BISMARCK, ND — Governor Doug Burgum has shelled out nearly $1 million ahead of the state’s primary election, largely for a political action campaign that has historically focused on defeating Republican presidential candidates. extreme right or those who disagree with its spending initiatives and policy goals. .
The second-term Republican governor gave $935,000 to the Dakota Leadership PAC, campaign materials show. The contributions continue the former wealthy software executive’s trend of digging deep into his own pockets in an effort to help elect lawmakers more obedient to his wishes.
In 2020, Burgum contributed more than $3.2 million to the political action committee, led by Levi Bachmeier, Burgum’s former policy director. Burgum also contributed more than $1.3 million to his own campaign two years ago, as well as donations ranging from $500 to $25,000 to about 20 incumbents and new legislative candidates.
Burgum declined interviews with The Associated Press to discuss his campaign spending. His office referred questions to his campaign staff and the PAC.
“We are grateful for the Governor’s continued support of the Dakota Leadership PAC. Our mission remains to elect conservative Republicans who share the governor’s vision to strengthen North Dakota’s economy,” Bachmeier said in a statement Monday.
Burgum, 65, is a small-town North Dakota success story with an MBA from Stanford. He mortgaged the family farm near Arthur to join a startup, Great Plains Software, in 1983. Later as CEO, he took the company public in 1997 before selling it to Microsoft in 2001 for 1 .1 billion, then led Microsoft’s enterprise software division from Fargo. .
Burgum’s political spending drew widespread criticism from within his own party. That included a failed attempt two years ago to unseat GOP House Appropriations Chairman Jeff Delzer, who clashed with Burgum over policy and spending priorities throughout the governor’s first term.
Burgum’s spending, which has flooded the airwaves and the internet with ads supporting his candidates, has also caused some lawmakers to fear that if they cross the governor in any way, they will be targeted by him. Burgum managed to be elected governor in 2016 by posing as an outsider, opposing what he called the “good old boy” party establishment and vowing to “reinvent state government” and to control “spending sprees”.
This year’s campaign materials don’t yet show which candidates are backed by Burgum’s PAC, though it’s almost certain that many will be running against state lawmakers and Caucus-linked candidates. ultraconservative of Bastiat, as has been done in the past.
Jared Hendrix of Minot helps or directs the campaigns of several candidates or legislators linked to the group. Hendrix said that, although legal, Burgum crosses the line of power with his large donations.
“It’s a First Amendment matter and he has the right to speak his mind with his money,” Hendrix said. “But such authoritarian influence is something voters need to think about.”
Burgum was spending large sums of money even before he was elected. In 2016 and just before the Republican nominating convention, Burgum sent checks to several lawmakers, but many of them returned the money after reports surfaced.