Republican legislators have been trying to placate crackerbarrel crowds made grouchy by the repeal of Initiated Measure 22 by promising to pass replacement bills that will enact the policies voters said they wanted last November.
But yesterday, Republican Senators killed one of the key provisions promised by IM22: a commission to enforce campaign finance law.
Secretary of State Shantel Krebs proposed Senate Bill 53 to create a campaign finance ethics commission. Secretary Krebs’s CFEC wouldn’t have the scope of IM 22’s state ethics commission, but it would be better than the status quo, in which South Dakota has no campaign finance cops, nobody charged with auditing campaign finance reports. As Secretary Krebs told Senate State Affairs yesterday, the only heat she can bring now on campaign finance violations is late-filing penalties (and even those don’t appear to burn hot enough for some campaign crooks).
But when Democratic Senate Minority Leader Billie Sutton proposed an amendment to enact the campaign finance enforcement of IM 22 in a safe, constitutional fashion under the Secretary of State, every Republican on Senate State Affairs rejected the amendment and then voted to table SB 53.
Tabling isn’t quite the same death as deferral to the 41st day, but not many items come back off the table in the Legislature.
Secretary Krebs perhaps wasn’t expecting this defeat: her Senate Bill 54, the other part of her task force’s big campaign finance reform package, still assigns enforcement duties to the Campaign Finance Ethics Commission, in both its original text and in the amendment proposed yesterday after the tabling of SB 53. Senate State Affairs deferred SB 54 for further discussion Wednesday.
So let’s be clear: voters may want campaign finance reform, and legislators may be promising a variety of bills toward that end, but Republican Senators Bolin, Curd, Ewing, Langer, Maher, Netherton, Novstrup made clear they are not eager to create any toothy commission to enforce campaign finance laws.
This Republican hesitance to enforce campaign finance laws on themselves is shown by their foot-dragging on two other campaign finance enforcement measures, Larry Rhoden’s Ethics Lite (HB 1089) and Karen Soli’s Government Accountability Board (HB 1076), which haven’t been scheduled for first committee hearing yet.
Don’t be fooled, voters: replacement bills for IM 22 don’t do any good if the Legislature isn’t going to enforce them.