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Mickelson Blows Smoke About Republican Attack on Initiative and Referendum

Boy, does G. Mark Mickelson have a deal for you!
This should be everyone’s stock photo for G. Mark Mickelson.

Speaker G. Mark Mickelson and I get to occupy the same inches in the that Sioux Falls paper. As you would expect, our comments to Dana Ferguson’s April 6 report on the Legislature’s erosion of initiative and referendum show the obvious contrast between the speaker’s baloney and the blogger’s facts. Let’s look at some quotes:

Mickelson: “The goal is if we’re going to ask people to be residents to circulate, we need to make sure enforce that.”

More enforcement of existing petition regulations would be great. When I tried in 2016 to get law enforcement to take up a complaint about notary violations on petitions, I got bounced around among five different offices and got zero follow-up. But none of the bills Mickelson pushed this year increase enforcement efforts of existing petition laws. Mickelson hasn’t directed police or the Secretary of State to investigate petition violations. Instead, Mickelson and his Republican colleagues have shifted the burden of proof from the state to petitioners and created more paperwork and cost to deter grassroots groups from circulating initiative and referendum petitions.

[Ferguson paraphrasing Mickelson]: Mickelson circulated two ballot measures in 2017 and said he frequently witnessed non-residents circulating petitions, which violates state law.

Really, G. Mark? Witnessed? Why didn’t you report what you witnessed? Could it be because you would have run into the same runaround others have when trying to get state and local officials to enforce existing laws? And if we can’t get enforcement of existing laws, what enforcement will we get of the laws you passed?

[Ferguson paraphrasing Mickelson]: He said he wouldn’t have had a problem operating under the new requirements with his teams of dozens of volunteers.

Mickelson paid good money for his circulators, just like almost everyone else in the field in 2017. No grassroots organizations leapt out of the woodwork to circulate Mickelson’s pet projects. Mickelson even paid the cannabis advocates at New Approach South Dakota to carry his petitions.

Mickelson: “We’ve seen many occasions where out-of-state groups, many times liberal groups, use that process to promote ideas that don’t fit our culture.”

Mickelson is pulling several legs here:

  1. Mickelson is trying to paint non-partisan ballot measures as “liberal” plots in hopes of scaring South Dakotans away from direct democracy. South Dakotans don’t like the word “liberal,” but they tend to vote that way on ballot questions. Republicans hate it when voters escape Republican branding and vote logically, so they have to try applying their facile labels to keep their grip on power.
  2. “Liberal” groups are no more prevalent in ballot measures than conservative out-of-staters are in pushing Mickelson and the Legislature to vote for culture-war bills. See, for example, the out-of-staters who pushed Neal Tapio’s refugee fearmongering SB 200, Al Novstrup’s attack on Planned Parenthood and the Constitution, and South Dakota’s offensive law allowing adoption agencies to reject parents based on religious objections.
  3. Henry T. Nicholas isn’t liberal. He promoted Amendment S, the crime victims bill of rights, not from any ideological agenda but just to memorialize his poor dead sister in South Dakota’s constitution.
  4. The payday lenders aren’t liberal. They pushed Amendment U, the fake payday loan rate cap. Their ideological is predatory anarcho-capitalism.
  5. Nicholas and the payday lenders used the most alarming and unscrupulous circulating tactics of anyone in the field in 2016. The harm the did stemmed from wealth, not ideology. Yet as the richest players in the field, they are least affected by the bureaucracy Mickelson and the Republicans are layering onto our initiative and referendum process.
  6. If labeling ballot questions as “liberal” or “conservative” is either possible or relevant, then how do we brand Mickelson’s two initiatives?
    1. IM 24 bans out-of-staters from giving money to ballot question committees. Expanding government regulation, limiting individual freedom—Mickelson would call that “liberal”, right?
    2. IM 25 increases tobacco tax to increase state subsidies for vo-tech tuition. Raise taxes, make higher ed cheaper—that’s not just “liberal”; that’s Bernie Sanders liberal!

Fortunately, Ferguson talked to me to wash Mickelson’s bushwah out of readers’ mouths with the refreshing taste of straight talk:

“It’s not that there’s any one bill this year that’s a disaster that will absolutely kill initiatives and referendums,” Cory Heidelberger, a Democratic state Senate candidate and former circulator said. “It’s that there are so many of them that continue to complicate the process and that crowd grassroots organizers out.”

…“This is how the elephant eats us, one bite at a time,” Heidelberger said. “They don’t just kill initiative and referendum because we won’t stand for it, but they do a little thing here, a little thing there, knowing that it’s really hard for the people to do a referendum drive on 12 different bills” [Dana Ferguson, “South Dakota a ‘Standout’ in Limiting Voters’ Ability to Bring Issues to the Ballot,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2018.04.06].

