Where SB 163 tries to strike the requirement that organizations funding independent political ads disclose their top five donors, HB 1200 would require organizations and PACs sinking more than $25,000 into ballot question campaigns or independent political ads.
HB 1200 exempts from that disclosure 501(c)3 non-profits, organizations “from which any part of the net earnings inures to the benefit of a private shareholder, partner, member, or person,” and donors giving less than $5,000.
South Dakotans have the right to support causes they believe in without fear of retribution, and HB 1200 would remove that protection.
The IRS has determined that citizens who make charitable contributions to 501(c) issue advocacy organizations are entitled to anonymous free speech, because of the sensitive nature of the issues that these groups advocate for or against. Several court cases have upheld this right.
HB 1200 would force all 501(c) organizations to either spend less than $50,000 on their issues, which would limit their impact, OR to place the names, addresses, and employers of their supporters on a searchable government database. Imagine if everyone knew your name, home address, employer, and the amounts you donate to your favorite charities!
When other states have tried legislation similar to this, it resulted in cases where people lost their jobs because their beliefs were different than their employers.
We are better off as a state when more people engage in political discussion, not less. Transparency is important for our government. Private citizens deserve privacy [Americans for Prosperity, “Don’t Allow Your Free Speech to Be Silenced,” retrieved 2017.02.21].
Note that the Koch Brothers are responding to the original text of the bill, not the amended form currently pending in House Judiciary that exempts 501(c)3 non-profits. And HB 1200 silences the speech of no one reading their propaganda, and it only reveals the identity of rich donors who give more $5,000 in one year to a group other than a 501(c)3 that engages in political speech. The Kochs just don’t want us to know when they and their rich friends are spending money to influence our politics.
If it bugs the Koch Brothers, it’s probably good policy. The Kochs and other rich donors targeted by HB 1200 are insulated by their wealth and power from “retribution” far more than we regular citizens are insulated from the predations of rich special interest groups in our political process.
It would be easy to confuse TakeItBack.org and TakeBack.org. TakeItBack.org is the website of the ballot question organization founded by liberal Democratic South Dakotan Rick Weiland to promote ballot measures to take politics back from big-money donors. TakeBack.org is the website of Take Back Our Republic, a largely conservative group dedicated to taking politics back from big-money donors.
Read that again: conservative leaders are coming to South Dakota to defend an initiative composed by a liberal Democrat against attacks from the Koch Brothers.
To confound us further, conservatives Pudner and Painter laid out their conservative case for IM 22 in an interview with liberal Dakota Free Press last night. Also joining the conversation were Republican Don Frankenfeld and Represent.us political director Dan Krassner.
Pudner has buttered his bread campainging for “conservative, reform-minded” candidates around the country, including most recently Dave Brat, who upset House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia in 2014. Over the last five years, he has seen money overwhelming elections and picking out candidates who may not be the “most articulate statesmen” but who can raise money.
Early in our conversation, Pudner attacked one of the Koch brothers’ main positioning lines against IM 22. The cards and calls from the Koch’s Americans for Prosperity say that IM 22 will cut into funding for, among other things, roads. Pudner notes that Koch Industries makes asphalt. Pudner says the Kochs will never oppose raising taxes to build more roads (and you know, Americans for Prosperity sent a flunky to the 2015 Legislature to oppose Medicaid expansion, but AFP didn’t dispatch anyone to testify against the $85-million tax increase for road construction in 2015 Senate Bill 1). Pudner argues that, whatever IM 22 might cost the general fund for public campaign financing and administration of the statewide ethics commission, IM 22 would save South Dakota much more in beating corruption in the bidding process for big projects like the asphalt we might buy from Koch plants in neighboring states.
Krassner further crushed the Kochs’ cost argument against IM22 with empirical data from a 2014 study by Indiana University: in the ten most corrupt states in the nation, including South Dakota, reducing corruption to average levels—not eliminating corruption, but just getting a reasonable grip on it—would reduce annual state spending by 5.2%.
Let’s see: our FY2017 general fund appropriations are $1.598 billion. 5.2% of that is $83 million. IM 22 appropriates a maximum of $12 million every election cycle for Democracy Credits and other expenses, and that assumes that only 22% of registered voters would choose to access their Democracy Credits. $83 million corruption savings would cover Democracy Credits for all 531,584 registered voters in South Dakota and leave another $30 million for the statewide ethics commission to enforce the campaign finance and lobbying rules… or just spend what IM 22 calls for and cut taxes by $70 million… which would pretty much put back the sales tax we had to raise to boost teacher pay this year.
