If Chairman Youngberg is keeping an eye on keeping his party leadership happy, he should consider drafting a bill to outlaw out-of-state contributions to candidates for state and local office. Such a measure would certainly boost House Speaker G. Mark Mickelson’s (R-13/Sioux Falls) initiative to outlaw out-of-state contributions to ballot question committees, since it would show that Republicans hold consistently to the principle that out-of-state money has a negative influence on South Dakota politics. Senator Youngberg could take the argument even further: if non-South Dakota money can harm South Dakota by inducing voters to pass one bad law, non-South Dakota money can do far more harm to South Dakota by inducing voters to elect one Governor who can push all sorts of bad laws for four years.
If you think that’s a good idea, head to Pierre Monday and say so to Senator Youngberg and his task force!
Our problem is addicted politicians. They have become “Koch addicts.”
To be elected and stay elected takes money, lots of money. So politicians depend on their “dealers.” And the “dealers” with the most money are people like the Koch brothers, who get politicians hooked and keep them hooked.
Politicians remain hooked “Koch addicts” through the threat of having their “fix” taken from them (if the “Koch” agenda is not served) and being given to someone else [Murray Smart, letter to the editor, Watertown Public Opinion, 2017.10.10].
Speaker Mickelson says the voter approved victims’ rights constitutional amendment is costing counties an additional $5 million statewide.
Mickelson says there are some good elements in Marsy’s Law, but those provisions don’t belong in the constitution.
“Some of them were already in state statute. Almost everyone would agree that the kinds of proposals that were in Marsy’s Law don’t belong in our constitution,” Mickelson says. “Our constitution is pretty sacred. It’s supposed to provide some overarching principles, and then we implement those principles with state statutes.”
Alas, Speaker Mickelson was too busy promoting his vo-tech governance amendment to second my argument and throw his influential voice into the debate against Marsy’s Law during the 2016 election cycle. Thus, he now faces the awkward prospect of trying to repeal yet another voter-approved initiative. At least this time, Mickelson can’t repeal the initiative burr under his saddle with a mere vote of 54 of his Republican friends in the Legislature; unlike Initiated Measure 22, the crime victims amendment stays in effect unless the Legislature puts it on the ballot and gets voters to change their minds and repeal it in the 2018 election.
Speaker Mickelson has rightly complained about Marsy’s Law as the prime example (and maybe the only really solid example) of how a ballot measure backed solely by out-of-state money leads to laws that aren’t relevant or helpful to South Dakota. Speaker Mickelson’s pre-general campaign finance report for 2016 shows but apparently Mickelson didn’t want to make that argument in 2016, when he accepted $7,100 in contributions from out-of-state PACs to secure his reëlection in District 13:
These contributions constitute less than one tenth of the total cash income Mickelson reported as of October 27, 2016. But they still represent one spike in the two-pronged attack Mickelson makes on his own political standing when he attacks the crime victims bill of rights and pushes his unconstitutional initiative to ban out-of-state money from ballot question campaigns. He is right to say Marsy’s Law and Henry T. Nicholas’s campaign mad money are bad for South Dakota. If he gets the Legislature to put a Marsy’s Law repeal on the 2018 ballot, I’ll support that repeal. But he must bear his own indictment for accepting influential out-of-state cash, and he must bear the burden of telling voters—the same voters who reëlected him—that they made a mistake in 2016.
South Dakota Forward, one of the groups formed in reaction to the grave errors of the 2016 election, has organized itself as a political action committee. Co-chairs Brooke Abdallah of Spearfish and Amanda Bachmann of Pierre say their PAC will “promote civic engagement, advocate for awareness on legislative issues, and champion candidates, initiatives, and ideas that aim to cultivate a more equal and inclusive state for all South Dakotans.”
In other news of Aberdonians getting a really early jump on the 2018 campaign, some of Aberdeen’s richest and Rightest are hosting a fundraiser for local boy Steve Barnett, who wants jump from his term-limited position as state auditor to secretary of state:
Piggybacking off a big Chamber event may actually be pretty good idea for turnout. Why expect people to make a special trip just to hear a candidate’s pitch? Plus, Barnett is saving everyone some time and gas! Remind me next time I run for office not to host any standalone events; I’ll just rent a room outside other major community events and put out my signs and a collection plate for the passing crowd.
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.
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].
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].
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.)
I like the Stace Nelson/Gordon Howie/Lora Hubbel wing of the South Dakota Republican Party. I keep hoping they’ll get serious and run a viable statewide candidate who can put the screws to the establishment wing of their party for acting like crony capitalists instead of adhering to the real conservative principles of the Republican Party.
