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SB 53: Senate Republicans Stop Campaign Finance Ethics Commission

Republican legislators have been trying to placate crackerbarrel crowds made grouchy by the repeal of Initiated Measure 22 by promising to pass replacement bills that will enact the policies voters said they wanted last November.

But yesterday, Republican Senators killed one of the key provisions promised by IM22: a commission to enforce campaign finance law.

Secretary of State Shantel Krebs proposed Senate Bill 53 to create a campaign finance ethics commission. Secretary Krebs’s CFEC wouldn’t have the scope of IM 22’s state ethics commission, but it would be better than the status quo, in which South Dakota has no campaign finance cops, nobody charged with auditing campaign finance reports. As Secretary Krebs told Senate State Affairs yesterday, the only heat she can bring now on campaign finance violations is late-filing penalties (and even those don’t appear to burn hot enough for some campaign crooks).

But when Democratic Senate Minority Leader Billie Sutton proposed an amendment to enact the campaign finance enforcement of IM 22 in a safe, constitutional fashion under the Secretary of State, every Republican on Senate State Affairs rejected the amendment and then voted to table SB 53.

Tabling isn’t quite the same death as deferral to the 41st day, but not many items come back off the table in the Legislature.

Secretary Krebs perhaps wasn’t expecting this defeat: her Senate Bill 54, the other part of her task force’s big campaign finance reform package, still assigns enforcement duties to the Campaign Finance Ethics Commission, in both its original text and in the amendment proposed yesterday after the tabling of SB 53. Senate State Affairs deferred SB 54 for further discussion Wednesday.

So let’s be clear: voters may want campaign finance reform, and legislators may be promising a variety of bills toward that end, but Republican Senators Bolin, Curd, Ewing, Langer, Maher, Netherton, Novstrup made clear they are not eager to create any toothy commission to enforce campaign finance laws.

This Republican hesitance to enforce campaign finance laws on themselves is shown by their foot-dragging on two other campaign finance enforcement measures, Larry Rhoden’s Ethics Lite (HB 1089) and Karen Soli’s Government Accountability Board (HB 1076), which haven’t been scheduled for first committee hearing yet.

Don’t be fooled, voters: replacement bills for IM 22 don’t do any good if the Legislature isn’t going to enforce them.


  1. David Hubbard 2017-02-14 09:32

    How many of the other 26 or so pieces of legislation will also get scrubbed? Is this what Lynne DiSanto and the others meant when they said we should judge them for their actions? They submitted bills to placate voters but have no intention of passing a single one.

    Also, DiSanto kept saying Legislators were not guilty of corruption at the last Legislative Cracker Barrel in Rapid City. Afterwards she acknowledged the fact that there are Legislators who hold office in direct violation of Article 3, Section 12 of our State Constitution. DiSanto clearly stated to me in front of one other person corruption is happening inside of the State Legislature and not just the Executive Branch, as she proclaimed before the entire Cracker Barrel audience.

  2. Chip 2017-02-14 10:16

    This was probably the single most important part of IM22 in my opinion. I don’t care what our legislators do nearly as much as I care that what they do gets documented and reported.

  3. Jana 2017-02-14 10:54

    The GOP gives the 1 finger salute to voters and were particularly disturbed by the last words of SB 53…”to promote public trust in government.”

    Trust me legislators, mission accomplished in making sure that the message has been sent loud and clear that you have zero interest in “to promote public trust in government.”

  4. 96Tears 2017-02-14 12:29

    All politics are local.

    If only there was a competent State Democratic Party, you could blow out a lot of these crooks in the 2018 election: “Why your legislator killed OUR ethics reform law.” If only there was an effort that recruited candidates for all 105 seats. One giant effort with one giant message to hold the bastards’ feet to the fire and would raise enough money to target a large number of marginal seats. And the daily Breaking News reports from President Agent Orange only throws more gas on the fire.

    After last weekend’s coup by Dan Lederman’s renegades, knocking off Pam Roberts (Clint’s daughter in law) as SDGOP Chair, I’m not sure Dennis Daugaard is going to spend hundreds of thousands from his account to save a lot of the schmucks who’ve been a thorn in his side.

    If only. If only. If only.

  5. Brandi 2017-02-14 12:38

    I’m anxious to hear what Novstrup has to say to defend his vote on this at the next Crackerbarrel.

  6. mike from iowa 2017-02-14 12:53

    96- it really shouldn’t take the presence of Dems to force these so called kristians to obey the laws of the state.

    I imagine at least one or two were raised knowing it is not nice to steal and lie and cause damage to the least of them.

    A strong Dem party would be nice, it just shouldn’t be necessary.

  7. Jenny 2017-02-14 13:55

    WTH is wrong with these people! Vote them out and raise legislative pay and get better quality people in there. MN pays its legislators $32000/yr (I know I was surprised myself) and they’re debating whether to increase it this year. Why is SD pay so low? Pay them well and good people that truly care about South Dakotans will run for office. Come on, people! You deserve better than this. :(

  8. Jenny 2017-02-14 13:58

    Cory, time to start a petition to raise legislative pay, please! I will donate for your effort!

  9. Porter Lansing 2017-02-14 17:49

    Overheard laughing at the whiskey bar, Republican Senators Bolin, Curd, Ewing, Langer, Maher, Netherton and Al Novstrup – “Why would we need an ethics commission when we don’t even have any? What a dumb idea.”

  10. Roxanne Weber 2017-02-15 06:45

    Very disconcerting! First strong promises to “trust us” as they repealed with emergency, a bill that voters passed, then this? What will it take to actually convince these people that they will be accountable to the voters whether they like it or not?

  11. Lora 2017-02-17 14:25

    Just wondering if you have checked into Chris Karr’s late filing charges from 2012 (? the last time he ran). It was all over the Capitol when I was there that he would owe thousands of dollars if he were to run again. Yet when you look at his earlier final report NOW….its all good…except the dates don’t make sense.

  12. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-02-17 16:14

    Lora, when’s the last time the SOS and AG enforced any campaign finance rule?

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