Utility offered Burgum more than free Super Bowl tickets
By JAMES MacPHERSON
Feb. 17, 2018
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum's trip to the Super Bowl as a guest of a Minneapolis utility included free invitations to a rock concert, private parties, meals and other events, The Associated Press found through an open records request.
Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki said Saturday the GOP governor has reimbursed Xcel Energy for all costs related the weekend trip, with the sum now totaling almost $40,000.
Burgum and first lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum watched the Super Bowl in Minneapolis on Feb. 4 from a suite provided at no cost by Xcel Energy, which serves more than 90,000 customers in North Dakota.
The governor has been heavily criticized, including from within his Republican Party, for accepting the utility's gift, which he said gave him "quality time to engage in constructive conversations with top Xcel executives."
Burgum later said in a statement that he repaid $37,000 to the utility to "eliminate even the perception of any conflict."
A subsequent AP open records request found that the utility invited the first-term governor and his wife to other events during the Super Bowl weekend.
The correspondence showed that the utility was "thrilled" that Burgum would attend and pledged to make it a "memorable" experience. The governor's staff also was asked if Burgum had any "dietary restrictions."
Nowatzki said Burgum and his wife attended a Minnesota Wild hockey game, a private brunch and a tailgating party with Xcel officials. Burgum also attended a charity event but his wife didn't, and neither attended the rock concert, Nowatzki said.
Those events were not disclosed by Burgum but Nowatzki said the governor repaid the utility $2,500 to cover their costs at the same time he repaid the company for the Super Bowl tickets.
"He reimbursed it all, all at the same time," Nowatzki said.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton paid more than $6,000 out his own pocket for a ticket to his state's Super Bowl game.
During his campaign for governor, Burgum, a wealthy former software executive, often talked about "reinventing government," shaking up the "good old boy" party establishment and reining in "runaway spending" as the state's oil boom was fading.