North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said Wednesday he will repay a Minnesota electric utility $37,000 for tickets the company provided him and his wife for Sunday's Super Bowl in Minneapolis.
Burgum and first lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum watched the game from a suite provided by Xcel Energy, which serves more than 90,000 customers in Grand Forks, Fargo and Minot. He said before going that he planned to use the opportunity to talk with Xcel officials about their service and infrastructure in North Dakota.
"We can't be doing that," GOP Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner said. "I don't think the governor was influenced in any way, but we as state officials just need to use good judgment."
Burgum, in a statement, said the tickets "have not influenced, and will not influence, my decision-making as governor. However, to eliminate even the perception of any conflict, I have reimbursed Xcel Energy for the full cost of the tickets."
By contrast, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton paid more than $6,000 for his own ticket to the Super Bowl. Democratic House Minority Leader Corey Mock of Grand Forks said if anyone could make the case for getting a free ticket to the game it would have been Minnesota's governor.
Burgum, a wealthy, former software executive, could afford his own, Mock said.
During his campaign for governor, Burgum 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.