A Republican campaign guru said something earlier this campaign season about how newsletter inserts in the local paper are a waste of campaign funds. (My third campaign newsletter will appear in the Aberdeen American News later this month—stay tuned!)
That guru must be apoplectic over his own District 19 GOP favorites’ ignoring his advice and wasting monumental sums on a full four-page insert masquerading as the James River Republican in the latest Emery Enterprise and Alexandria Herald:
The newsletter appears to be paid for by the District 19 GOP wonderkids: incumbent Rep. Kent Peterson of Salem, incumbent Rep. and arguably myopic Mid-Central Educational Cooperative auditor Kyle Schoenfish of Scotland, and Governor Dennis Daugaard’s favorite newcomer Caleb Finck of Tripp. All three stand in Tuesday’s primary against arguably more conservative challengers.
I’m still waiting to obtain a complete copy of this gem, but none of the clips I’ve seen bear a complete byline. Whoever wrote this GOP mainstream rag thinks the most valuable use of their front page real estate is not “VOTE FOR THESE GUYS” but a lengthy ramble about the merits of the Electoral College, the U.S. Senate, and federalism. I appreciate a good civics lesson, fellas, but I guarantee you, nothing on that front page adds a vote to your column.
Elsewhere, the newsletter turns to ballot questions, wherein we learn you won’t learn the facts about ballot measures from Republicans:
“JUST SAY NO on everying,” says the nameless Editor, who apparently didn’t edit much.
Peterson, Schoenfish, and Finck attack all ten ballot measures not by discussing the details of each measure and the faults therein. Instead, they encourage reactionary do-nothingness (oh, right, these are Republicans) by advancing the thesis that out-of-state groups are duping South Dakotans into passing laws that the Legislature hasn’t reviewed.
Peterson, Schoenfish, and Finck drop so many Buridanian haystacks of fallacy that I almost can’t pick where to start munching. Almost.
Out-of-state groups have pushed some unwise ballot measures in South Dakota. But they haven’t enjoyed much success: South Dakotans soundly defeated the two examples offered, legalization of medical marijuana and the whacky, Cliven-Bundyesque JAIL amendment. (To the best of my knowledge, no South Dakota ballot measure has ever sought to “legalize drugs”… and I am open to correction from Bob Newland and other experts on just how much out-of-state support was behind the 2010 and 2006 medical marijuana measures and the 2002 industrial hemp measure.)
Initiated Measure 21, the real 36% rate cap on this year’s ballot, is not the product of an out-of-state group. The sponsors and heads of South Dakotans for Responsible Lending are Sioux Falls men Steve Hildebrand, Steve Hickey, and Reynold Nesiba. Of the roughly $28,200 in campaign contributions reported on South Dakotans for Responsible Lending’s 2015 year-end and 2016 pre-primary reports, $2,200 has come from out-of-state donors, and $2,000 of that “imported” money came from former South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle in Washington, D.C. North Carolina’s Center for Responsible Lending has provided over $5,800 in consulting as an in-kind contribution, but that hardly looks like an outside group dominating the drive to cap interest payday lending rates at 36%.
Initiated Measure 22, the Anti-Corruption Act, is spearheaded by Sioux Falls businessman Rick Weiland. (I guess to these District 19 boys, Sioux Falls feels like another state rather than the home of a quarter of the people they serve in Pierre.) His South Dakotans for Ethics Reform Committee has gotten all of its actual $228,500 in campaign cash from Represent Us, which oh-my-Gaia is based in Massachusetts. Boom! Out-of-state funders! Must be evil! Take your state ethics commission, lobbying reform, campaign finance limits, and voluntary public campaign finance system and pahk ’em in Hahvahd Yahd!
Of course, if Peterson, Schoenfish, and Finck were really trying to make a case against the evil of out-of-state ballot measures, they’d have focused on the most glaring examples on this year’s ballot. IM 22 may have out-of-state backers, but they were set in motion by South Dakotan Rick Weiland, who recognized the need for reforms, talked with lots of South Dakotans about options, picked a couple, and then went looking for funding. Peter-fish-Finck can stage a much bigger foreign freakout over Amendment S, the duplicative crime victims bill of rights. The entire text of that ballot measure as well as nearly every dollar of the over $792,000 poured into that ballot question (year-end, pre-primary) has come from one man, California billionaire Henry T. Nicholas.
