- Associated Press - Thursday, March 12, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota voters should decide whether a panel is needed to investigate alleged acts of wrongdoing by politicians, statewide officials and lobbyists, the House assistant Democratic leader says.

Rep. Corey Mock of Grand Forks has been unsuccessfully pushing for years to establish an ethics commission in North Dakota, one of the few states without such a panel.

Opponents have argued that an ethics commission isn’t required in North Dakota because the Legislature already follows high standards of conduct.

An ethics commission would provide better transparency and build credibility with citizens, Mock told the House Government and Veterans Affairs Committee on Thursday, which took no action on the measure.

In North Dakota, lawmakers themselves are responsible for reporting misbehavior by their colleagues. Mock said the self-policing doesn’t go far enough to instill credibility with the public.

“I believe people want to see more accountability,” Mock said. “There is a perception North Dakota is not doing it right.”

Legislation sponsored by Mock to establish and ethics commission was soundly defeated by the Republican-led Legislature in 2011 and 2013.

This year, Mock is pushing for a constitutional amendment for an ethics commission. It would go before voters in next year’s primary election, if the Legislature elects to put it on the ballot. If approved by voters, the Legislature would be required to form a commission to investigate and impose civil penalties for “violations of campaign conduct and campaign finance laws, lobbying laws and violations of other ethical standards.”

The resolution is co-sponsored by six Democrats and one Republican, Rep. Thomas Beadle of Fargo.

Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, and chairman of the House Government and Veterans Affairs Committee, said in an interview that Mock’s proposal likely would meet the same fate as his past proposals to establish an ethics commission.

Kasper said Mock has never been able to cite an example of unethical behavior on the part of elected officials in all the years he has pushed for an ethics commission.

“There is not one instance of impropriety,” Kasper said. “We don’t have a problem with unethical behavior in North Dakota.”

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