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RCJ: Banning Out-of-State Contributions to Ballot Question Committees Hypocritical, Unconstitutional

Now that the South Dakota Newspaper Association is party to a lawsuit seeking the repeal of Initiated Measure 24, the Rapid City Journal lets fly with an editorial supporting the argument that G. Mark Mickelson’s loopholey out-of-state money ban for ballot question committees violates the Constitution. Annoyed as we may all be by out-of-state money influencing our elections, the RCJ editors say this impending law is too hypocritical to let stand:

…IM 24 created different rules for different parts of the political process. It does not prohibit out-of-state interests from making donations to any candidate for governor, senate or congress. It does not prohibit lawmakers from copying proposed legislation from out-of-state think tanks or legislation mills. It restricts only proposals generated through voters [editorial, “Courts Should Strike IM 24,” Rapid City Journal, 2019.04.25].

RCJ also reaches across the court dockets and takes a swipe at the state’s curious response to my lawsuit that South Dakota can treat Minnesotans as foreigners:

In school, do we pledge allegiance to the state of South Dakota or to the United States of America? As citizens of this country we accept certain benefits and also acknowledge related costs. We should support no law that limits the ability of other Americans in South Dakota just as we would oppose laws which attempt to restrict us elsewhere [RCJ, 2019.04.25].

In this case, editorials and blog posts don’t matter: only what the Constitution says and how the judge reads it does. But with the state facing two lawsuits over this unconstitutional money ban, no public voices are rallying to Jason Ravnsborg’s side with credible arguments defending a law that denies 99.7% of Americans their First Amendment rights in South Dakota.


  1. Donald Pay 2019-04-25 13:28

    Yeah, IM 24 was a badly written, dishonest proposal, but considering who brought it, why would you expect anything different? If you are going to try to overturn decades of bad Supreme Court precedent that says money is speech, my inclination is to go at it honestly. But maybe G. Marky knows more about the corrupt and dishonest judicial system and that may be a reason why G. Marky started this line of attack dishonestly. We have gotten to the place now where foreign money controls elections, as Obama stated in his State of the Union speech a few years ago, and it didn’t get there in one giant step. It took decades for conservative ideologues and monied interests whittling away dishonestly to create the current system of internationalist oligarchy, based on “money is speech.” You have to start somewhere, and G. Marky’s proposal is as good a place to start unraveling the corrupt “money is speech” idea as any.

  2. bearcreekbat 2019-04-25 17:13

    It would seem that hostility toward people from different states is a logical outgrowth of hostility toward people from the south of our border. Once the irrational idea begins to take hold that people are lessor beings just because they might happen to reside on the other side of some arbitrary boundary line, is it any wonder that this sick idea spreads to justify the illogical disparaging of people from out of state?

    It is apparently much easier for lazy minds to judge people based on where they are from rather than based on their conduct. And if these judgments can somehow make someone feel superior to the people they unfairly judge, then is it a wonder that the practice grows?

    Judging others based on their residence is a juvenile attitude that adolescents typically have engaged in over the years. The high school boys from town A have too often hated the boys from town B or town C for no reason other than they are from town B or C.

    And today our adolescent president encourages adults to engage in that childish behavior, substituting countries south of our southern border for high school towns B and C. Naturally, that thinking eventually extends to new high school towns B and C located in states other than South Dakota.

    It is all just two sides of the same coin.

  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-04-25 17:57

    Donald, I would love for G. Mark to come join us in the federal courtroom here in Aberdeen next Friday (10:30 a.m.! Everybody come watch!) and testify as a star witness for the defense. I would love for the state to pivot to the full-throated argument that Citizens United and the equation of money with speech must be overturned and that Jason Ravnsborg intends to appeal this case all the way to the United States Supreme Court to attain exactly that goal.

    Dang, if we had elected a qualified Attorney General, there’d be a chance for South Dakota to pull that off.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-04-25 18:07

    Bear, I endorse your read of a common thread in that rampant and White-House-stoked fear of others. The Bill of Rights serves to prevent those fears (which persist even in the best of times, which we all struggle with in our fallible nature) from denying various members of our society their basic rights and dignity.

    I feel a little awkward marching on the courthouse with the Koch Brothers, Marty Jackley, the Retailers, and the Chamber hot on my tail cheering. The RCJ editorial also talks about advertising, signaling that the Newspaper Association and Broadcasters Association have enlisted in the Koch Bros suit in part to defend their financial interest in big-money campaigns. The arguments against IM24 offer an example of how real Constitutional principles can align with the capitalist impulse for filthy lucre. Donald’s reminder of the core issue of equating money with speech is important: even as we fight for the First Amendment, we do so under a contestable interpretation of that First Amendment. if we got to that contest, we’d see the various plaintiffs (not to mention the state defendants!) in this matter scattering and regrouping in interesting combinations.

    But I don’t think there’s much chance we’ll get to that contest. Money=speech will remain an axiom of the arguments and the court’s ruling in this case. Breaking that axiom will take a larger debate, probably one that happens outside the courtroom and in the form of a public debate over a Constitutional amendment.

  5. leslie 2019-04-26 05:48

    This seems to be another reaction to “Geo Soros”; and those in political control in SD who can’t compete with real blue money if it comes into this little red state.

    The quandry is that without taking massive money we can’t compete. Money does not represent free speech or one person/one vote, and corporations are not people, in my little idealized world.

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