On October 20th it hit the news that North Dakota’s Tax Commissioner, Ryan Rauschenberger, had been pulled over and arrested for a DUI on September 30th. Only in North Dakota could an elected state-wide official do such a thing and not have it hit the news for three weeks. But I digress.
As expected, we learned yesterday that Rauschenberger has plead guilty. His plea deal helped him to avoid any jail time. According to Valley News Live:
“Rauschenberger was given a 10-day suspended jail sentence and put on unsupervised probation for a year. He was fined $1,000, ordered to pay $250 in court fees, and ordered to get an alcohol evaluation and complete any recommended treatment.”
In our October 20th article , we documented the history our Tax Commissioner has had with alcohol and we expressed our hope that he would get the help he needs. We also explained that Rauschenberger is the Establishment’s man and showed how he rose to the position he now holds.
It’s clear that the voters forgave Rauschenberger in 2014 when his alcohol problem first surfaced. Even though it was just over two months to election, he still won with about 57% of the vote.
This time it should be different though. Not only is there now a documented history of his problems continuing, but it is a proven fact that he lied to the officer who pulled him over for the September 30th DUI. When asked how much he had to Drink, Rauschenberger told the officer, “like one drink… like three hours ago”. Ummm, not so much. His blood alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit.
And while Rauschenberger has since expressed his regret for not telling the truth, it doesn’t change the fact that this is just one more piece of evidence proving a history of bad judgment. Which is one reason I wrote this in the previous article:
“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.”
The unfortunate thing about this issue is that far too many North Dakotan’s have come out in defense of Rauschenberger. To put it bluntly, they make excuses. They don’t feel jail time is appropriate. They don’t feel there’s a need to have him resign. I wonder if some of them think it’s no big deal at all? One person commented to me that they’d rather have a good drunk Republican than a sober Democrat in there. Fascinating logic.
According to Rob Port at the Say Anything Blog, he had a conversation with a defense attorney who said Rauschenberger’s sentencing wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. This is something the Tax Commissioner has also voiced:
“I wanted to be very clear that I didn’t receive any more favorable treatment than anybody else.”
Whether Rauschenberger received special treatment or not isn’t really the primary issue at hand here– though it was certainly worthy of the inquiry about it. His ability to make good decisions and to represent the state well is the problem. And it’s clear that he’s failed… more than once.
I’m sure the Tax Commissioner is a nice man. I’ve heard as much about him. I’ve even heard positive reviews about the Tax Commissioner’s office. And I don’t doubt those either. Out of all the departments in Bismarck that I’ve submitted information requests to, they’ve been the most pleasant to deal with– by far. But that doesn’t change that fact that he now has a history of issues with alcohol. He has shown bad judgment… more than once. He lied to law enforcement. And he was already given a pass in 2014.
The reason we end up with problematic situations regarding elected officials – whether in this case or a myriad of others – is for this very reason… we let them get away with poor behavior over and over and over again.
I believe in second chances. I really do. We all make mistakes. And some of us make really bad ones. But eventually we have to say enough is enough as voters. If not, how do we ever expect our elected officials to live up to the standards that they should? Or to put it a different way – using current terminology – how do we ever expect to “drain the swamp”?
I wish Ryan Rauschenberger the very best. I really do. I hope that he overcomes this addiction. And I hope that he does exceptionally well… in the private sector. He needs to resign. And he needs to do it soon. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it will send a message to other officials that the people are watching… and we expect better. No more making excuses.