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Krebs Wrong in Desire to Can Pro/Con Statements; Give Us More Info, Not Less

Lisa Furlong lied in her official proponent statement for Amendment U, the payday lenders’ fake rate cap. Secretary of State Shantel Krebs wants to respond to that lie and other political statements by repealing her statutory requirement to include proponent and opponent statements in the official ballot question pamphlet:

Krebs said the ballot pamphlet was never meant to become a political football. Instead of offering pro/con statements, Krebs’ bill – which she says is already drafted – would create pamphlets with the Attorney General’s official explanation of proposed ballot measures and constitutional amendments and contact information for supporters and opponents.

If voters want more information, Krebs said, they can reach out to opponents and backers themselves. Removing pro/con statements would empower voters to find answers themselves, she said.

“That’s what the role of this pamphlet is: To educate our voters,” Krebs said [John Hult, “Secretary of State: Ditch Pro/Con Statements on Ballot Questions,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2016.09.14].

Secretary Krebs is proposing the wrong solution. The Pro/Con statements offer genuine grassroots activists, like the supporters of Initiated Measure 21, the real payday lending rate cap, one guaranteed opportunity to stand on the same “stage” as the big-money interests who will outgun them in broadcast and print advertising and other expensive campaign tactics. Furlong and fellow payday lending stooge Bradley Thuringer have assiduously avoided requests for media comment; they may never deign to speak in public or directly respond to any citizen requests for information. Taking away this one balanced collection of public statements disempowers voters, adding one more possibly fruitless step to the work they must do to learn about the ballot measures.

The proper response to Lisa Furlong’s lies on behalf of her big-money backers is not to silence everyone. The proper response to bad speech is more speech. Adopt my rebuttal and review proposals for the ballot question pamphlet. Give proponents and opponents a chance to hold each other accountable, and bring an independent panel of fact-checking judges into the mix to evaluate both sides. Present voters with more information in the equal forum of the state ballot question pamphlet, and trust the voters to sort truth from fiction.


  1. Rorschach 2016-09-15 09:17

    I commend SOS Krebs for adopting my suggestion made on this blog to use strictly AG opinions in ballot question pamphlets. We know that while AG opinions may not emphasize every point proponents or opponents want to make, the content will be truthful. Such a solution is far better than lengthening ballot question pamphlets with rebuttals by everybody calling everybody else liars.

  2. Rorschach 2016-09-15 09:18

    No charge for the anonymous advice, Shantel. No charge.

  3. Darin Larson 2016-09-15 09:39

    Cory, I agree with Rorschach and Krebs. The logical conclusion to your argument to have more speech is that we will have to have rebuttals to the rebuttals. And then we will have to have rebuttals to the rebuttals to the rebuttals. The liars will lie the most on the last rebuttal which will leave the issue muddled. At that point, the speech marketplace is crowded and confusing and voters are going to “check out” mentally from further efforts to understand the ballot measures. More speech is not always the answer. It just becomes noise. KISS applies here.

    The AG’s explanation will have to be sufficient for low information voters. The more discerning voters will seek out information from people like you and make a more informed decision.

  4. Donald Pay 2016-09-15 09:46

    I would sh*tcan the AG’s opinion, too.

    Let the LRC come up with the ballot question statements. Then let them solicit pro and con statements and rebuttal statements. They can publish then on their website. Then let the LRC hold hearings, taking testimony from the public. It can be televised.

  5. Darin Larson 2016-09-15 09:51

    This discussion plays into the larger issue of money as speech and the Citizens United SCOTUS decision. I have heard the argument that CU is not a problem because it just allows more speech and more speech is never a bad thing. I completely disagree. The marketplace for speech can become overcrowded and corporations with essentially unlimited funds can crowd out the speech of everyday Americans.

  6. Rorschach 2016-09-15 10:01

    The SOS is in charge of elections and ballots. The AG is the SOS’s lawyer. Hence AG ballot issue statements. This is an executive branch function that is properly handled by the executive branch of government.

    LRC is simply legislative branch staff. If directed by the legislature they can solicit and publish whatever statements they are directed to solicit and publish. They can hold whatever hearings they are directed to hold. No legislation is needed for that to happen. Only a directive from the Executive Board of the legislature.

