News & Politics

North Dakota Wants Paid Pipeline Protesters to Pay State Taxes

File - In this Jan. 2, 2017 file photo, protesters rally against the Dakota Access Pipeline behind the 128th Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif. The front lines of the battle against the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline are shifting away from the dwindling encampment in North Dakota. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker, File)

The protests at the Dakota Access Pipeline project have cost the state of North Dakota $22 million in taxes and now the state wants the paid agitators hired by environmental groups to pay their fair share of state taxes.

Washington Times:

Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger said his office is keeping an eye out for tax forms from environmental groups that may have hired protesters to agitate against the 1,172-mile, four-state pipeline project.

“It’s something we’re looking at. I can tell you I’ve had a number of conversations with legislators regarding this very issue,” said Mr. Rauschenberger. “[We’re] looking at the entities that have potential paid contractors here on their behalf doing work.”

It’s no secret that millions have been funneled into the six-month-old demonstration via crowdfunding websites, and that more than 30 environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, Indigenous Environmental Network, Food and Water Watch, and Greenpeace, have backed the protest.

If national environmental organizations are paying protest personnel, they’re not saying so publicly. Still, Mr. Rauschenberger said red flags will be raised if he doesn’t start seeing W2 or 1099 tax forms from those affiliated with the protest arriving at his office.

“It’s something we could possibly pursue if we don’t see 1099s coming in for the activity,” Mr. Rauschenberger said.

The ongoing demonstration has been costly to the state. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota Democrat, issued a plea last week for federal help with unruly protesters, some still camped out on federal land, after President Trump moved to expedite the pipeline review.

North Dakota lawmakers asked repeatedly for aid from the Obama administration without success.

“After five months of protests, over 600 arrests related to those protests, and more than $22 million in North Dakota taxpayer dollars spent on law enforcement resources to keep North Dakotans safe during the protests, state and local law enforcement agencies are in dire need of federal support,” Ms. Heitkamp said in her letter.

Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier has criticized “paid agitators” who crossed the line from peaceful protest to lawbreaking by trespassing on private property, blocking highways and bridges and throwing rocks, feces and burning logs at law enforcement.

“If an organization is directly paying someone to come and do activities on their behalf, even protesting — if they’re receiving income and they’re here in North Dakota performing activities for an organization, they owe income tax from Day One,” Mr. Rauschenberger said. “And that entity should be issuing 1099s. Just like a contractor.”

Whether protesters would be required to report income based on crowdfunding donations falls into more of a gray area, he said.

It’s a time-honored method of agitation by left-wing organizations — especially unions — to hire paid goons to either initiate violence or provoke the police into a violent response.

And the goons don’t have to be told what to do. They know what they’re hired for and have a variety of strategies they can employ to exacerbate a tense situation.

No doubt the environmental groups are paying the protesters in cash in order to avoid state and federal taxes. This is also a crime, of course, but unless authorities can catch the perpetrators in the act, it’s very hard to prove.

One would think the Trump administration would be more sympathetic to state government about the costs associated with the protests, especially since some of those protests are apparently on federal land. But even with new funding, those protesters aren’t going anywhere until they are physically removed. This is exactly what they want — to make the Dakota Access Pipeline protest a bloody mess for the government and the company.