If you’re not raising money, you’re not organizing. And you don’t finance campaigns with gimmicks like flipping houses or raffles or anything else. You mail, call, and knock on the doors of everyone on your mailing list and ask for money. You expand you mailing list and ask those people, too. You get hundreds of people to literally invest in your campaign, thank them profusely, spend that money wisely, then show them what real work you’ve done with their money and ask for more.
If you really want to root out corruption, Lora, you’ve got to have money to get out the word and get people to vote for you. Forget the houses; start stamping envelopes and making calls!
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!
Democratic candidate for U.S. House Tim Bjorkman continues to speak like a budding Bernie Sanders. The judge-turned-campaigner says corporate money controls Congress, and he’s calling on every Congressional candidate to reject the party dues system:
Today, both parties’ leaders levy dues based on the congressman’s committee choice: the more lucrative the committee for fundraising, the higher the dues.
Yes, astoundingly, our representatives are expected to pay to do the work we elected them to do.
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., likens the practice to extortion: “They told us right off the bat as soon as we [got] here, ‘These committees all have prices and don’t pick an expensive one if you can’t make the payments’” [Tim Bjorkman, op-ed, that Sioux Falls paper, 2017.08.30].
Bjorkman says the dues system gets just as nasty as Donald Trump’s personal threats against lawmakers who don’t bow down before him:
If you don’t pay your dues, you’ve got a big problem. The leadership can get nasty. Democratic leaders have maintained a wall of shame listing those who owe dues; they have also sent collection letters and even made phone calls to “delinquent” House members.
It gets worse. Leadership promises to route dues back into key races the incumbents are at risk of losing, but if the congressman opposes the party’s leadership on a key issue – say, the recent health care bill – the party may not just withhold campaign money in the next election; they may use the war chest to fund a primary challenger [Bjorkman, 2017.08.30].
Let’s see if Bjorkman’s critique of big money in politics earns him the same disdain from national Democratic leaders that Rick Weiland got in his Senate bid in 2014.
South Dakota’s House speaker says he doesn’t plan to pursue an initiative that would have forced nonprofit advocacy groups to reveal top donors if they make big contributions to ballot question campaigns.
It would have required disclosure of the 50 largest contributors to such groups, including labor organizations, business leagues and social welfare organizations, if they give $25,000 or more in a year to a ballot measure committee [“State House Speaker to Drop Donor Disclosure Ballot Measure,” AP via KSFY, 2017.08.18].
I can understand Mickelson’s choice from a practical perspective. He submitted the disclosure initiative two weeks after the outside money ban and tobacco tax. That delay kept Mickelson from getting his third petition out in time to circulate at the Sioux Empire and Turner County Fairs. He’s had a tough enough time recruiting enough past Republican interns to handle his two petitions this month; perhaps the signing rate he’s seen so far and the expense of hiring new circulators to replace those he might lose when summer ends and college starts just didn’t add up to enough signatures in the time remaining before the November 6 deadline to justify the added administrative hassle of running three committees and carrying three clipboards.
But Mickelson has also abandoned the initiative for which he could make the best case. He tried to expand campaign finance disclosure in the Legislature this year with House Bill 1200. That bill failed, so Mickelson logically turned to the initiative, as we citizens do when we see the Legislature fail to act on important issues. Mickelson has not tried out a tobacco tax for vo-techs with his colleagues. Rep. Spencer Gosch (R-23/Glenham) proposed restrictions on non-South Dakota money in ballot question campaigns this year in his unworkable and unconstitutional House Bill 1074, but that bill was not the total ban that Mickelson is proposing now. Mickelson thus has abandoned the only one of his three petitions about which he can truly say, “Hey, the Legislature shot this proposal down, so I’m taking it to the people.”
Perhaps most significantly, Mickelson is abandoning the measure that would most likely chap his big-business and fake-family-values conservative pals. The Koch Americans for Prosperity and the Sharia-for-Jesus Family Heritage Alliance are terrified of having to tell us who gives them money. They don’t care if Mickelson uses a tobacco tax that targets the poor to further subsidize job-training for corporate interests. And they can probably get around any out-of-state money ban: as the LRC’s prison impact statement for Mickelson’s ban says, in six years the state hasn’t busted anyone for violations of the statute Mickelson’s ban would amend. Even if we implemented Mickelson’s ban, it only imposes an “administrative misdemeanor,” and LRC says, “An offense is likely to be rare and not likely to be criminally prosecuted.” The Kochs, the Christianists, and other campaigners could keep pouring out-of-state cash into ballot measure campaigns, just not tell us, and live in little fear of prosecution or crushing penalty.
Thus, we may easily speculate that Mickelson has found a happy compromise with certain key Republican backers: by dropping the initiative that could really crimp their style, Mickelson may gain those backers’ neutrality on two initiatives that at most only minorly annoy Big Money and Big Jesus.