  7. Donald Pay 2016-09-15 10:27

    I disagree that the ballot statement is an executive act function. I & R are under the Legislative Article in the SD Constitution.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-09-15 10:39

    …and since I&R are Legislative functions reserved to the people, we should be able to bring LRC into the picture instead of the partisan AG. I have more faith in the LRC than the AG to give us the straight poop on the ballot measures. I will only consider giving up the equal 300-word forum if we can engage the LRC for analysis, just as elected legislators would.

  9. Steve Hickey 2016-09-15 10:47

    I’m bummed the Argus went with the Krebs headline and angle for this because this story is simply about yet another payday lending attempt at deception. You get that when you read the article but the reader will entirely miss it the way they decided to feed us the story.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-09-15 12:03

    The good Hickey points out another check built into the current system that serves us better than getting rid of the Pro/Con statements. If an advocate pens a patently false or misleading statement like Furlong’s, responsible journalists will point out that falsehood, and the resulting press coverage should damage the advocate’s ballot question’s chances of prevailing at the polls.

  11. Moses11 2016-09-15 13:46

    C, H, I know she isn’t perfect but she is better than Gant was.I think she hasn;t taken any trips overseas yet either.

  12. Bob Newland 2016-09-15 14:34

    Krebs can put this on her resume: “I was better than Jason Gant.”

    I’ve already put it on mine.

  13. Donald Pay 2016-09-15 21:27

    I remember the discussion in the Legislature around the Pro/Con Statements were being legislated. It was sort of a “good government” effort supported by almost everyone. Some folks (League of Women Voters, Common Cause) supported the Pro/Con Statement just as a means to educate voters on ballot measures. Some of the push for it came from folks like me, who thought the AGs ballot measure statement could be biased, and we wanted a way to address how we viewed the issue. The biggest force behind the Pro/Con Statement, however, was that the leadership in the Legislature wanted a way to get some focus on the issues it was placing on the ballot, such as Constitutional Amendments. They felt that it would provide a means to educate folks about issues that don’t get publicity through a funded campaign.

  14. barry freed 2016-09-16 08:29

    Simple, have Pro and Con submit their finished writings to each other for examination. All claims challenged must be proven true, or deleted.

    The lies mixed with truths are too confusing for the average voter and one is well advised to ignore the Pro/Con completely and have a cheat sheet with voting decisions made from one’s own research. The “journalists” and media will be selling for the highest bidder or to serve their own prejudices and beliefs.

  15. Bob Newland 2016-09-16 08:54

    For some years–I’m not sure how long–prior to 2002, there was a law in SoDak providing misdemeanor punishment for publishing untruths about a ballot measure.

    In ’02, we had a measure on the ballot that would have added constitutional rights to Rights of Accused Persons, to whit: the right “to argue the merits, validity and applicability of the law, including the sentencing laws.” It would have allowed an accused to say, “This law makes no sense,” and to explain why.

    I wrote the “Pro” argument with strokes of brilliance. Robert Frieberg, a lawyer from Beresford, formerly president of the SoDak Bar, wrote the “Con.”

    He said that passage of the measure “would allow a jury to punish murder with a simple fine.” There is no way to describe this statement except to call it a lie. Juries didn’t then, and wouldn’t have under our proposal, sentence those they found guilty. Nothing in our proposal suggested that it would take the sentencing responsibility from the judge who heard the case.

    I filed a criminal complaint with AG Mark Barnett, who filed the complaint in his wastebasket. I couldn’t get a newspaper to write the obvious. We lost the measure by a huge margin.

    In the next legislative session, the law making it illegal to lie about a ballot measure was repealed.

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-09-17 10:07

    2003—Bob, do you remember which bill struck that statute? I should bookmark that bill… and see if Al Novstrup voted for it.

    Interesting that Donald Pay says the Pro/Con statements came in part from the concern I’ve cited: even legislative leaders wanted to make sure voters got some information without having to rely on an expensive private campaign.

  17. Bob Newland 2016-09-18 11:03

    That’s a long way back to try to track that down, Cory. I’ll give it a shot, but I am not even sure how to go about it without simply scanning all bills for the time period.

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