Mickelson is the only circulator Ferguson talks to who says the laws passed year won’t hinder grassroots petition drives. Republican Steve Hickey backs me up. Open primaries advocate Joe Kirby backs me up. And backing us all up is Wendy Underhill of the National Conference of State Legislatures, that really important thing over which Mickelson’s colleague Senator Deb Peters presides:

But all told, the onslaught of bills puts South Dakota in a league of its own in terms of restricting direct democracy.

“South Dakota was a standout,” said Wendy Underhill, an expert in initiative and referendum processes at the National Conference of State Legislatures. “There’s been more action in South Dakota than in other states” [Ferguson, 2018.04.06].

Republicans are waging war on your right to vote on laws. We need comprehensive reforms to repeal all of the restrictions Mickelson and his colleagues have place on initiative and referendum. We also need to replace baloneyfying Mickelson with Kelly Sullivan and every other Republican legislator with a straight-talking Democrat who will stand for democracy and protect those reforms.


  1. Donald Pay 2018-04-07

    G. Marky is quite the liar, isn’t he? Giving that guy ink in any paper is like turning the news over to Trump, except Trump will tell the truth on himself now and then. Has there ever been anything of truth coming out of G. Marky’s piehole?

    G. Marky lies sort of like my old childhood friend Pete. We used to call him “Pete the Cheat.” I liked Pete a lot, but you never wanted to trade baseball cards or slot cars with him. He was the biggest BS-er in the neighborhood where I lived. He would lay out a good line of hokum trying to talk you into making a bad trade. But the endearing thing about Pete, was this: the BS-ing was so transparently absurd that you just had to laugh at him. And it was, after all, about baseball cards, not people’s rights given in the US and South Dakota Constitutions.

    G. Marky is just like Pete. His lying is so absurdly nonsensical, that no one believes it, not even him. Because, for him to actually believe his line of BS would mean he has an IQ of 25. He’s not quite that dumb, which means he has to keep laying out the BS in ever deeper piles of untruth to prove how right and honest he is. But here’s the thing: the big dumb oaf is not quite smart enough to realize we aren’t quite dumb enough to swallow his line of BS.

    I doubt anyone is swallowing G. Marky’s line of BS, but I sort of need a good laugh now and then. Keep the BS coming, G. Marky. What else ya’ got?

  2. grudznick 2018-04-07

    They should build statues of Mr. Mickelson in Pierre by that lake for his work in stomping on the big, dark, out of state money that is mucking about in Our State and they should ban out of staters entirely.

  3. Roger Cornelius 2018-04-07

    “They” should, but “they” won’t, grudz.

  4. Francie Ganje 2018-04-07

    Mark Mickelson has single-handedly done more to undermine voter rights in South Dakota than anyone in recent history. His work to create roadblocks to the petition process makes him unfit for public service.

  5. grudznick 2018-04-07

    Never underestimate what they might do, my younger and more agile friend.

  6. Donald Pay 2018-04-07

    Funny, how G. Marky is frightened by the non-existent problem of out-of-state petitioners, but when real crime is happening in the Daugaard Administration he runs and hides.

    Consider the most recent corruption being unmasked now: a bribe being offered to SDDENR by Agnico Eagle Mines to mine at the Gilt Edge Superfund site. That bribe got zero bills and zero comment by G. Marky. Agnico is not just out-of-state. They are a foreign company!!! Yet, G. Marky goes silent on foreign corporations corrupting a state agency and the Attorney General’s office. A foreign company making a crooked deal signed off by SD DENR head Steve Pirner and an Assistant Attorney General ought to be of more concern to G. Marky than non-existent petitioiners from out-of-state. If G. Marky is so concerned about out-of-state petitioners, why did he use them in his initiative efforts? G. Marky ought to have a statue built for him, all right. A statue made out of bullsh*t.

  7. grudznick 2018-04-07

    That is really neat, that there is a bribe being paid to the DENR people. Has anybody checked to see if this Mr. Pirner fellow has recently purchased a Jaguar or fancy Lotus Evora car that he can rod around in, burning up carbon atoms at a rate equaled only by the stuff that it takes to haul geothermal borehole equipment about?

  8. Debbo 2018-04-07

    “the onslaught of bills puts South Dakota in a league of its own in terms of restricting direct democracy.”

    Now there’s a great pity, but something that’s especially pleasing to the Kochs, Mercers, Waltons, Greens, and other rich SOBs who only want to get richer, stomping on corpses along the way.

  9. Donald Pay 2018-04-08

    Funny, Grudz. Not that kind of bribe. More like the one Lee McCarren accused SDDS of offering.

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