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Soli Destroys Amendment W

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.


  1. Donald Pay 2018-10-24 10:32

    Corruption, let’s remind voters, generally depends on bi-partisan elitism. And that’s what we have here with a Democrat enlisted in this elitist effort to derail the public’s wish to curb corruption.

    The telling point in her statement is this: “There’s more to be done, but….” I think most can agree with that, but who do you trust to do that: the people or the corrupt. After all, those who are corrupt and who benefit from that corruption have had decades to correct the problem, and didn’t. Sorry, too little, too late.

    Let’s school Soli on some history. Going back to the Oahe Irrigation Project in the early 1970s and following along through ETSI, the nuclear waste fights, sewage ash scam, and the solid waste fight, Democrats were involved in the corruption. They got paid off, just like the Republicans. With the party’s decline, of course, the corrupters were able to focus solely on the Republicans, and that’s how it’s been for a couple decades.

    I see Soli’s effort as a pretty obvious hand out that says, “Hey, throw some money my way and we can put a bi-partisan shine on the corruption.

    We older folks have seen this rodeo before. Don’t get bucked off just because one D is corrupt.

  2. Porter Lansing 2018-10-24 11:14

    Here’s a story about the people’s mindset and trying to use big names to change it.
    There’s an issue on our ballot that increases the setback that oil fracking rigs can drill near homes and schools. It’s scientific knowledge (and I roughnecked) that the fumes from oil drilling is hazardous to kids and seniors. Every famous person in CO is being paid to do TV ads against this safety regulation. From former Governors of both parties all, money people, religious leaders all the way down to John Elway. But alas, the regulation is going to pass. Who wants a drill rig and eventually an oil pump 250 feet from your dream home, no matter how much money BigOil spends to tell you it’s safe? No matter how much tax money the state will lose?

  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-10-24 22:52

    Donald, I like Karen Soli a lot. I did not like her GAB bill or her collaboration with/capitulation to the Republicans… but she can make a fair case that the 2017 consolation prizes were a pragmatic effort to salvage at least a little good and reduce the “more to be done” after the repeal of IM 22.

    Opponents could make the argument that Soli is just another legislator defending the Legislature’s privileges and power… but that’s a hard argument to make against a pastor and a Democrat who enjoys little power in Pierre and isn’t likely to compromise her principles for personal gain.

  4. Debbo 2018-10-24 23:57

    I know and like Karen Soli too. I’m disappointed that she decided to do this add. Her opening statement identifying herself as a pastor adds to my disappointment.

  5. Donald Pay 2018-10-25 06:47

    She’s corrupt, or the dumbest pastor in SD, Cory. You don’t sell your soul to the devil and expect to go to heaven. And she sold it for less than Judas.

  6. John Tsitrian 2018-10-25 09:07

    Here’s my response to Soli’s vid when it showed up in the twitterverse. Lobbyist Justin Smith jumped in and had a few strong words to exchange with me about it. Imagine that. “Your focus should be on why so many people support the amendment, not on what’s wrong with it. Your hasty pastiche of toothless reforms when you trashed IM-22 has irked a lot of South Dakotans, probably enough to pass W.”

  7. Donald Pay 2018-10-25 16:02

    John Tsitrian hits it right on the head. Sometimes you have to stand on principles, as, oh, Jesus did, for example. Soli seems to be one of those people who would have cut a spot for Pontius Pilot and explained why he was right to wash his hands of the matter.

  8. OldSarg 2018-10-25 16:59

    Wow, even a woman you all respect, has experience and understands the impact better than you all is against this. Maybe you should all take a moment and learn something.

  9. Donald Pay 2018-10-25 17:59

    There’s been 40 years of learning, Old Sarg, in this guy. I’ve seen the corruption up close. I battled it in Pierre. I worked against Democrats who took the corrupt route to work against the interests of South Dakotans. You aren’t going to solve this with anything coming out of Pierre. It is the people’s job to clean up the mess. If you read anything about organized crime, as I did when we were dealing with the sewage ash fiasco, you know that the it takes the active involvement of the citizenry to vote out the crooks in power and vote in new norms that solve the problem. The same goes for “the broken window approach” to cleaning up neighborhoods. It takes the people in the neighborhood to stand up and say “enough.” If you don’t like that approach, you, Old Sarg, are part of the corruption.

  10. Darin Larson 2018-11-02 07:10

    It “rewrites our constitution.” Yes, that is the definition of a constitutional amendment. That is not a reason to vote against W.

    Rep. Soli lives amongst the trees, but can’t see the forest.

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