An audit of the North Dakota Soybean Council, a state agency created to promote, market, and research soybeans, has found that grant funds allocated by the Council were used to pay a Legislative Educator for testifying in favor of two bills. The person in the position of Legislative Educator is also a Registered Lobbyist.
The Soybean Council provided a grant of up to $85,000 to the North Dakota Soybean Growers Association, which is a not-for-profit organization created to improve the soybean industry. The audit team did not calculate the exact dollar amount spent on lobbying from the grant. The grant’s purpose was to develop an educational program to inform elected officials about soybean production, excluding lobbying.
The audit reviewed the period of July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023, and found that grant funds were used to pay a Legislative Educator for testifying in favor of the following bills:
- House Bill 1501 which made the Soybean Council a non-governmental agency.
- Senate Bill 2259 which affected audits of commodity groups like the Soybean Council and what audit fees they can be charged.
Using grant funds to pay for lobbying is a violation of both the terms of the grant agreement — which state that the money will not be used for political, legislative, or lobbying purposes — and federal regulations that prohibit the use of these kinds of funds for lobbying activities.
The complete audit report can be found here.