The payday lenders’ failed lawsuit against Attorney General Marty Jackley’s official explanation of Initiated Measure 21, the real 36% rate cap, was evidently nothing personal. The same company that sued him is also one of his biggest corporate donors:
Republican Rep. David Jolly of Florida* has advocated my solution of requiring the House to put in a full work week during session. On 60 Minutes, last night, Rep. Jolly spoke about a bigger solution he has proposed—H.R. 4443, the Stop Act—which would ban members of Congress from directly asking for campaign cash.
Rep. Rick Nolan, Democrat from Minnesota, has joined Rep. Jolly to cosponsor the Stop Act. Rep. Nolan says the current fundraising demands placed on members by their parties are turning our Congresspeople into telemarketers:
Congressman Rick Nolan, a Democrat from Minnesota, is also co-sponsoring the Stop Act. Nolan was first elected to Congress in 1974 but served just six years. He returned in 2013.
Rep. Rick Nolan: It seems like I took a nap and I came back and I say, “Wow, what happened to this place? What’s happened to democracy?” I mean, the Congress of the United States has hardly become a democratic institution anymore.
Norah O’Donnell: Why?
Rep. Rick Nolan: Well, because of all the money in politics, in my judgment.
Norah O’Donnell: What has your party said about how members of Congress should raise money?
Rep. Rick Nolan: Well, both parties have told newly elected members of the Congress that they should spend 30 hours a week in the Republican and Democratic call centers across the street from the Congress, dialing for dollars.
Norah O’Donnell: Thirty hours a week?
Rep. Rick Nolan: Thirty hours is what they tell you you should spend. And it’s discouraging good people from running for public office. I could give you names of people who’ve said, “You know, I’d like to go to Washington and help fix problems, but I don’t want to go to Washington and become a mid-level telemarketer, dialing for dollars, for crying out loud.”
Norah O’Donnell: You’re saying members of Congress are becoming like telemarketers?
Our Rep. Kristi Noem isn’t a sponsor yet. She should be. Better yet, rather than passing legislation to govern their own behavior, our current members of Congress should vow not to spend any time in the fundraising call center in Washington, at least not until they’ve passed a complete budget and cleared all the other bills off the Congressional calendar. And our Democratic candidates, Paula Hawks for House and Jay Williams for Senate, should vow to ignore those fundraising demands and never set foot in those D.C. call centers when they go to Washington to serve South Dakota.
We need Congresspeople, not telemarketers. We should say to Congress the same thing we say to distracted drivers: Get off the phone and drive… in this case, drive informed political discourse and intelligent policy solutions!
*Correction 18:20 CDT: As Rep. Schoenbeck notes below, I mislabeled Rep. Jolly’s home state. The good Congressman represents the 13th district in Florida, not Wisconsin. He has won support from two Wisconsin co-sponsors, Rep. Sean Duffy and Rep. Reid Ribble.
As a Senate candidate, I’m telling my District 3 neighbors that I will fight corruption by being a watchdog, just as I do here on the blog, asking questions, finding and reporting real data, and speaking truth to power.
Potential Senate candidate Lora Hubbel (she’s not on the official list yet, but she swears on Facebook that she sent her District 9 petition in yesterday) says she’ll fight corruption right now by hiring Magnum PI to get to “the real story” behind the deaths of GEAR UP scandal king- and queen-pins Scott and Nicole Westerhuis and their children last September in Platte:
It’s a free country, and in South Dakota, we candidates are freer than most to spend our campaign contributions however we see fit. But I think I’ll spend my $15,000 to $20,000 on print ads and parade shirts before I hire a detective to try to prove that Attorney General Marty Jackley is lying to us.
But Lora, if your P.I. finds anything, let us know. If you make it to the Senate with me, I’ll be glad to have your help rooting out corruption.
Correction 12:23 CST: An eager reader tweets me the link to Heartland Values PAC’s FEC report for last year. It shows two $5K contributions to Ron Johnson on January 24, 2015. Last year, Heartland Values PAC gave $95K last year to ten Republicans and the National Republican Senate Committee, but none to Russ Feingold or any other Democrat. I regret the error and will notify OpenSecrets.org. Aside from the incorrect statement that Thune is backing Feingold, everything else in the original post below appears to be correct; I thus preserve the text and links below for reference.
—–original erroneous post—–
Here’s a quick morning puzzler: Why is Senator John Thune’s PAC supporting Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold?
