North Dakota Treasurer Kelly Schmidth as responded to DeSmogBlog’s investigation of the Bakken Shale basin fracking field trip her office facilitated for former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus, who now works at the Manhattan-based private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR). Schmidt expanded on the initial comments she provided to DeSmogBlog in response to our findings obtained via North Dakota Open Records Statute. Among other things, she described the blurred lines existing between the North Dakota government, the oil industry and private equity firms like KKR as “not unusual.” Schmidt’s comments came on May 23 on WDAY’s Jay Thomas Show, guest hosted that day by Rob Port, just over three weeks after her office hosted Petraeus. DeSmogBlog’s May 22 investigative piece revealed that KKR — which has ties to North Dakota’s hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) boom via Samson Resources and The Ridge housing complex and considers itself a “mini oil and gas company” — wrote the press release for the Office of North Dakota State Treasurer announcing Petraeus’ visit, closely counseled Schmidt’s office on media strategy and hosted Schmidt on a company chartered private jet.
“This is not uncommon to have people come to North Dakota and visit with people from the retirement and investment board and the land department relating to an opportunity to do business with North Dakota. And I would also like to add, I will do everything I can to bring people of David Petraeus’ caliber and bring North Dakota to the forefront, because I truly believe that we need to have these types of quality investors come into our state…so that bringing the United States of America into an energy independent status does not fall on the backs of North Dakotans. We need to continue to do what we can to bring people to the state that can elevate this and can show that this is not going to end anytime soon and we need assistance in developing our infrastructure. Our taxpayers cannot foot the bill for all of this.”
“Very Disappointing” After saying she had never heard of DeSmogBlog until “this came up” to Port, Schmidt called the fruits of the investigation “very disappointing”:
“All I can say is it’s very disappointing because we are trying to do the very best we can here in North Dakota and there’s always going to be someone who is going to second guess or look for something wrong with what we’ve intended and we can’t do anything about that. We can just continue to plug along and do what we need to do and continue to follow our ethics and our laws and our roles that’s exactly what happened in this situation.”
Disappointment, though, is in the eyes of the beholder. Don Morrison, executive director of North Dakota Resource Council, told DeSmogBlog he has a grievance for entirely different reasons than Schmidt’s. “Current state officials like Schmidt have systematically ignored the growing impacts of fracking the Bakken on people and livelihoods,” he said. “They see themselves as promoters of the oil industry and have taken on the role of providing services to the oil industry. Everyone else can be collateral damage.”
Steve Horn is a Madison, WI-based freelance investigative journalist and Research Fellow at DeSmogBlog, where this piece first appeared.