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'Last Week Tonight' takes jab at North Dakota attorney general

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"Last Week Tonight" host John Oliver. Image from video2 / 2

A recent segment of "Last Week Tonight" included a poke at North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem for his participation in a retreat for which lobbyists paid big bucks to mingle with state AGs.

Sunday's episode featured host John Oliver discussing issues related to state attorneys general. One part included a CBS news report of a lavish retreat hosted by the Republican Attorneys General Association, where at least nine AGs — including Stenehjem — hobnobbed with industries and lobbyists who paid $125,000 for an invitation to the four-day retreat in April in South Carolina.

"Now, RAGA says there is absolutely no quid pro quo there, so I guess those groups simply donated substantial amounts of money because they wanted to chillax to the max at a resort-casual clam bake with North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem," Oliver said.

"Oh yeah, he's not just the AG of North Dakota, he's the ... mayor of Margaritaville. Wayne parties ... hard. He's an animal."

Stenehjem, who is seeking re-election as North Dakota's longest-serving attorney general, took Oliver's comments in stride, saying he's "used to having fun poked at me."

"My son thought it was hilarious," Stenehjem said. "He recorded it and left me a note in the morning that said be sure to watch this."

Stenehjem also said events, such as the RAGA retreat, accomplish business: "It was a meeting like this where I put together the coalition of attorneys general that successfully challenged the very unpopular Waters of the U.S. rule."

The RAGA Action Fund donated $10,000 to Stenehjem's re-election campaign, which Stenehjem said "is a very modest contribution" that "pales in comparison" to the $32 million raised in North Dakota's U.S. Senate race between Democrat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer.

Last week, David Thompson, Stenehjem's Democratic-NPL opponent, criticized Stenehjem for the RAGA retreat after Gov. Doug Burgum's office released an ethics policy that addressed conflicts of interest, gifts, expenses and political activity.

“As Attorney General, I will institute clear ethical guidelines for myself and my staff, so North Dakotans do not have to wonder whose side I am on," Thompson said in a statement. "North Dakota’s next Attorney General has to make it clear: The Office of the Attorney General is not for sale.”

Stenehjem said, while his office has no ethics policy, "everything that I do is strictly in compliance with the law."

"I've been doing this for 18 years. The people of North Dakota know me, and they know they can trust me to do the right thing, to uphold the Constitution and hold businesses accountable when they should be and work to develop job creators in North Dakota," he said. "That's what I've been doing for 18 years."

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