What does it mean if the Legislature holds task force subcommittee meetings on campaign finance reform and nobody shows up? Senator Jordan Youngberg (R-8/Madison) concludes people are done caring about the topic:
Just two members of the public showed up to Tuesday’s forum at Southeast Tech, where the Government Accountability Task Force was prepared to hear testimony on campaign finance limits and reporting requirements. The group also held a meeting in Rapid City this week that was also poorly attended.
Sen. Jordan Youngberg, chair of the task force, chalked the scant testimony up to a dwindling desire to explore the subject [Dana Ferguson, “Does Low Turnout Signal Fizzling Support for Campaign Finance Reform?” that Sioux Falls paper, updated 2017.09.13].
Fellow Senator Billie Sutton (D-21/Burke) suggests that, after seeing Youngberg and his Republican friends repeal Initiated Measure 22, people are done caring about legislators:
“I would suspect there’s a fair amount of frustration from voters that said, ‘We did speak and it doesn’t matter if we show up or not because the Legislature is going to repeal what we pass,'” said Sen. Billie Sutton, D-Burke. “I don’t know that all of this would have been necessary if we would have just implemented what the voters wanted” [Ferguson, 2017.09.13].
Scott Ehrisman suggests the low turnout comes from scheduling a hearing right at 5 p.m. on a workday:
So you give little notice for a meeting, on a Tuesday afternoon, at 5 PM in some obscure room on the far NW part of town and wonder why no one is there? You are kidding right? First off, 5 PM is a horrible time for a meeting. It should have been at least after 6 PM or on a Saturday. Secondly, Tuesday night is a busy government city meeting night with informationals, committee meetings and a council meeting. With school just starting, this is also another reason why busy parents could not attend. And the location? Some room in the center of the University Center campus? It should have been held at the DT library or Carnegie (on a different night) [link added; Scott Ehrisman, “Legislator Youngberg Is Either Playing Dumb, or Maybe He Is Just This Stupid,” South DaCola, 2017.09.13].
Ferguson says that Senator Youngberg “wasn’t sure what more he could’ve done to promote the hearing.” To his minimal credit, Youngberg did promote the hearings on his official Facebook page, with one post 18 minutes before the Rapid City meeting opened and another five hours before the Sioux Falls meeting opened.
I can give Youngberg’s statement some weight. People were willing to take entire days off work to truck out to Pierre and lobby to protect Initiated Measure 22 from Senator Youngberg and his party’s wanton disregard for popular democracy. The lack of comparable agitation aimed at Youngberg’s campaign finance panel suggests some waning of interest. But the factors Ehrisman and Sutton site provide reasonable counter-explanations: two quick-hit, non-binding subcommittee meetings given minimal pre-press aren’t the most reliable thermometers to stick in the turkey of public interest.
To really see how much South Dakotans care about campaign finance reform, we’ll have to wait until November 6 to see how many of them have signed the petition to put Initiated Measure 22 2.0 on the 2018 ballot. (Remember, before the fairs, that count was 16,484… a good thousand times more than the number of people who ducked out of work early to spend a nice summer evening trying to get through to Senator Youngberg.)