KELO Radio’s Token Liberal Todd Epp invited me down to his luxurious techno-digs on Phillips Avenue for a podcast on ethics reform in South Dakota, with a quick postscript on what Democrats can do to win in 2018. Check out the ten-minute audio on KELO.com.
Mr. Epp advanced an interesting thesis for those of us who backed Initiated Measure 22, the Anti-Corruption Act. We may have lost the battle in Judge Barnett’s courtroom, says Epp, but reformers may have won the war… or at least taken a few hills. Consider:
- The Secretary of State has filed legislation to create a campaign finance ethics commission, the campaign finance cops we need to check who’s spending what where on South Dakota politics.
- SOS Krebs has also filed legislation to officially repeal the IM22 provisions that Judge Barnett has nuked, but that legislation also creates some new limits on contributions to ballot question committees, increases penalties for several campaign finance violations, and requires some more itemized expense information on campaign finance reports.
- The Attorney General has filed a bill to make using public office for private interest felony theft.
- Republican Senate Pro-Tem Brock Greenfield is proposing a rule to kick lobbyists out of the Senate Lobby in the Capitol.
These measures do not go as far as IM 22, but they go further than the Legislature. Of course, we haven’t actually gone that distance yet, and if the Legislature can’t even agree to a simple measure declaring sex with interns and pages (teenagers!) off-limits, can we expect them to stick their necks out on any more complicated reforms addressing money in politics?
But as I said to Mr. Epp, let’s be optimists. Let’s suppose Krebs, Jackley, and Greenfield get their wishes. Even if we lose IM22, can IM22’s supporters declare victory in driving public discourse and public pressure to get better ethics laws and practices in Pierre?
Winning? It’s an iterative process. It may take two or three initiatives. Keep the pressure on.