How does David Owen’s “W Is Wrong” committee respond to Jennifer Lawrence and the other actors that Represent South Dakota has engaged to sing the praises of Amendment W, the Anti-Corruption and Voter Protection Amendment? By enlisting Democratic Representative Karen Soli to destroy W once and for all:
I’m a pastor and a Democratic legislator, and I’m voting No on Amendment W. Last year, I worked with both parties to create an ethics board for the Executive Branch. They’re now meeting and working well. We also passed new limits on lobbyists, protections for whistleblowers, and stopped campaign spending for personal use.
There’s more to be done, but this confusing amendment rewrites our constitution, and it’s a needless state expense. Vote No on Amendment W [Rep. Karen Soli, advertisement against Amendment W, paid for by “W Is Wrong,” posted 2018.10.23].
There are arguments to be made against nearly every point Rep. Soli makes. The new ethics board she helped create, the Government Accountability Board, is somewhat opaque and watered down to insulate legislators from scrutiny of their conflicts of interest. The “new limits on lobbyists” exempt food, drink, and many other amenities and ensure an annual inflationary adjustment to the $100 gift cap, an increase that legislators have failed to guarantee for school funding and state employee salaries. The whistleblower protections passed in 2017 require citizens filing complaints about corruption to give the people they are accusing a heads-up.
And all of the items Rep. Soli touts were pale consolation prizes passed in the wake of the Legislature’s repeal of the ethics reforms that South Dakotans voted for in 2016. Rep. Soli’s promotion of those pale substitutes feels like the Democratic capitulation to the Republican machine that makes it hard to get people excited about backing Democratic candidates. (Rep. Soli will sensibly respond that this “capitulation” is actually the contorting compromise that the Democratic minority has to do to achieve even these small steps toward better government.)
But these arguments take longer to make and don’t land the punch that Pastor and Democratic Representative Soli does in under 30 seconds. They are all “Yes-buts,” and a good chunk of voters will have heard their fill at yes and vote No before we get to the buts. W forces can point to the initiative and referendum protections that Rep. Soli ignores, but Soli lands so many blows, capped with the coups de grace about unnecessary spending and constitutional tinkering, that our somewhat esoteric concerns about the initiative and referendum process (even the words we need to make the case that legislators should be able to repeal the ballot measures we pass without our consent are long and unfamiliar!) will struggle to cut through the clutter and justify all the other changes against which Soli argues.
Plus, Rep. Karen Soli makes her points with a native, authentic gravitas that no Hollywood stars or satirical comedy relief can. I don’t know how much money the “W Is Wrong” committee has to spend on the Soli ad or how much Represent SD has to respond (since the Secretary of State has not yet posted pre-general reports for either committee, although the submission deadline was Monday), but I suspect the Chamber of Commerce, Koch Brothers, and the Republicans rallying will not lack the cash to ensure the Soli ad gets enough airtime to quash any response from the pro-W forces.