Complaint against Bismarck MP questions campaign ads, donations – InForum

BISMARCK — A Bismarck resident has asked the Federal Election Commission to investigate a state representative and two political fundraising organizations for potential violations of federal campaign laws.

The complaint, filed by Lance Hagen, accuses Rep. Brandon Prichard, R-Bismarck, of using two federal super PACs for his own financial and political gain.

Prichard has represented District 8 since 2022 and is running for re-election this year.


Rep. North Dakota Rep. Brandon Prichard, R-Bismarck, attends a special session of the Legislature on Oct. 23, 2023.

Kyle Martin / For the North Dakota Monitor

He is involved with two super PACs that have raised money for conservative political causes this election cycle. Prichard is treasurer of super PAC YR Victory Fund and executive director of super PAC Citizens Alliance of North Dakota. Both political action committees were registered in the summer of 2023, according to FEC records.

Emails written by Prichard that Hagen included in his complaint indicate that the Citizens Alliance of North Dakota exists to raise money for far-right conservative candidates for North Dakota state government.

“Good conservative candidates don’t have the funds or resources to defeat radical Democrats,” Prichard wrote in a Jan. 10 fundraising email.

In emails, Prichard frequently tells voters to support certain North Dakota lawmakers and unseat others.

Hagen said in his complaint that he suspects Prichard is using the North Dakota Citizens Alliance to help himself and his political allies and hurt his opponents.

“These emails typically advocate various conservative beliefs, but often contain content that either praises legislators for their ‘conservatism’ or shames other legislators for their ‘liberal’ voting tendencies as defined by Prichard,” he wrote Hagen. “Coincidentally, Rep. Prichard is always found among the legislators who are praised.”

Hagen noted in the complaint that because the organizations are super PACs, also known as independent expenditure political committees, it is not legal for them to coordinate with political candidates.

Prichard, in a written message Thursday to the North Dakota Monitor, said he has “received no notice” of a complaint.

“I always follow the law, I cite my sources on my bills, and I respect the FEC. I didn’t do anything illegal or unethical,” he wrote. “I think the ‘good ole boys’ club’ feels threatened that a North Dakota organization is finally saying they sold out the people of North Dakota to their special interests.”

In his complaint, Hagen also drew attention to the roughly $120,000 donated last year by the YR Victory Fund to an out-of-state group, the Citizens Alliance Political Action Committee. Records show the committee was previously based in Ohio but recently changed its address to Virginia.

FEC filings indicate that most of the YR Victory Fund money went to that out-of-state committee. The YR Victory Fund started with about $21,000 in cash and has raised a total of about $110,000 in donations between July and December 2023.

In a news conference Thursday in Mandan, Hagen called donations one of his “major concerns.”

The donations were first reported in February by Forum Communications columnist Rob Port. According to Port’s reports, several donors to the YR Victory Fund were under the impression that their contributions would go toward helping young Republicans get involved in politics.

It is unclear from FEC filings what the purpose of the Out-of-State Citizens Alliance Political Action Committee is. The filings show that since July 2023, the Citizens Alliance Political Action Committee has received a significant portion of its donations — more than $350,000 — from North Dakota donors, including the YR Victory Fund.

In March, the Citizens Alliance Political Action Committee gave $40,000 to the other super PAC associated with Prichard, the Citizens Alliance of North Dakota, according to FEC records.

The records also show that money was transferred back and forth between the Citizens Alliance Political Action Committee and another entity with a similar title, Citizens Alliance of America, which is also based in Virginia.

Hagen’s complaint also outlines a $10,000 payment Prichard received from the YR Victory Fund in July 2023 for administrative services.

“I have not seen the status of the YR Victory Fund, but I would like to flag this for investigation,” Hagen wrote.

Hagen said at the news conference that he mailed the complaint to the Federal Election Commission last week and has yet to hear back from the agency.

An FEC spokesman said the agency could not provide information about the complaints because of confidentiality requirements. Case files are made public once a complaint is resolved and closed.

Hagen said this is the first time he has filed a complaint with the commission and that he “has nothing against Prichard” — he just believes the situation warrants an investigation.

“I have nothing to gain by doing this, other than I think that in North Dakota we need to be held accountable for some of these ridiculous campaign ads that are happening across the state,” Hagen said.

Three Republican candidates running for seats in the Legislature expressed their concerns at the news conference: Rep. Pat Heinert, who is seeking re-election in the 32nd District, and Mike Berg and Ken Rensch, who are running against Prichard and incumbent SuAnn Olson in the District 8.

All three said they were negatively affected by the ads they suspect are related to Prichard and feel they are misleading or inaccurate. Some legislative ads depict a contestant alongside two Republican incumbents, referring to all three as the “Republican team.”

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