Youngberg: If People Don’t Talk to Me About Campaign Finance Reform, the Issue Must Not Matter

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.)


4 Responses to Youngberg: If People Don’t Talk to Me About Campaign Finance Reform, the Issue Must Not Matter

  1. mike from iowa

    Disillusionment definitely causes despair
    Likely why no one was there
    Constituents need a reason to care

    One party gubmint is corrupt as heck
    John Q Public won’t wade through the dreck
    To show their affection by throttling your neck

    Your scheduling sucks, too.

  2. Donald Pay

    I am reading a book, “Corrutpion.” It talks about all different types of corruption and how to reduce or eliminate it.

    South Dakota’s style of corruption hasn’t usually occurred out in the open, like drug dealing on urban street corners or huge bribes to government officials. There is shame connected with corruption in South Dakota, which is why politicians go to such lengths to justify and hide it behind a system that generates and protects the corruption that goes on just out of sight of most citizens and many government officials. This shame probably explains the suicides, and why no one in charge seems to have any idea what the culprits were up to in the EB-5 and Mid-Central situations. It also explains that direct bribes aren’t a part of the corruption process. No one in South Dakota wants to be seen as corrupt, so they build a whole system of government around it to protect it from seeing the light of day. Many times the lower level state workers understand what’s happening, but they get reassigned, fired, threatened, etc. And the higher ups decide to pin it on the poor peons at the bottom, or on “misunderstandings.”

    Here’s my experience: the rot in South Dakota starts at the top. It’s not so much that low-life common criminals are slipping money to officials to ignore the drug deals. This is top government officials meeting with sleazy special interests who give to campaigns. It’s setting up “public private partnerships” and GOEDs and Mid-Centrals that have little or no public oversight. There are loopholes in public records laws that get carved out, and if not, officials find another way to hide information from the public. This is third-world style corruption without lavish bribes, but just enough to make everyone feel like they got a good deal.

    You want to know why no one showed up at the meeting? The crooks were running the meeting. What good would it do?

    There are several generations of corruption ingrained in South Dakota government. Generation after generation of this stuff. Corruption is a way of life. It was explained to me once as “the way we do business in South Dakota.” That’s how people feel about it. It’s just part of everyday life. They expect it, but the more corruption there is the more the legislators ignore it, find reasons to excuse it, say it wasn’t anyone’s fault, except the “bad apples.” They have an entire system built up around making sure it is never anyone’s fault, except to blame the corruption, if it is exposed, on a “bad apple.” If it isn’t exposed, if it is successfully covered up, well, there ain’t no corruption here, is there?

    What I’ve learned through this book and others is that there are three facets to corruption: the perpetrators, the government officials (also perpetrators) and a public that is willing to ignore it and allow the perpetrators to continue. When the people, through IM-22, started to take down that system, well, the other two main parties to corruption, the perps and government officials could not stand by and watch their entire system cave in around them. They had to protect it. And they did. Now they want to blame the public for not caring. The cycle continues.

  3. Roger Elgersma

    There are various levels of corruption. The most blatantly bad was to outright vote out IM 22, rather than to even modify it. This poorly advertized meeting and then scorning the voters for not showing is arrogance. Anything they do after voting out IM22 is just not trustworthy.

  4. mike from iowa

    A moment of silence please. Spaceship Cassini left the building at 4:55 AM Eastern Time. RIP where ever you are valiant warrior.