(The Center Square) – The North Dakota Soybean Council used at least part of an $85,000 grant to pay for a legislative educator who was also a registered lobbyist, according to an audit released Monday.
Phil Murphy testified on behalf of the Soybean Council before the North Dakota Legislature on two bills, which not only violated the terms of the grant but also a federal regulation, according to Auditor Joshua Gallion’s office and legislative records.
“The audit team did not calculate the exact dollar amount spent on lobbying from the grant,” the auditor’s office said in a news release. “The grant’s purpose was to develop an educational program to inform elected officials about soybean production, excluding lobbying.”
Senate Bill 2259 caps the costs for a state audit to $5,000 through June 20, 2025, a move that saves the Soybean Council more than $70,000 during the 2023-2025 biennium, according to the bill. It passed the Legislature and was signed by Gov. Doug Burgum in March.
House Bill 1501 changed the council from a state agency to a private, non-governmental agency. The bill passed and was signed by the governor. The council will no longer be audited by the state annually when it becomes a private entity on July 1, 2024.
The Soybean Council agreed with the audit findings.
“Effective immediately, contract expenditures will be monitored and additional documentation will be requested as needed to ensure compliance and clarity of educational efforts,” the council said in the audit.