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Sutton Campaigns on IM 22 and Other Accountability Measures

Senator Billie Sutton is sending a clear message to his fellow Democratic candidates: campaign on Initiated Measure 22. The Democratic candidate for governor released a “Trust & Integrity” plan this week that reads pretty much like the Anti-Corruption Act which voters passed in November 2016 and which the Republican Legislature repealed three months later.

Sutton’s plan includes major IM 22 planks like limiting the gifts lobbyists can give to elected officials and state employees, protecting whistleblowers, empaneling a real ethics commission (not the flimsy one the 2017 Legislature enacted but exempted itself from), and lowering campaign finance caps.

Of course, if we just pass Amendment W, half of Sutton’s Trust & Integrity work will be done. Sutton proposes additional reform measures like closing all the conflict-of-interest loopholes that the Republican Legislature left itself so that officials like G. Mark Mickelson could vote on laws that boost his business. He also wants to reform the bidding process for state contracts to “require disclosure of multiple contracts to the same entity that cumulatively exceed $50k but were not bid.” Hey, how about a step beyond disclosure: how about saying no one gets more than $50K of state contracts a year without bidding for them?

Sutton’s Trust & Integrity plan goes farther than Kristi Noem’s Transparency policy, which nods to IM 22 but doesn’t mention campaign finance, lobbyists, or conflicts of interest. Marty Jackley’s Open and Honest Government initiative doesn’t mention campaign finance or lobbyists, either… but at the point where Marty opens his initiative by saying he “led the fight against corruption in the federal EB5 program,” we’re allowed to laughingly dismiss his proposal wholesale.


  1. David Newquist 2018-05-04 13:22

    Any correction of the corrupt practices that are business-as-usual in South Dakota will be dependent on making all records open to public scrutiny and made accessible through a Freedom of Information law of the same standards as the federal law. Billie Sutton’s plan notes that “Under current law many government records are exempt from public disclosure.”

    The two major hindrances involve the way that privacy is interpreted in personnel matters and that officials are given the power to hide investigative matters. If a government employee is caught in some level of a finagle, officials routinely will plead that privacy rules prevent them from offering information. In many state codes, employees are protected from having personal information made public, but anything they are involved in that deals with public business is not covered by privacy rules. The public has a right to know exactly how and why business is done. But not in South Dakota.

    Law enforcement is carefully protected from public scrutiny by South Dakota law. When the state said that Richard Benda of EB-5 notoriety committed suicide, reporter Bob Mercer wanted to see how it arrived at that conclusion. The Attorney General’s office denied access to the records, so Bob ended up taking the matter to the State Supreme Court. The Supreme Court carefully pointed out that while such investigations were open to public examination through federal law, South Dakota law exempts them, SDCL 1-27-1.5(5). In this state the public is denied the right to know.

    Corruption is a lucrative and power-endowing business in South Dakota. Even when corrupt practices in the justice system are exposed, such as in the Metz case, nothing is done, and the people engaged in them go merrily on their way. Officials hide in the dark of bad laws and few in the public care. One suspects that they don’t care because if they had their chance at a little graft and grift, they’d take it.

    Billie Sutton’s plan may receive some discussion, but one must wonder if in South Dakota the majority wants it to actually enlighten the law.

  2. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr. 2018-05-04 16:30

    With all due respect to Senator Sutton’s plan to end or lessen corruption in state government, I think the real question is not what Sutton or Democratic legislators want to do to reduce such corruption, rather it is a question to be poised to our two Attorney General candidates on how they plan to use the AG office effectively and fairly to prevent corruption in state government, and I look forward to their answers to this issue at our state convention….

  3. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr. 2018-05-05 12:02

    The issue is bigger than campaign finance. It about governing too and how it is done.

  4. leslie 2018-05-05 13:26

    JKC jr-jackley constantly claimed he had no power to more deeply invesigate rounds cronys ect for EB% and Gearup government abetted fraud/corruption. SOP in SD and daily now by such fed overseers as House Oversight Committee ala Nunes and tapdancer Gowdy. Feckless, compromised, partisan jackley

  5. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr. 2018-05-05 19:52

    Leslie, don’t forget that the same crowd who said that EB5 was merely a $ 2000 fine and GEARUP was merely a Platte issue are the same ones who claimed in the final days of the Sioux Falls mayoral race that an attempted hack is not a crime.

    Apparently, being caught in the act or the thought and attempted execution of a conspiracy are no longer crimes in South Dakota; and for some reason, Bosworth’s senate campaign was more credible than Jo’s mayoral campaign when it comes to the South Dakota GOP and their understanding of proper legal and investigative protocol involving elections which are pending……

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