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IM 24 Doesn’t Stop TransCanada from Paying for Kristi’s Hors d’Oeuvres

The Koch Brothers are probably going to sue to overturn Initiated Measure 24, G. Mark Mickelson’s ban on out-of-state money in ballot question campaigns. As I have pointed out since before IM 24 was even a petition, a lawsuit against such a ban will win, because, no matter how much Mickelson says out-of-state money screws up South Dakota’s politics, money is speech and states can’t restrict that speech on ballot questions.

Now remember: if Mickelson had wanted to push out-of-state money out of South Dakota politics, he could have promoted a ban on out-of-state contributions to candidates, because the courts have recognized a unique potential for corruption from donations to candidates that does not arise from donations to ballot question committees:

University of Chicago Law School professor William Baude said he doubts it would survive a court challenge.

The U.S. Supreme Court declared in a 1981 decision that limits on contributions to ballot measure committees are unconstitutional under the First Amendment, said Paul S. Ryan, a vice president at the Washington watchdog Common Cause, which opposes big money in politics.

The high court has said that contributions to candidates can be limited to prevent the corruption of public officials, Ryan said. But, he said, the court found that with a ballot measure, unlike a candidate, there is nobody to corrupted, so there’s no legal justification for limiting donations [emphasis mine; James Nord, “South Dakota Tries to Limit Outsiders’ Money in Initiatives,” AP via Pierre Capital Journal, 2017.02.15].

Hey, who's that lady always hiding her eyes under a hat? Looks kinda shady....
Hey, who’s that lady always hiding her eyes under a hat? Looks kinda shady….

A ballot question committee comes and goes; after the election, it goes away, so there’s not really anyone to corrupt. A candidate wins, and she goes to the Capitol, where she can do the bidding of her out-of-state donors for years. That’s where the real corruption is. Why didn’t G. Mark Mickelson sic his IM 24 against out-of-state money given to candidates and public officials?

Because his pals have a party to run:

Organizers of South Dakota Gov.-elect Kristi Noem’s inaugural celebration have raised at least $162,500 from roughly 30 large donors including major health systems, big energy companies and state industry groups.

Top-tier donations to the city of Pierre’s inaugural committee include $12,500 from Avera Health, $10,000 from biofuels producer POET and $10,000 from Keystone XL oil pipeline developer TransCanada.

…A Noem spokeswoman says the incoming governor is grateful for the generosity of contributors. Noem says she’s ready to get to work for South Dakota [“Organizers Raise $162K from Big Donors for Noem Inaugural,” AP via KSFY, 2019.01.04].

Canadian company TransCanada pays for $10K worth of smokies and poutine (that’s what they served Saturday, right?). Our new Governor says thank you so much. TransCanada says no, thank you, Madam Governor. Now, about that bill doubling fines for pipeline safety violations….

Other out-of-state supporters of Noem’s party are NextEra Energy ($10K), BNSF Railway ($10K), Pfizer ($5K), and Avangrid Renewables ($5K).

Ballot measures change one law at a time. Governor Noem will sign a couple hundred new laws over the next few months, dispatch her lobbyists to kill several others, and then be there to dispatch Highway Patrol troopers to help cart any pesky protestors 190 miles away to the Faulk County jail.

IM 24 won’t stop the real corruption in Pierre. Even if the Koch Brothers and the courts let IM 24 take effect on July 1, the big out-of-state money corrupting our laws is already in the pockets and tummies of our powerful lawmakers and will keep on flowing.


  1. Debbo 2019-01-08

    Noem is ready to go to work for “$12,500 from Avera Health, $10,000 from biofuels producer POET and $10,000 from Keystone XL oil pipeline developer TransCanada. NextEra Energy ($10K), BNSF Railway ($10K), Pfizer ($5K), and Avangrid Renewables ($5K).”

    Good luck, citizens of SD. You’re going to need it while your state government serves the above list and, overall, ALEC/Kochs.