Heartland Values PAC exists to promote “common sense conservative values.” (Note to readers: please find me an example of any candidate or organization who makes an argument for uncommon sense.) Since ascending to the Senate and forming this PAC, Thune has made sure it sends money exclusively to Republicans. (He gave $10,000 to his own party’s big loser Bruce Whalen in 2006.)
Initiated Measure 22, the Anti-Corruption Act, is the biggest measure on South Dakota’s 2016 ballot, with 70 sections of new statutes and amendments to reform lobbying, impose new limits on campaign contributions, create a public financing option for South Dakota campaigns, and restore a statewide ethics commission to keep all those programs clean and more. From Ken Santema’s recording of the February 8, 2016, Brown County Democratic Forum, here’s my five-minute explanation:
Check corruption and Big Money in South Dakota politics—vote YES on IM 22!
Our ballot measures stop at ten—medical marijuana doesn’t make the cut!
Secretary of State Shantel Krebs and her team finally finished reviewing the medical marijuana petition circulated by Melissa Mentele of Emery and determined it does not have the 13,871 signatures necessary to place it on the ballot with the seven other voter initiatives, two voter referenda, and one legislatively referred amendment on the 2016 ballot.
New Approach SD said they submitted 16,631 signatures on November 9, 2015. Secretary Krebs calculates the group submitted 16,543. The Secretary’s 5% random sample found a 45.48% error rate, meaning she calculates the medical marijuana petition only had 9,019 valid signatures.
If I went for the stereotypical shot, I’d say I wasn’t surprised. If a petition has “marijuana” in its text, expect error. The 2010 medical marijuana initiative had a 40.5% error rate. The circulators of the broader marijuana decriminalization petition last year couldn’t even get enough signatures to submit.
But Melissa Mentele didn’t strike me as the stereotypical pothead playing at politics. When I interviewed her at the Brown County Fair last summer, she struck me as a serious and effective organizer. New Approach SD got an infusion of cash that allowed them to hire petition circulators at $25 an hour during the last couple weeks of the petition circulation period in late October and early November, which might have signaled that someone else recognized Mentele’s organizational merits and guaranteed that the signature count would clear the bar.
But that last-minute infusion turns out not to have been very big. Remember that payday lender Rod Aycox spent $1.7 million on his paid circulators and blocker goons to boost his fake 18% rate cap petition. Real 36% rate cappers Steve Hildebrand, Steve Hickey, Reynold Nesiba and friends spent about $32K in direct and in-kind contributions (including $2,000 from Tom Daschle! Way to engage, Tom!) to collect their 19,936 signatures.
New Approach SD spent $17,277.50. Their cash infusion appears to be four dudes, including Mr. Mentele:
Robert Havens runs a medical cannabis clinic in Anaheim, California. The other three named donors are South Dakotans. And their combined efforts apparently couldn’t buy enough valid signatures to put medical marijuana on the ballot.
But New Approach SD isn’t giving up. They get the same thirty days to challenge the Secretary’s rejection that citizens get to challenge the Secretary’s validation of a petition. But right now, Mentele’s team is focusing on the legislative route. Shortly after the Secretary’s rejection of their petition, New Approach SD issued this call to action:
We were notified today that our petitions did not pass the validation process. Our initiative will not be on the Nov 2016 ballot….however we have a very small window to pull a rabbit out of our hats and have the Legislature sponsor the same bill.
Our bill was submitted to the LRC today to be put into legislative format by a compassionate SD Senator. Now we need to do some work to help her out. Our best chance of getting some reform passed this session lies with the Health and Human Services Committee. We need their Chair and Vice Chair from both houses to sponsor this bill. What we need is all of you to contact:
Sen. Bruce Rampelberg
You can also go onto the website of http://legis.sd.gov and look up the Health and Human Services Committee members & contact them.
Be respectful and tell them your story and why it is so important to have access in SD. Be honest and ask them to please sponsor this bill to help SD’s most fragile residents.
We have until Friday at 8am to have them help us. The bill is there in the LRC office and all it needs is a compassionate group of our elected officials to move it forward [New Approach South Dakota, Facebook post, 2016.02.03].
