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Novstrup, Greenfield Use Anti-Corruption Act as Excuse to Skip Public Events

The Republican spin on Initiated Measure 22, the Anti-Corruption Act is so pervasive that they’re tricking the press into buying their baloney. Consider Elisa Sand’s error this morning in her front-page discussion of the impact of the voter-approved lobbying restrictions:

Legislators are missing out on opportunities to connect with and hear concerns from constituents, and many lawmakers are pointing to the recently passed Initiated Measure 22 as the reason why.

Take, for instance, next week’s scheduled chili feed organized by the Sportman’s Club of Brown County. Local lawmakers have traditionally been invited to visit and talk about outdoors issues and the upcoming legislative session. But Bob Bucholz, the president of the group, said the lawmakers aren’t attending this year, so the group is making different plans for Thursday’s gathering.

While the Sportsman’s Club of Brown County doesn’t lobby in Pierre, a membership includes membership with the South Dakota Wildlife Federation. And Bucholz said the state Wildlife Federation has a coalition that lobbies in Pierre. The lobbying connection has some legislators concerned about going to the chili feed [Elisa Sand, “Passage of IM 22 Halts Legislators’ Events,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.11.27].

Legislators are not “missing out” on opportunities to connect with constituents because of IM 22. Nothing in IM 22 is stopping Al Novstrup, Brock Greenfield, or any other area legislator from attending the Sportsman’s Club’s chili feed on Thursday and talking with constituents. If Novstrup and Greenfield—co-litigants in the save-our-free-lunches lawsuit—are really afraid that a bowl of chili will count toward the $100 limit IM 22 puts on the Wildlife Federations gifts to legislators, Novstrup and Greenfield could just pay for their bowl of chili, or just not eat any chili and instead focus on talking with constituents.

Novstrup and Greenfield aren’t missing out; they are choosing not to go, snubbing the voters who just took away their free meals.

Update 10:14 CST: Representative-Elect Michael Clark (R-9/Hartford) confirms that legislators are skipping events like the Sportsman’s Club chili feed on the recommendation of their leadership. Again, ignoring these invitations is a choice, a political calculation, and not something forced on them by Initiated Measure 22.


  1. Tim 2016-11-27 10:36

    A prediction, it will take them less than a week to repeal 22, corruption here is deeply entrenched and will take more than a silly referendum to clean up. Voters will have to flush the toilet at the ballot box, I don’t hold out hope of that happening. Job search is underway, house is going on the market after Jan 1st, after 30 years for me and her whole life, my wife and I can’t do South Dakota any longer, we are out.

  2. Darin Larson 2016-11-27 10:50

    Tim, I respect your decision, but some of us have to stay and fight the good fight. The victories are few and far between, but they are that much more special when they occur. Even if IM22 is undone by the legislature, the unfounded hysteria that this thing has caused by legislators and the gnashing of teeth by the GOP was worth the price of admission. Furthermore, you know the legislators are not going to do anything substantive to replace IM22, so they will be branded with the stench of corruption for the rest of their careers.

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-11-27 11:00

    Sadly, Tim is not the first person to make that declaration to me this year. South Dakota is getting lonelier.

    If Novstrup and Greenfield do succeed in protecting their free lunches, the proper response would be to come back with a constitutional amendment clearing out whatever state-level obstacles the courts may identify… and to enlist a full slate of Democratic to campaign on that anti-corruption amendment and lambaste the free-lunchers in 2018.

  4. Donald Pay 2016-11-27 12:17

    I agree that corruption has become a way of life for the political class in South Dakota. It’s so ingrained and has such a long history that the political class simply can’t envision any other way to do the state’s business. However, I don’t see any problem with going to a chili feed and meeting folks, as long as it’s a publicly announced event. If there is some question about how the new law applies in those situations, there can be clarifying amendments proposed with the assistance of the sponsors.

    Really, their lawsuit is bogus and leadership is running scared. Running a legislative session without rampant corruption has got to be a novel thing for political leadership in South Dakota. That leadership is applying pressure on legislators to not meet with constituents really shows the fear they have that legislators might actually now have some leverage against leadership.

  5. Jana 2016-11-27 12:37

    Our friend MC had a good post on the press release blog on his taking office.

    What struck me is that his talk of keeping secret the workings of the GOP caucus…”what happens in the Caucus, stays in the Caucus” kind of like fight club. His worry of turning down invites to parties and that would make him ineffectual as a legislator are laughable! No one and IM22 doesn’t say you can’t talk to your constituents Michael.

    The GOP leaders like Lee, the Gov and his son-in-law, Fred, Curd etc are frantic in how IM22 takes the power of Party and money away from the way they do business. But they don’t say how that is bad for everyday citizens…because IM22 is actually good for having the voices of everyday citizens being heard.

    Michael’s not alone in worrying about not being able to meet with big money and lobbyists. I just find it funny that not one of them is taking advantage of actually meeting with everyday citizens. That’s right, they don’t care.

    I won’t speak for Michael, but now that he’s been elected he is focused on party over people and lobbies over neighbors.

    That is why we need IM22.

