Saturday, November 21, 2015

Anti-Corruption? Yes. Publicly Financed Elections? No. Initiated Measure 22? Can't Support It.

         I didn't know Justin Smith from Justin Bieber, but now I know (thanks to Cory
Government Reform?  Yes
Election Reform Is Another Thing
(graphic from Center for Public Integrity)
Heidelberger and his excellent blog Dakota Free Press) that Smith is
 a Sioux Falls lawyer and lobbyist who's been outspoken about his opposition to Initiated Measure 22.  A vigorous word war has erupted on DFP between Smith and Heidelberger, well worth reading as a primer to what IM 22 is all about.  First off, the SD Secretary of State has yet to review the petitions required to get the measure on next November's ballot, but given the 25k signatures submitted, which is almost twice the number needed to make the ballot, chances are very good that voters will be considering it next year. IM 22, labelled the South Dakota Government Accountability And Anti-Corruption Act is probably too long (at 34 pages) and too detailed (with 70 sections) to get many voters to carefully read and understand it.  I wish they would because for the most part it does a good job of reforming government operations and exposing them to the light of public scrutiny.
       If IM 22 had stopped there, I'd be an enthusiastic supporter.  But damn it, the folks who put this thing together had to go and throw in a poison pill that has nothing to do with government reform. On that basis, they can include me out. Why?  Because I think publicly financed elections are a way to force me to support candidates I don't like, which is baloney. How?  Because it wants public financing of elections (see sections 42 through 62) via a "democracy credit fund" amounting to $12 million (with built in inflation adjustments) to be distributed to participating candidates.  According to the measure, this is to "minimize corruption or the appearance of corruption in government; to promote broad, diverse, fair, and undistorted influence and participation by South Dakotans in state electoral politics; to better inform the public about candidates running for office; and to promote meaningful and open discussion of political issues in the context of electoral politics."
     Noble goals, indeed.  Fulfillability is another matter. That neither the measure nor its supporters address the issue of how much extra strain it puts on a state budget that is already scrambling to cover
Noble, Needed
Not Going There With IM 22 
such basic costs as infrastructure repair and decent teacher salaries is more than a poison pill--it's a fatal flaw. That it also steers the measure away from government reform to election reform--big difference in my book--diverts the rhetorical energy required to address operational issues and ethics of government.  We need reform and oversight in this state, which is where the focus of this measure should have been. As a practical political matter, I believe my reservations about IM 22 will be widespread throughout the electorate and that the measure probably doesn't stand much of a chance at the polls. While it's a shame that money remains the mother's milk of politics, I would have preferred a separate measure focused on campaign--not government--reform.  Much as I admire the overall intent, the IM 22 effort itself will probably go for naught.  


  1. Sorry I am late to the conversation, John, but I went down to Ft Benning GA for the protest against the School of the Americas, now called WHINSEC. They changed the name when a vote of Congress closed down the SOS back in 2001, so they changed the name to Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Corporation.

    I am ashamed to admit that I signed that petition, I guess because "ethics reform" sounds great doesn't it? Well as far as publicly financed elections, it has worked so well at the federal level, hasn't it????

    1. Signing a petition doesn't necessarily mean you support the aims of the sponsors. I often sign petitions because I think the issues related to them should go to a public vote.