New Approach SD can challenge the Secretary’s rejection of their petition. But if they can find a couple sponsors, put their 95-section medical marijuana initiative before the Legislature, and make the case in committee, could get their law on the books without having to wage a statewide campaign. It’s a longshot, but then so is overturning a 45.48% error rate and proving that the Secretary of State was wrong about 4,852 signatures… or, if we’re talking about the 5% random sample, that SOS Krebs was wrong about 377 out of 828 signatures.
p.s.: She wasn’t wrong about my signature! While I was visiting the Secretary of State’s office last week, elections coordinator Rachel Schmidt turned to me and asked if she needed to check the voter registration database for my name. I asked why. She was working on the 5% sample of the medical marijuana petition and had drawn the signature line that I signed last August. I did what I could to keep that error rate below 50%!
Among ballot question committees, we have a lot of folks waiting for the last minute. My quick scan of the new campaign finance database shows that only a few of us have submitted our reports on how much we raised and how much we spent to get our various proposals on the ballot.
I was the first to submit year-end reports for ballot questions. On Referred Laws 19 and 20 combined, the state Democrats and I expended $13,171.50, 89% of that for paid circulators. Split that figure, and we got each measure on the ballot for less than $6,700.
William K. Thomssen, treasurer for South Dakotans for Fair Compensation, reported Tuesday that his group raised $158,500, all but $100 of that from the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49. They spent every penny of Local 49’s money on their petition drive, although the only item they list for expenses is “Consulting.” Once again, “consulting” appears to be a euphemism for spending a whole lot of money on results one could have gotten much more cheaply. They got roughly the same number of signatures for Initiated Measure 23 as we got for Referred Law 20, but they spent almost 24 times as much.
I’ll give Pat Powers a little credit: he appears to be realizing that reprinting press releases from his Republican sponsors adds no value to the South Dakota Blogosphere. But as he tries this week to generate a little more original blog content, we still can’t trust him to get the whole story.
One of the locals noticed that the return address on the reverse was “Redfield Parks & Recreation” and sent a copy to Powers, who sounded the alarm about SDCL 12-27-20, which prohibits the expenditure of public funds to influence and election. If Appel’s city department had sent out this flyer, she might have been able to contend that her group’s flyer fit the exception to the public financing ban that allows public entities to “present factual information solely for the purpose of educating the voters on a ballot question.” The flyer just says “VOTE” rather than “Vote YES,” but the “Why build?” and “Why stay?” sections are pro-building, with no countering disadvantages. A public entity sending out such a flyer would likely be in hot water…
Clarification: Recently a mailing went out to the public containing information for the new school. The return address on the mailing was the address of the Park and Recreation Department. This mailing was published, paid for, and sent by a staff member of the Park and Recreation Department. No Park and Recreation or City of Redfield funds were spent in the creation or the mailing of the document. This was only a printing error. If you have any questions, please contact Heidi Appel at 460-2444. Thank you and sorry for any confusion [Redfield Parks and Recreation, Facebook post, 2016.01.19].
Appel said she sent the job to the printer using her parks and rec email, but paid for it with her personal credit card. When proofing the job before it was sent out from the printer, she failed to notice the incorrect return address.
…“In the proofing process, I didn’t see anything that would have let me believe that that’s what it would say,” Appel said. “I don’t blame it on the printer, it was probably a proofing error on my part” [Katherine Grandstrand, “Redfield School Mailer Causes Confusion,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.01.20].
Hmmm… so the department didn’t spend any money on paper or postage, but what about Appel’s use of her work e-mail? She didn’t send an e-mail to advocate for the school bond issue, but she expended public electrons to transmit campaign material and conduct campaign business. That might get her busted in Iowa, but South Dakota campaign finance law doesn’t explicitly address this situation.
The locals, including City Finance Officer Adam Hansen, appear not nearly as exercised about this issue as we out-of-towners:
There were a couple of phone calls to City Hall questioning the return address, as government funds cannot be used to influence the outcome of an election per state law.
City Finance Officer Adam Hansen said one person visited his office this week questioning the return address, but was satisfied when the situation was explained.
Appel says that even if she had used her personal address, this error may still have occurred, as the printer and locals might still have associated her name with her office. But I’d contend that even those electrons, coursing through the server of a public office, should not be carrying campaign materials. City officials, fellow teachers, policemen, don’t use your work e-mail for any campaign activities.