  6. scott 2016-11-27 12:45

    Our Legislators could simply host a meet and greet prior to the event starting. This could be done in the hallway or lobby of the facility. If our Legislators walk away with nothing more than the hand shakes of the public, they will have nothing to worry about.

    If Legislators attend an event and the average cost per person is in excess of $100, then that Legislators should not have been at the event even without IM 22. $100 per person would mean that a lot of liquor is being consumed and gifts are being passed out. Our Legislators should have more decency and morals and just skip those events. The Legislators could spend a bit more time visiting with the average citizen which would only provide them a hand shake and maybe a cup of coffee in value.

    The electors gave the Legislators a chance to clean things up and the Legislators did not take any action. The Legislators forced the electors to take action and passed IM #22. There is no one to blame other than the Legislators themselves for their lack of action.

  7. mike from iowa 2016-11-27 12:53

    Maybe while they are eating chilli Obama be taking their guns away.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-11-27 13:08

    Scott makes a good point: if lobbyists are really pouring that much money per legislator into their social events, then IM 22 is already doing what it was meant to do, checking some of the big-money influence in politics and giving legislators more time to attend events with regular folks instead of wealthy lobbyists. As Scott says, hold a meet-and-greet where no items of value (other than knowledge and human interaction) change hands. IM22 won’t touch such useful events.

    Heck, when I wanted to find out what voters were thinking, I didn’t expect them to come to me with free food. I laid out the donut holes, pop, and hot dogs and gave them to my guests to give them something to munch on while they told me their concerns.

  9. grudznick 2016-11-27 13:09

    Mr. Scott, I believe it is $100 in total, so I think the legislatures should assume that this chili event is an all-you-can-eat event and count it as $5 towards the limit and really chow down. Go for the gusto and make sure you spend your $100 on all-you-can-eat events only.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-11-27 13:12

    Jana, your note about Michael Clark’s submission to his caucus overlords reminds me of a conversation I had last winter. I criticized four Democratic legislators who co-sponsored the bill to undo the any-willing-provider act that voters approved in 2014 (Initiated Measure 17). A Democrat responded to my critique of that affront to the voters by telling me you never crap on your caucus.

    Al Novstrup said my blog criticism makes it hard for me to get along with Republicans. That Democrat might say the same thing on behalf of some Democrats. Clark has to decide who he serves: his caucus or his constituents.

  11. Robin Friday 2016-11-27 13:28

    Seems to me that’s one of the problems with gerrymandering. I live eight miles out of Aberdeen, but one of my legislators is Brock Greenfield who lives in Clark. He would have the expense of driving up to Aberdeen and home again if he were to speak at the Sportsmen event. I believe the group should cover his expenses and that’s all if they want him to speak. Legislators will have to pick and choose which events they can attend, but if they’re going to agree with representing a far-off district, then they cannot neglect that district either. Minimize the lobbying expenses. And stop the gerrymandering.

  12. Robin Friday 2016-11-27 13:48

    Novstrup LIVES in Aberdeen, does he not? So what would his expense amount to in attending the Sportmen’s event?

  13. Tim 2016-11-27 14:08

    “you never crap on your caucus.”

    That is the problem in one sentence, until both sides start representing us instead of their best interests, nothing changes. Even though Republicans tend to take this to extremes, it is an issue for both sides. I’m pretty sure neither caucus is big enough to get anybody elected without the rest of us.

  14. Roger Elgersma 2016-11-27 14:14

    So now law makers realize that to be for both the birds and the hunters is a conflict of interest. Before they were just after voters. Now with an ethics commission they have to think about what they are for and not just blindly go from one name recognition dinner after another. These lawmakers can think rather quickly when there is a law. But with no law they do what ever. Corrupt lawmakers will throw this out if given the chance.

  15. Lynn Ryan 2016-11-27 14:46

    More hogwash from Republicans. Elisa should know better than to not challenge them.

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-11-27 17:06

    You know, Robin, I’d contend that if the Sportsman’s Club gives Greenfield gas money, that’s a reimbursement, not a gift. But while that distinction might fly on a tax return, it won’t fly under IM22’s “or other thing of value” language in Section 31.

    Of course, no organization that invited me as a candidate to attend their events ever offered to cover my travel expenses. They expected that I’d find my own way there, and I did. Candidates and legislators should be thrilled to have the chance to visit with any roomful of interested constituents. I don’t like gerrymandered districts any more than you, Robin, but legislators understand what they are getting themselves into when they run. They agree to serve, and that means agreeing to meet with constituents, even if they don’t get free chili.

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-11-27 17:07

    Tim, that’s an important point for every legislator to remember: the voters, not the caucus, send you to Pierre.

  18. grudznick 2016-11-27 17:17

    Mr. H, is not reimbursement another form of compensation? If you work (hard) you get compensated. If you drive somewhere for a meeting you are being given free gas and that is a gift, or you are being compensated for the gas that you had to put in your big car.

  19. Jon H 2016-11-28 01:56

    Grudznick—not when you are a Legislator —You got yourself elected so you could serve the people you represent!!–I can however understand your mix up here in South Dakota–Corruption has become so ingrained that the people in power feel that they got elected so that they could serve themselves.

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