Likewise for Amendment U, the fake 36% rate cap. This deliberately deceptive ballot measure, a blatant attempt to use our initiative laws to undermine the genuine, grassroots Initiated Measure 21, has received nearly all of its $2.43 million (Furlong year-end, pre-primary; Thuringer year-end, pre-primary) from one source: Select Management Resources, Rod Aycox’s Georgia-based payday lending corporation. (By the way, the third committee created to fight the real rate cap, consisting of Pierre lobbyists Brett Koenecke and Doug Abraham, terminated itself May 24.)
If out-of-state involvement in ballot measures is an offense, Peter-fish-Finck would be spotlighting the worst offenders. But that would also mean spotlighting one of their best Republican buddies, Pierre-based GOP consultant Jason Glodt, who is fronting Henry T. Nicholas’s vanity project in South Dakota.
The District 19 boys’ failure to discuss the Nicholas/Glodt Amendment S shows their failure to think through their argument on two other fronts.
Reread their penultimate paragraph, where they say we need to “take a far more critical look at all these laws that people are attempting to pass that have not gone through the state legislature.” I’ve already noted that Peter-fish-Finck aren’t taking a critical look at all these laws; they are taking a misleading glance at two of the ten. But then they add this remarkable criterion that a ballot measure lacks merit if it has not first been reviewed by the Legislature.
- Initiated Measure 21 exists specifically because former legislator Steve Hickey tried more than once to get the Legislature to pass reasonable restrictions on payday lending. When the payday lenders offered to support a compromise bill and then reneged, Hickey turned to the initiative process.
- Initiated Measure 22 includes a state ethics committee. Rep. Peggy Gibson has tried multiple times to get the Legislature to restore the state ethics commission, to no avail.
- Amendment T would end gerrymandering with an independent redistricting commission. Former legislator Bill Thompson and others have offered multiple redistricting reforms, all of which have been killed by a Republican majority heck-bent on keeping its map advantage.
- Initiated Measure 23 would allow unions to collect “fair-share dues” from non-members whom the law requires unions to represent in collective bargaining. Rep. Patrick Kirschman brought a similar proposal before the Legislature in 2009, only to see it defeated.
- Amendment R is on the ballot because the Legislature put it there.
“all these laws… that have not gone through the state legislature”?! Heck—five of the eight initiated measures that Peter-fish-Finck want us to reject out of hand have had legislative review.
The clearest example of a measure coming out of nowhere, with no legislative consideration, is the Nicholas/Glodt Amendment. I’ve argued previously that if there really were gaps in victims’ rights, local advocacy groups and prosecutors would have brought those gaps to the Legislature’s attention, and legislators eager for a passable softball would have jumped at the chance to sponsor such a feel-good measure. No such noise has arisen. Nicholas and Glodt have blindsided the Legislature and the public with a measure no one not on Nicholas’s payroll has been crying for.
When these three District 19ers cry “Legislature first!” they either don’t know the history of these issues or are simply grasping for arguments that they haven’t really thought through.
Finally, crying “JUST SAY NO” is not the “critical look” Peterson, Schoenfish, and Finck ask for. It’s the frustrated cry of sub-par candidates with an allergy to critical thinking. Ballot measures aren’t drugs, Nancy—they are policy proposals that each deserve serious analysis and votes. Peter-fish-Finck can’t even exert the mental muscle to craft a position that tackles the measures they oppose without undermining the measures their party pals want. By crying “NO×10,” Peter-fish-Finck show they didn’t get the memo from their party buddy Jason Glodt that Amendment S is a good thing. They do my devious Democratic bidding by telling people to vote down Referred Laws 19 and 20, the Incumbent Protection Plan and youth minimum wage that their GOP leaders passed out of partisan snark in 2015. They help me out by knocking down the payday lenders amendment that could protect their industry buddies from our Sandersesque urges once and for all. Crying NO×10, far from clever strategy, only grates your pals’ cheese, spots me four big wins, and lets me focus on prying away just enough votes on the other issues to advance the Democratic agenda.
Look, if you guys just don’t want to think about the issues and prefer just to grunt NO on everything, that’s your business. But don’t burn up good newsprint with flimsy, false attacks that encourage the rest of the electorate to adopt your obfuscatory incuriosity.
Now, how can I boil all that down for my next simple, cost-effective, single-page campaign newsletter?
Bonus Campaign Finance Challenge! I invite readers and the Secretary of State to discuss whether Peterson, Schoenfish, and Finck need to file an Independent Expenditure statement (within 48 hours of publication!) in accordance with SDCL 12-27-16 for issuing a political communication that expressly advocates against multiple ballot questions.