), and there are lots of things Finken and Ness need from the Legislature every year. Raising a bunch of money for the Majority Leader certainly ranks high on their priority list now.

This is a pretty big deal. At $200 a head, if all 350 show up (they better, if they know what is good for them) Al could pocket $70,000 for his campaign. That would be about the richest Legislative campaign in North Dakota, ever.

The invitation, and the event itself, raise some legal questions in my mind. North Dakota’s election laws prohibit corporate contributions to political campaigns. But the e-mail invitation was sent from Finken’s corporate e-mail address. The rsvp is to be made by phone to the Odney corporate office, where it will be answered by an Odney corporate employee, or by e-mail to an Odney corporate employee.

The event will be held at the Odney corporate office. I’m wondering if Carlson is renting the office for the event?

The pretty flyer in the e-mail advertising the event (see below) was likely designed by an Odney corporate employee. I wonder if Carlson paid to have it designed?

Surely the state’s top legislator and a major lobbying firm wouldn’t think about violating election laws by using corporate funds to raise money for a political campaign, would they?

It’s not like Pat Finken can’t afford to do those things for free—he’s probably got 4 or 5 million dollars worth of state business coming in the door through his relationships with the GOP and especially Hoeven and former Gov. Jack Dalrymple, although he’s taken a bit of a hit since Burgum took office, especially with the loss of a nearly two million dollar a year contract with the state’s tobacco prevention agency, which was abolished by the Legislature earlier this year, a Burgum (and Carlson)-backed initiative.

Well, anyway, I read through the list and the fundraising flyer again while I was writing this, and it struck me that maybe there are friends of mine running for office next year who could use this e-mail list too, to raise some money. Somebody went to a lot of trouble to put it together (someone at Odney Advertising’s corporate office?), and it seems a shame to just let all that effort go to waste on just one Legislative candidate.

And when I look at it, typed in all capital letters like it is, it just shouts at me “USE ME, USE ME!”

So I’ll just tack Finken’s e-mail onto the end of this blog post, with all two and a half feet of e-mail addresses, and the fundraising flyer too, so if my friends want an example of good design for raising money, they’ll have that too. Oh, and the donor information form too. Hey, don’t thank me—thank Pat Finken. He did all the work. I just copied things.

Here you go.

 From: Pat Finken []
Sent: Wednesday, November 15, 2017 11:20 AM
 Subject: Carlson Event – Don’t Forget to RSVP – Disclosure Form Included

(Oh, yeah, to those lobbyists whose names stand out because they are black instead of blue, I apologize–my blog program won’t let me change the color)

Subject: Carlson Event – Don’t Forget to RSVP – Disclosure Form Included
Carlson for House Campaign Donor Information
Please include the following information with your contribution.
Name _________________________________________________________________
Address _________________________________________________________________
City __________________________ State _____________ ZIP _______________
Home Phone _____________________ Office ________________ Cell ________________
Email address _________________________________________________________________
Occupation ________________________________ Donation: ________________________
Personal or PAC contributions only.
Please make checks payable to the Carlson Campaign Box 10014, Fargo, ND 58106
Paid for by Carlson for House Campaign, Sharon Carlson Chair

5 thoughts on “Anybody Want to Have a Fundraiser? Here’s a List.

  1. You simply rock. Thank you for being such a good watchdog and for passing on all this information that some of don’t have to time to keep up with.


  2. Hi Jim, Actually, the list is public domain on the SOS website, free for anyone who wants it. Even you and your friends. (The all capital letters is the result of the state download default.) And your 5th grade grandson probably also knows putting all the email addresses into a Bcc dramatically increases the likelihood that your email will be purged by a spam filter. As for campaign finance law, with the exception of my personal efforts, Odney is being paid for its work, time and facility. Glad I could help clarify a couple of things for you. Feel free to call if you have additional questions.


  3. If you use an email generator like Mail Chimp, you still risk getting tagged as spam. The only way to avoid a list like I used is to send individual emails. With 300, that might have to wait until I am retired and living in the wilderness like some of my friends.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s