Dr. Richard Painter says that campaign finance reform has been supported by conservative GOP nominees like Barry Goldwater and John McCain and should resonate with contemporary conservatives. Dr. Painter agrees that big money lures even professed conservatives into wasteful pork-barrel spending (he saw plenty of such spending during his stint as chief ethics counsel for the Bush II Administration from 2005 to 2007, during some of which period Republicans controlled the White House and Congress).
Dr. Painter also connects campaign finance reform to national security: if big corporate money dominates elections, and if big corporate money represents multinational owner and shareholder interests, then elected officials who are beholden to that big corporate money will be more inclined to leave our resources open to foreign acquisition. Let multinational corporations buy up our resources, and we become a banana republic (review the origin of the term: rich American companies dominating Central American politics). Dr. Painter says that if we don’t want the Chinese buying up our hogs and dairy and cornfields, we need measures like IM 22 to stop them from buying our elections and our elected officials.
Dr. Painter contends that social conservatives should not let the Koch brothers and other big corporate donors fool them into thinking that alliances with big money will give them access to power to pass social conservative legislation. Dr. Painter says big donors will ultimately betray social conservative allies. His primary example is abortion: he says social conservatives who view the morning-after pill as abortion will never win their point in law against big pharmaceutical corporations who stand to make billions from selling Plan-B pills. Dr. Painter extends his argument to insurance companies: big health insurance corporations can maximize profits by reducing the number of sick policyholders. If insurers can identify pregnancies that might produce children with chronic health problems, profit could motivate those insurers to cover abortion in their policies to encourage women to abort those pregnancies and save the insurers money in the long run.
Dr. Painter notes that the original Tea Party—no, not the Fox News shouters of 2010 who seem now to have collapsed into following a loud-mouth billionaire, but the real Tea Party, Boston Harbor, Founding Fathers dressing up as Indians and pitching tea—reacted to government-corporate cronyism at its worst. Just as the Founding Fathers resisted taxation without representation, Dr. Painter says today’s conservatives should support IM 22 to fight the big money rigs our election choices and denies the majority of citizens true representation.
I asked Pudner how big money works against drawing good public servants into politics. Pudner explained that three main qualities make candidates electable: problem-solving, ability to connect with voters, and ability to raise lots of money. Pudner said we still have plenty of good elected officials who love to use their skills to connect with voters and solve problems, but the “political-industrial complex” throws in with candidates who are good at raising money. True public servants then must focus on raising money just to compete and don’t get to spend as much time doing what they really love. Ultimately we end up with a system where the only people who can win elections are either the candidates who will do the big donors’ bidding or the billionaires like Donald Trump who can spend their own money. Practically excluding decent public servants of modest means from elections is bad for democracy.
Of course, the Koch brothers and other rich donors aren’t interested in real democracy. They want to control the government. As Dr. Painter pointed out, the Kochs aren’t worried about South Dakota taxpayers; they are trying to keep the majority of voters from competing with them in choosing elected officials.
Pudner says Take Back Our Republic will focus on delivering their conservative arguments to conservative South Dakota voters. Pudner’s past consulting and campaigning have identified thousands of conservative activists in South Dakota. TBOR’s intent is to equip those activists with research (like the Indiana corruption-savings study) to rebut the Koch brothers’ propaganda.
While that messaging targets conservative circles, I wondered if portraying IM 22 as a conservative measure could make Democratic supporters skittish. Frankenfeld poo-pooed that thought (as he poo-poos much of what I think). He said he senses that Democrats are pretty solidly behind IM 22 while the Koch propaganda has split Republicans down the middle. Frankenfeld says Pudner and Painter’s efforts will bring some of those Republicans back by reminding them that IM 22 fits with their basic conservative principles… and really, on basic principles like using tax dollars responsibly, stopping corruption, providing fair representation, and protecting our national security and sovereignty, don’t Republicans and Democrats agree?
There are a whole range of issues where the money is on one side and the social conservatives are in the position of — there’s a story from the Gospel of Luke of the widow who puts the few pennies in the coffers while all the rich men are standing around and pouring in lots more and Jesus says, “Well, the poor widow, her contribution is just as important if not more important.” And is that the way we’re running our democracy? I would expect the faith community to rebel against this system and to kick the moneychangers out of the temple of our democracy. This is unacceptable [Dr. Richard Painter, interview with Bill Moyers, 2016.04.20].
The idea that the least among us matters is another principle on which true conservatives and true liberals agree. The Bible, like our Constitution, is for everybody, not just the rich and powerful. That message underlies the efforts of Rick Weiland, Don Frankefeld, John Pudner, and Dr. Richard Painter. That message is why TakeItBack.org and TakeBack.org are working together in South Dakota to beat the Koch brothers and pass Initiated Measure 22.
