The Government Accountability Task Force, another pretense of concern created by the Legislature to distract us from the repeal of the campaign finance reform we said we wanted in Initiated Measure 22, is hosting subcommittee meetings next week Monday in Rapid City and Tuesday in Sioux Falls. The task force wants to “receive public input on state campaign finance limits and reporting requirements.” Obviously task force chairman and rookie Senator Jordan Youngberg, who joined his Republicans last winter in repealing IM 22, would rather hear public input in a limited, non-binding committee hearing than on a statewide ballot.
The task force has heard some proposals for campaign finance reforms. In a memo presented at last week’s meeting, state Chamber of Commerce chief David Owen expanded on a suggestion he offered in June to the Initiative and Referendum Task Force. Owen says the Chamber would like to be able to create an ongoing ballot action committee to fundraise and campaign for or against ballot questions:
There are elections when groups want to address several ballot measures. The ability to have member[s] contribute to a ballot action committee, which would be reportable contributions, that might be spent on the group’s behalf for more than one issue makes it easier for public policy groups to address the issues that are on the ballot.
Ongoing donations could build a fund that would allow groups to be ready to address issues as they arise. The flow of contributions doesn’t always line up with a business'[s] ability to make a contribution. Having an ongoing committee would let organizations be better preared to address issues in advance of the[ir] being on the ballot [David Owen, South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry, memo to Government Accountability Task Force, 2017.08.29].
Owen is on the right track here. It was absurd that South Dakota activists who wanted to lobby for the payday lending rate cap and lobby against the payday lenders’ decoy amendment on the 2016 ballot had to form separate committees for each measure. Requiring those committees to all disband right after the election creates further unnecessary paperwork and expense for groups who expect to be involved in ballot question campaigns every cycle. The state should allow groups like the Chamber which may have a keen interest in disparate ballot measures every year, to establish a single committee to handle all of its ballot question campaigning across multiple election cycles.
But don’t let me shout too loud. If Youngberg and his Republican colleagues think we regular folks might like an idea related to ballot questions, they’ll knock it down right away. Let the Chamber speak to the ongoing ballot action committee concept, and our pro-business Republican friends will send that measure sailing straight to the Governor’s desk by February 1. Keep up the pressure, Mr. Owen!