Mercer pitches, Krebs swings!
Pierre political reporter Bob Mercer complained last weekend that South Dakota’s campaign finance laws gives PACs and unchallenged or inactive campaign committees too much leeway to pour money into campaigns without timely public scrutiny. Now Mercer reports that Secretary of State Shantel Krebs will convene a panel of legislators, Board of Elections members, and businesspeople (businesspeople? Why that sector specifically? Why not journalists? Civics teachers? Poli sci profs? Construction and CAFO workers?) to review our campaign finance system:
Proposed changes will be presented at the October meeting of Board of Elections.
“She wants the review to ensure that the public and candidates have access to information that clearly identifies who is funding political committees when the information is most relevant,” [SOS spokesman Jason] Williams said.
“The full review of campaign finance laws would also help to make them more straightforward and easy to understand for candidates,” he added [Bob Mercer, “After Secretive Funding in Primaries, Krebs Plans Campaign Finance Review,” Mitchell Daily Republic, 2016.06.16].
The Secretary’s review panel should include in its discussions Initiated Measure 22, the Anti-Corruption Act, which would add the following requirements to our campaign finance reporting system:
- Section 21 lifts the reporting exemptions that irk Mercer: Everyone except for candidates for county office and committees who already file with the Federal Election Commission would have to report campaign finance activity during non-election years, and candidate committees would have to file pre-primary and pre-general reports even if they aren’t on the ballot.
- Section 21 adds “fifth Tuesday” reports due five weeks before primary and general elections. These reports would alert the public sooner to who is supporting various candidates and ballot questions.
- Section 21 adds a “fourth Friday” post-primary report and “second Friday” post-general report, which would give the public more timely information about the final dollars that poured into campaigns.
- Section 22 requires committees to report the occupation and employers of donors who give more than $500 in one calendar year.
- Section 23 requires committees to file “timely contribution disclosure statements” when any donor’s aggregate support tops $500 for the year. Usually, committees must report this information electronically within five days of receipt of the 501st dollar; however, if we’re only 20 days or less from a vote, committees must file those timely reports within 24 hours.
- Section 28 requires any committee receiving at least $1,000 to file all campaign finance reports electronically. Those reports have to be typed; handwritten and scanned PDFs are verboten.
- Section 30 requires the Secretary of State to make all campaign finance reporting data available to the public for free, both as bulk downloadable file and as “retrievable, downloadable, indexable, and electrinocially searchable” online database. (Yeeeessssss!!!)
Initiated Measure 22 would take a big whack at the transparency Mercer and other interested citizens want. If special interests succeed in beating IM 22 back on their dubious concerns about the small-donor/public campaign finance system, Secretary Krebs should consider bringing the above campaign finance reporting provisions of IM 22 to the Legislature as their own reform package.