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Door-to-Door and Social Media for Amendment V Don’t Explain Victory for IM 22

Journalist and political reform activist Hedrick Smith boosted South Dakota’s Initiated Measure 22 earlier this year. He returns with a blog post celebrating Rick Weiland and Drey Samuelson’s ability to beat the Koch Brothers’ dark money and win voters’ approval of the sprawling campaign finance reform, lobbying reform, and government ethics measure.

Unfortunately, Smith doesn’t address my puzzlement (and I’m not the only one) that big, complicated IM 22 could pass while its simpler “trifecta of reform” co-measures Amendment T (eliminating gerrymandering) and Amendment V (creating an open nonpartisan primary) failed. Smith contends that door-to-door campaigning and social media were essential to the success of Weiland and Samuelson’s campaign:

Like its opposition, TakeItBack.Org ran a modest TD and radio ad campaign and won newspaper endorsements for reform. But its hallmark was an unusual commitment to shoe-leather, retail politics. A team of college and graduate students went door to door in major cities like Sioux Falls and Rapid City while Weiland drove out to small and medium-sized towns, stopping in cafes and diners and going down Main Street, store to store, generating coverage in local newspapers and interviews on local radio.

…For a low-budget campaign, social media was critical. One Facebook post that reached 68,000 viewers showed 28-year-old Army veteran Justin Otoski telling how he came back from duty in Afghanistan and was disgusted by the nasty partisan warfare in U.S. politics. He decided to take a term off from college and volunteered to work full-time in the reform campaign.

…Another Facebook posting revealed that Samuelson, a career public servant, had personally donated $50,000 to the reform campaign from the sale of his late mother’s home. “I’m not a rich guy but money just isn’t that important to me and this is important to me,” Samuelson explained. “And I felt that was the best way to honor her and honor the way that I was raised” [Hedrick Smith, “How Reformers Beat Koch Bros. in South Dakota,” Reclaim the American Dream, 2016.11.16].

I respect Pulitzer Prize-winning Smith, but I’m surprised Smith misapplies his examples. Sure, Otoski and others knocked on lots of doors and earned free media, and Otoski’s Facebook video got 68,000 views, but those efforts were for Amendment V, which lost. Ditto Samuelson’s story: he donated that inheritance to the V campaign, not IM 22.

I agree that shoe leather and electrons are critical elements of campaigns, but’s deployment of both for Amendment V do not explain the success of Initiated Measure 22.

Also causing me dismay is Smith’s report on Weiland’s next focus, springboarding from IM 22 to push reform in other states:

With the landscape of power in South Dakota destined to be altered as the reform package gets put into practice, I asked Weiland what this might mean for other states: “Is there a ripple effect?”

“Absolutely.I believe that this victory sends a message to the rest of the country that they don’t have to put up with the business-as-usual crowd. They can take matters into their own hands,” Weiland asserted.  “We have a real opportunity to take what we’ve done here and show it to other states — putting these ideas on your ballot in 2018, 2020 and ’22” [Smith, 2016.11.16].

Other states? We haven’t finished Taking South Dakota Back yet!

I won’t begrudge a guy for having broader horizons. But Rick, Drey, if you can keep some mojo focused on South Dakota even as you spread the reform gospel beyond our borders, we can still use your help here on a ballot measure or two in 2018 in our continuing quest for that elusive synergy between reform measures and reform candidates.


  1. Misty 2016-11-17 06:54

    yes on 22 ran very good ads. The ads – especially radio – ran constantly leading up to Election Day. The ads were very very well done.

  2. Porter Lansing 2016-11-17 09:43

    Wasn’t IM22 called the anti-corruption initiative? That’s a very good name when Republicans have obviously lost the trust of the people. Hopefully they’ll try to repeal it and lose even more credibility as they show their white stripe of skunkage to the populace.

  3. Richard Schriever 2016-11-17 10:36

    Absolutely, we need to stay focused on reforming SD. 1st up – IMO – a constitutional amendment restricting legislators’ ability to tinker with initiated laws.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-11-17 11:07

    Yeah, but Porter, corruption branding made absolutely no difference I can identify in candidate races. Can the policy/policymaker disjoint in voters minds be that great?

  5. Porter Lansing 2016-11-17 11:22

    Yes. I have one anecdote, which is of course a rhetorical fallacy, but a friend retired as a professor at UNI and moved to Sioux Falls where she owns a few houses. At the coffee shop where all the turmoil was last summer she said the talk of corruption was strong and she was proud she’d signed the petition for, as she called it, a “corruption bill”. Later, after becoming acclimated she worked for Paula Hawks campaign.
    We forget how few people are interested in politics before the last few weeks. They gather snippets from friends and the news but mostly try to avoid it. These “high value voters” (ones who don’t make up their minds until late) must have decided there was corruption and it needed to be regulated.
    @TroyJones … You should promote the immediate repeal of IM22 as the first agenda item this term, even ahead of your attack on women and your attack on sick, poor people. Show the public they can’t tell your party what to do! You’re Republican, damn it, and you know what the people need!!

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