Carson is doing a lot of things that seem puzzling for a presidential campaign, but quite logical for a brand-building exercise. He is taking weeks off the campaign trail to go on a book tour. His campaign itself is structured much more like a scamming venture than a political one. An astronomical 69 percent of his fund-raising totals are spent on more fund-raising. (Bernie Sanders, by contrast, spends just 4 percent of his intake on fund-raising.) In addition to direct mail, Carson seems to have undertaken a massive phone-spamming operation. Spending most of your money to raise more money is not a good way to get elected president, but it is a good way to build a massive list of supporters that can later be monetized. Perhaps it is a giveaway that the official title for Armstrong Williams, the figure running the Carson “campaign,” is “business manager,” as opposed to “campaign manager.” It does suggests that Carson is engaged in a for-profit venture [Jonathan Chait, “Is Ben Carson Running for President?” New York Magazine, 2015.11.03].
What is only whispered within the Beltway is that the Carson candidacy is not so much a serious effort to make him president as a fundraising scheme–and a very effective one. A polished team is making millions flogging a hopeless black candidate to guild-ridden Republicans who are wasting every dollar they contribute. It’s a tactic they have perfected with several black long shots.
…NDBCPCC’s [National Draft Ben Carson for President Campaign Committee] direct-mail pieces are hucksterism at its finest. They claim that Dr. Carson won the first debate, that he can be trusted to protect the 2nd Amendment, and that 37 percent of all blacks are conservative. And how’s this for exploiting racial guilt:
“The problem is that for more than 50 years the Democrats and their friends in the national news media have been telling black voters that you and I are racists” [Hubert Collins, “The Ben Carson Money Machine,” American Renaissance, 2015.10.05].
NDBCPCC is the John Philip Sousa IV super PAC (yes, really) that has been helping a variety of people make lots of money since 2014 by promoting Carson as a Presidential candidate:
Q: How have you spent the money you’ve raised?
JPS4: Direct mail is very expensive, so a lot of money went to direct mail. Fundraising is expensive, period. We ran ads in black communities in North Carolina and Louisiana in the Senate races. Spent about half a million on that total.
Q: You’ve spent almost as much as you’ve raised. What do you say to critics who say this is just a lucrative project for contractors and consultants?
JPS4: I mean, the Post Office is doing really well, the printer is doing really well…these things all cost money. Our fundraising firm, Eberle, cut their prices pretty substantially for this cause. They’ve been good friends of mine for a lot of years. I’ve used them on a lot of campaigns. They earn every single dollar that they’ve charged us and I begrudge them not a penny.
Anyone who wants to say this is simply an effort to raise money to support a fundraising firm is just dead wrong. We are very committed, and I think our success over the last 16-18 months has been proven. Carson never talked about running before we started this [John Philip Sousa IV, interview with Chris Moody, “Inside the Push to Draft Ben Carson for President,” CNN, 2014.12.22].
Bonus #2: After the 2014 campaign, Base Connect chief operating officer Michael Centanni got 46 months in prison for child porn. So, uh, yeah, you could say the Bosworth campaign supported child pornography.
But state parties can’t really compete with super PACs when it comes to raising funds. Thanks to the federal McCain-Feingold law, which abolished soft money — unlimited funds donated to parties from wealthy individuals, corporations and unions — they’ve lost out in the contemporary money race. It’s instead being poured into super PACs or so-called dark money groups that don’t have to disclose the identity of their donors [Alan Greenblatt, “The Waning Power of State Political Parties,” Governing, December 2015].
If super PACs are draining the pool by giving skittish wealthy donors an outlet to hide their involvement, the answer is not to let parties take unlimited anonymous donations; the answer is to impose the same transparency on all political actors. Then state parties would have a better shot at the cash they need to do the things they are best at:
State parties do the often unglamorous work of building and maintaining a base, year in and year out, whether there’s an election or not. They mobilize loyal supporters and have a standing knowledge of voter behavior and concerns. Parties also play a unique role in coordinating activity and messaging between candidates at all levels, from legislators to the presidency. “A super PAC can fill the airwaves and Internet with effective, targeted negative messaging, but it cannot activate party supporters, who rely on local elected officials for guidance, support and patronage,” says Matt Hennessy, a Democratic consultant [Greenblatt, Dec 2015].
Short of overturning Citizens United (and with an election year coming up, the budget is the last thing Kristi, Mike, and John will get done in this Congress… if they can even agree on that!), what can parties do to get the money they need? And with the PACs exerting themselves for candidates, do the parties even need as much money to perform the basic functions listed above?