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AAN Humble About Capitalist Role in Overturning IM 24

The Aberdeen American News this weekend celebrated our court victory in overturning Initiated Measure 24, Mark Mickelson’s loopholey ban on out-of-state contributions to ballot question committees. Interestingly, the newspaper editorial board doesn’t say “our” in reference to the lawsuits that its South Dakota Newspaper Association and I brought to take Mickelson’s nakedly unconstitutional law down:

Earlier this year two lawsuits were filed to prevent IM 24 from becoming law — one by Aberdeen resident Cory Heidelberger and his political action committee, SD Voice, and the other by several lobbying groups [editorial, “We Should Be Better Than IM 24 {paywall},” Aberdeen American News, 2019.05.18].

I’ve been not just careful but proud to make clear in my commentary on the demise of IM 24 that I was the first plaintiff at the table. It makes obvious editorial sense as I write about public policy in South Dakota to make clear my role beyond blogging in working to influence that policy. The South Dakota Newspaper Association was the lead plaintiff in Marty Jackley’s hurry-and-catch-up-with-Cory lawsuit against IM 24. The Aberdeen American News, by its membership in the South Dakota Newspaper Association, was just like me, in court not solely as a reporter but as a litigant, fighting to protect South Dakota from unconstitutional statutes. Don’t be shy about that, AAN—remind the people of your public service!

The AAN editorial does make a good point that we should be better than bad laws like IM 24. Not only is IM 24 unconstitutional (and we should never vote for unconstitutional laws), but AAN portrays Mickelson’s sham money ban expressed a distrust in the voters:

…we have to remember that no matter how many TV commercials, radio and newspaper ads, billboards and lawn signs flood our daily lives, it’s still your neighbor in the voting booth next to yours.

…It’s everyone in your day-to-day life that you trust.

Do you really not trust them to sort through all the noise and make an informed decision on election day? [AAN editorial {paywall}, 2019.05.18].

The editorial also accuses Mickelson of playing to an unhealthy bunker mentality:

We should be open to new ideas, regardless of their origins, and fairly evaluate their worth. We should work to foster a culture of inclusion in our state, making sure everyone knows they are heard and are welcome to contribute.

The last thing we should do is try to silence voices just because they are telling us something we don’t want to hear or are coming from outside the state.

That’s un-American.

And, frankly, it should be un-South Dakotan [AAN editorial {paywall}, 2019.05.18].

AAN’s comment section draws this hilarious knee-jerk, not-reading comment from one David Mehlhoff, whose entire worldview consists of seeing liberal plots everywhere:

Yup. Now the liberal special interest groups are laughing behind our backs. They can now funnel money into South Dakota elections to further their agenda which most South Dakotans do not share. Stand up South Dakotans and demand out of state money stays out of state [David Mehlhoff, comment under AAN editorial {paywall}, 2019.05.18].

Mehlhoff probably stopped reading at “Cory Heidelberger,” but his Hannity conspiracism would have been destroyed if the editorial had replaced “several lobbying groups” with my counterpart-plaintiffs’ full roster:

  • South Dakota Newspaper Association
  • South Dakota Retailers Association
  • South Dakota Chamber of Commerce
  • Americans for Prosperity
  • Thomas Barnett, Jr.

I looked hard, but I’m pretty sure my lawyer Jim Leach and I were the only liberals in the courtroom. The lawyer seated to my right, Marty Jackley, certainly is no liberal. And far from liberal laughter, Jackley has been pushing the reason his capitalist clients are smiling:

“I don’t think the public was given all the information on what it did to new businesses,” Jackley said. “In other words, it could affect economic development.”

…Hearing the views of Nathan Sanderson, the executive director for the South Dakota Retailers, and David Owen, head of the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce, during the lawsuit broadened Jackley’s understanding of “the true effect” of IM 24 on businesses.

“The suit maybe opened my eyes to that a little bit more,” Jackley said [Bob Mercer, “Jackley: Many South Dakota Businesses Would Have Been Hurt by IM 24,” KELO-TV, 2019.05.10].

The Newspaper Association was a key part of overturning IM 24, but their motivation was not the liberal bogeymen stuck in Mehlhoff’s Fox-muddled head. It was the money they make advertising—er, informing the public about ballot measures. That’s capitalism at work, right alongside my conservative defense of the First Amendment against over-regulation.


  1. Frank Kloucek 2019-05-20 08:49

    Cory Heidelberger is champion of the people across all political spectrums!

  2. Porter Lansing 2019-05-20 09:24

    Mr. Mehlhoff. You overestimate how much people notice how you look and act.
    Most people are much more concerned about themselves than they are about you. Take away their prejudices and people generally want to like and get along with you as it gives them validation, too.
    Instead of worrying about how you’ll be judged and who’s laughing at you, consider how you make others feel. They’ll remember this much more, and you’ll make South Dakota a better place.

  3. Donald Pay 2019-05-20 11:01

    How ironic!!! I couldn’t help but guffaw. The Aberdeen American News editorial, I notice, is safely shielded from public view by a paywall. The only way I know some of what they said is it’s on this free site. Here is what they, situated with the elite behind their paywall, ask about your voting neighbors:

    “Do you really not trust them to sort through all the noise and make an informed decision on election day?”

    Uh, no, it’s not the problem of my neighbors. It’s the problem of the so-called “free press,” and the noise they print. The noise includes a lot of misinformation and pap put out by the “free press.” One need only look at the history of the Aberdeen American News on the Oahe Irrigation issue to understand that the “free press,” at its worst, is simply a propaganda arm of the wealthy elite and special interests. Basically, the monied interests own the “free press,” and rent their press only to those who have the resources to buy coverage in the free press. It seems the “free press” ain’t really free, is it? The monied interests read the news and editorials that they largely write or control. They create the noise and then want us to ignore it, while claiming we don’t trust our neighbors.

    If the “free press” was doing its job, it would turn down some of that noise, and print the facts. But, then, that’s not what the out-of-state money is buying, is it?

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-05-21 10:33

    Thanks, Frank—I’ll stand with anyone who needs the protection of the United States Constitution.

    Donald notes the “propaganda arm of the wealthy elite and special interests.” I recall in 2016 getting calls from the advertisers encouraging me to buy ads for the two referred laws we placed on the ballot. I spent not one dime. Instead of asking people for more money than we’d already gotten for circulating the petition, I invested my own efforts in writing the blog posts explaining my two ballot questions and all the others that the media were somewhat laggardly about.

    Both referred laws went the way I wanted, overturning the Incumbent Protection Plan and David Novstrup’s youth minimum wage cut.

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-05-21 10:34

    I agree with Donald that the press could do great work in countering all the propaganda by producing more regular and reliable stories about the ballot measures to give some context for (and inoculation from!) the paid propaganda.

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