It hit the news today that North Dakota Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger was recently charged with a DUI and plans on pleading guilty. Unfortunately for Rauschenberger, alcohol is not a new problem for him.
After serving as Deputy Tax Commissioner from 2009 through 2013, Rauschenberger was appointed by then Governor Jack Dalrymple to fill the Tax Commissioner’s position vacated by Cory Fong’s move to the private sector. That appointment took effect on January 1, 2014, but by September of 2014 Rauschenberger ended up in the news for all the wrong reasons.
With just over two months to go to the 2014 General Election, a vehicle owned by Rauschenberger was involved in a rollover accident. Rob Port of the Say Anything Blog then broke the news that the new Tax Commissioner had been struggling with an addiction to alcohol and had been missing work because of it.
Rauschenberger explained the situation regarding his vehicle:
“I have been receiving in-patient and out-patient treatment for the disease. Yesterday, I had a relapse during which I showed poor judgment and lent my vehicle to an individual whom I met in treatment.”
The individual whom he loaned the vehicle to was cited for DUI and reckless driving.
With Rauschenberger’s alcoholism public, the then North Dakota Republican Party Chairman, Robert Harms, issued the following statement:
“Our hearts and prayers go out to Ryan as he seeks professional help for this disease. He is an incredibly talented and capable individual who, like many of us, must face the challenges life sometimes gives us.
“We have always believed that Ryan is a very capable and talented individual. Nothing that has happened has changed that opinion.”
Governor Jack Dalrymple said that he planned on speaking with Rauschenberger and had his spokesman issue this statement:
“The governor’s aware that the tax commissioner has sought treatment for an alcohol addiction problem.”
In spite of his problems – and with it being so close to the election – Rauschenberger stayed in the race and ended up winning with nearly 57% of the vote .
All seemed well until today when the news broke that Rauschenberger had been arrested for a DUI on the evening of September 30th. And according to public record, he wasn’t formally charged until October 6th with “driving under the influence of intoxicating liquors”.
Why did it take six days to officially file charges and another two weeks to become public? His blood alcohol level was over twice the legal limit– an aggravated offense according to North Dakota law, requiring a minimum of a $750 fine and two days in jail.
It’s obvious that all is not well for our Tax Commissioner. So, how will the NDGOP and the Governor respond this time around? Well, it remains to be seen on the part of the NDGOP, but Governor Doug Burgum issued a statement today saying that he was aware of the arrest and that Rauschenberger has:
“…taken full accountability and we fully support Ryan as he pursues his path to recovery.”
This sounds an awful lot like Governor Dalrymple’s response from 2014. So, are the NDGOP and Governor Burgum simply going to play the supportive role again and let this play out? Or, as some people may view it, turn a blind eye to the situation in hopes that Rauschenberger can pull it together and stay in office?
And if that is the path they decide on taking again, what kind of message does that send from a party that acts tough on an issue like drunk driving?
In a very real way, Ryan Rauschenberger is the NDGOP Establishment’s man. If you don’t believe me, consider this: 1. Prior to working as Deputy Tax Commissioner, Rauschenberger worked in the Department of Commerce as Manager of Energy Development.
2. He was appointed Deputy Tax Commissioner by Governor John Hoeven in 2009.
3. He was appointed Tax Commissioner by Governor Jack Dalrymple in 2013– with an effective date of January 1, 2014.
4. The Treasurer for his 2014 campaign was Peter Stenehjem— cousin of Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and current
. Now if all of this seems like nothing, think again. Rauschenberger’s father – Ron Rauschenberger – was Chief of Staff to none other than Governor’s John Hoeven and Jack Dalrymple– before working as current Governor Doug Burgum’s Senior Adviser. And in 2012 Ron Rauschenberger was included in a list of the “Top 500 Influencers in American Politics by Campaigns & Elections Magazine. He retired from state government earlier this year.
I think that you get the point by now– or at least you should. There’s good reason why it seems to some that the NDGOP and the Governor’s Office have kind of brushed off this issue– which they shouldn’t. Rauschenberger is the Establishment’s man.
It’s obvious to me that our Tax Commissioner needs help. And I truly hope that he gets it and can conquer this awful addiction. But we have to stop making excuses and start sending a message to our elected leaders that such behavior is not becoming of them. We expect better of those we put in office.
Unfortunately, it seems that Commissioner Rauschenberger has no intention of resigning. Not only did he tell the Bismarck Tribune that he’s “extremely focused” on work, but I was told by one source this evening that he announced his plans for re-election while in Fargo on October 10th– just four days after being charged with the DUI.
Aside from resigning, the only way to remove a Tax Commissioner is through impeachment – that procedure is spelled out in our North Dakota Century Code– or recall, which you can read about here. But I’m guessing that the possibility of either of those things happening is about the same as James Comey recommending the prosecution of Hillary Clinton.
So, it’s time the NDGOP and Ryan Rauschenberger’s Establishment connections finally do the right thing and encourage him to resign. Not only is that what’s best for North Dakota and the Tax Commissioner’s office, but I believe it’s what’s best for the NDGOP and Rauschenberger himself.
The Capitol doesn’t need these distractions and neither does the NDGOP. Even more importantly, Rauschenberger doesn’t either.
1. http://www.westfargopioneer.com/news/4346768-update-nd-tax-commissioner-arrested-dui 2. http://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/tax-commissioner-s-vehicle-in-accident/article_165883bc-3397-11e4-ae8d-0019bb2963f4.html 3. https://www.sayanythingblog.com/entry/ryan-rauschenberger-3/
4. http://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/dalrymple-appoints-rauschenberger-as-tax-commissioner/article_153a11a8-4892-11e3-a83a-001a4bcf887a.html 5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryan_Rauschenberger
6. http://bismarcktribune.com/news/state-and-regional/north-dakota-tax-commissioner-arrested-for-dui/article_a61a0bc4-3152-58fa-ae5d-78f972d65bad.html 7. https://www.ryanrauschenberger.com/