  2. Donald Pay 2019-01-08

    I agree it will be tough sledding for IM 24. However, the Supreme Court decision in 1981 occurred in a different era. If the right arguments and facts are brought forward, I think you can make a good stab at, if not banning, at least limiting contributions to ballot issue committees. I think a different approach would have a better shot, but why not try to take this as far as you can?

    People may not be able to be corrupted, but what about the system? Many states have limited ways in which the legislative process can be hijacked. Those often provisions include prevention of providing meals or even a cup of coffee to legislators. But what are you preventing there? It really isn’t bribe as much as a way to entice a legislator to listen to your free speech.

    Much as we like to disparage legislators, and I love to do it, I don’t believe they are going to sell their vote over a free cup of coffee, even if they skip the coffee and substitute some brandy. What meals or cups of coffee provide is a way to get in the ear and mind of a legislator. Your Average Joe working in Hometown, SD, can’t do that to anywhere near the extent as Mr. Rich Lobbyist. That’s why states and South Dakota voters decided to end the corruption, and why the power elite in the state overturned the people’s vote.

    I want to stress, the corruption isn’t so much of a personal kind. It’s a corruption of representative democracy, which is what needs guarding against more than ever when the rich can buy lots of access to legislators, and the constituents get a haughty look down the nose from their representatives.

    Well, if states can ban cups of coffee during a legislative session to protect against the corruption of representative democracy, it seems reasonable to apply the same standard to initiatives and referendums. Ballot measures are corrupted similarly by filling the ear of the “legislators,” which are the people, with one point of view.

    As I said, the environment now is different than that in 1981. Before the 1981 decision, there were other avenues, including the Fairness Doctrine, to offset the money advantage of the out-of-state, foreign or monied interests. We used that mechanism several times in the 1980s to counteract the money disadvantage. That mechanism no longer exists.

    And there are many other differences. State laws have made the initiative process much more costly, thus sapping the money of in-state citizens, while letting highly bankrolled interests drain them of campaign funds in needless manufactured pre-voting controversies. Out-of-state interests can quickly neuter any South Dakota citizen effort. Just watch how much money the Koch’s use to gut Mickelson’s initiative.

  3. jerry 2019-01-24

    Holy gigawatts Batman, China does it better…again. While we eat horses devors, China moves power.

    “China’s primary grid operator has energized its biggest and most powerful line yet, a 1.1-million-volt direct current (DC) behemoth that crushes world records for voltage, distance and power.

    The new ultra-high voltage DC (UHVDC) line built by Beijing-based State Grid Corporation of China can transmit up to 12 gigawatts. That is enough to power 50 million Chinese households, according to a statement issued in Chinese by State Grid last week, and 50 percent more than most of the 800-kilovolt UHVDC lines that State Grid has built over the past decade.”

    While trump and his Russian accomplices dismantle American hopes for expanding our grid system, the world passes us by. Cough cough spitter spitter, we depend on dirty coal

  4. Robert McTaggart 2019-01-24

    So you are saying it could handle 1.21 Gigawatts? About the only thing about that powerful would be a bolt of lightning. But you never know when one of those is going to strike….

    Sounds like they have had issues incorporating a lot of renewables onto their grid if not problems with transmitting power over long distances without wasting power or curtailing power sources.

  5. Steve Pearson 2019-01-24

    Did the Chinese just make a time machine out of a DeLorean too????

  6. jerry 2019-01-24

    Doc, I didn’t write the article. I quoted from it. Maybe you should read it out loud so you can hear it then. The point being, while we dither they are moving forward with great strides. Our grid system here in the United States, is so so old. “The old, dirty, creaky US electric grid would cost $5 trillion to replace.”

    Chinese builders started a 670,000 square meter factory for Tesla on January 7,2019 that will start producing electric cars for delivery in the 4th quarter of 2019! Amazing! Here, we cannot complete a couple of miles of Interstate in that length of time. We need power to heat and compete, to light and to fight. So we cannot allow the elite to beat and lead us to defeat.

    “”A typical lightning bolt contains 1 billion volts and contains between 10,000 to 200,000 amperes of current.”” That’s a lot of juice Doc, it gave Ben Franklin quite a buzz.

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