Note that Lee can cite instances of corruption in states with public campaign financing because the system worked: those states caught and convicted the corrupt pols. Of course, for Lee’s bosses, a statewide ethics commission that would catch such campaign finance chicanery is just more “bureaucracy” and government growth. The last thing the Koch brothers want is a government that’s big enough to check their Big Money corruption of our political process.
A group tied to billionaire Charles Koch has unleashed an aggressive campaign to kill a ballot measure in South Dakota that would require Koch-affiliated groups and others like them to reveal their donors’ identities — part of a sustained effort by his powerful network to keep government agencies and the public from learning more about its financial backers [Fredreka Schouten, “Charles Koch’s Network Launches New Fight to Keep Donors Secret,” USA Today, 2016.08.17].
Why don’t the Kochs want us to know who all contributes to their politicking?
Luke Hilgemann, Americans for Prosperity’s national CEO, cast the South Dakota fight as a battle to protect donors’ free-speech rights. Politicians who have been targeted by AFP over taxes and other policy issues over the years now want to unmask contributors’ identities “because they don’t like us bringing these issues to light and holding them accountable,” he said.
He argued that revealing donors’ identities could subject them to threats and intimidation and drive them away from funding advocacy groups.
“The chilling of public discourse is a bad path for the country to go on,” he said [Schouten, 2016.08.17].
So the Koch donors want to hold others accountable, but they don’t want to be held accountable themselves? That sounds awfully Trumpy to me.
And please, billionaires, don’t whine to me about threats and intimidation. If you participate in the political process, especially when you bring to bear far more financial firepower than regular working voters do, the rest of us have every right to know about your influence and check your influence by giving our small donations to the other folks in the race.
The Kochs’ astroturf Defeat22.com isn’t trying to defend South Dakota voters or taxpayers. Defeat22.com is trying keep secret the rich guys who are trying to buy South Dakota politics.
Thune: Amendment V is an attempt by South Dakota Democrats to hide candidate party affiliation on the ballot from voters. Rather than run on their party’s principles and policies it seems they are desperately looking for a way to run from them. I’m opposing Amendment V because I believe voters deserve more transparency on their ballot, not less.
Daugaard: I believe political parties – all parties – serve an important role in our democracy. They crystalize issues. They bring like-minded people together. They help the electorate make sense of the electoral system.
Of course, if Thune really believed in transparency and if Daugaard really believed in supporting all parties, they would support allowing candidates to designate more than just state-sanctioned party labels to appear next to their names on the ballot. They would support my right to identify myself to voters on the ballot as “teacher, writer, corruption fighter, and Sanders/Kucinich/Wellstone/McGovern Democrat” rather than just the far less illuminating “Democrat.” Thune and Daugaard would let more Earthy candidates call themselves “Green” to promote formation of a new party.
Much of the Republican opposition to Amendment V is purely partisan: Amendment V comes from Democrat Rick Weiland, so Amendment V must be bad. I assume the Republicans will grant me the same latitude to say that Amendment S is bad because is comes from Republican Jason Glodt.
So to review: the Republicans don’t want more people to be able to participate in primary elections, and they don’t want us to fight corruption. Those two positions should make clear the Republican desire to protect its pocket-lining hegemony… and our popular obligation to rise above such partisan scheming and pass both open non-partisan primaries and the Anti-Corruption Act.
And when the federal money dries up—there’s the fundamental lie of the ad. When—I invite Pat and the Koch Brothers and everyone else out there to tell me when in the last 50 years the money for Medicaid has dried up.
Show me an instance in the 50 years of Medicaid’s existence when Congress and the President have said, “Surprise! States, you’re funding Medicaid on your own this year!”
I’m still waiting.
As we wait, I note that the only Washington folks I’ve seen who have threatened to break the Medicaid promise appear to be Paul Ryan and other Republicans whom the Koch brothers like.
Ancillarily hilarious is AFP’s claim to be concerned that they are worried about cuts to funding for public education. Ha! The Kochs want cuts to public education so they can privatize the education system.
We managed not to be fooled by Big Loan Shark Money on the payday lenders’ bill yesterday; let’s not be fooled by Big Koch Money on Medicaid expansion. Medicaid isn’t going away… at least not as long as we stop the Koch brothers from buying Congress. Governor Dennis Daugaard’s Medicaid/Indian Health Service plan swap is unnecessarily complicated, but it saves South Dakota $158 million over the first five years. We can fund a fair amount of teacher pay and pothole-patch with that money.
Americans for Prosperity is lying to us. Ignore them and support real prosperity for all South Dakotans.