Yes on Amendment W is the Right Choice
Amendment W is a truly bipartisan proposal that will protect South Dakotans from corruption, waste, fraud, and abuse. It was written by South Dakotans at forums held across the state. Over 50,000 conservative, progressive, and independent voters came together to place it on the ballot. Even though I’m a former Republican legislator and my co-chair, Darrell Solberg, is a former Democratic legislator, we have united in support of Amendment W. We know that corruption does not wear a party label.
Amendment W will ban lobbyist gifts to legislators. South Dakota is one of only a few states where lobbyists can wine, dine, and entertain legislators with no limits whatsoever. We’re not paying lawmakers our hard-earned tax dollars so they can eat free steak and drink free booze supplied by special interests in Pierre with their own agendas. It’s time we clean up Pierre so the citizens are put first, not the lobbyists.
Amendment W will prohibit the use of state resources for personal gain and permanently ban the personal use of campaign funds. Contrary to current thinking in Pierre, government exists to represent the will of the people, not to pad the pockets of political insiders.
South Dakota is one of only seven states without independent, ethics law enforcement. Putting an ethics cop on the beat to crack down on corruption could save South Dakota taxpayers $1,300 per year, according to an Indiana University study. The legislature created a government accountability board early last year—but they exempted themselves from oversight. Amendment W closes that outrageous loophole by ensuring that fair and independent ethics law enforcement applies to all public officials, no exceptions.
To ensure full transparency, final ethics law enforcement reports will be available to the public and all meetings of the government accountability board will be required to follow South Dakota’s public meeting laws.
The Argus Leader rightly notes that our legislature has done very little to address the problem of unaccountability in Pierre. But it was disappointing that the editorial board refused to meet with supporters and opponents of Amendment W to ask us questions and dig into who is on each side of the issue and why. The campaign opposed to Amendment W is ninety-nine percent funded by lobbying groups. The lobbyists know that Amendment W would drain the swamp.
After the emergency repeal of Initiated Measure 22, the anti-corruption act passed by a majority of South Dakotans in 2016, voters were left in the dark. Instead of “replacements,” we received a slew of watered-down bills given the seal of approval by the very lobbyist interests we need to rein in. Our lawmakers clearly prefer that decisions be made in the hallways of the Capitol without our voices being heard. Amendment W prevents the legislature from overturning voter approved laws without letting voters have the final say.
The need for Amendment W is clear. After the dual, tragic scandals of EB-5 and Gear Up, you have to ask yourself: how many times are we going to get robbed before we install a security system? Lobbyists and insiders might love politics-as-usual, but weak oversight coupled with a lack of transparency has bred a culture of corruption that has already cost taxpayers millions of dollars.
Corruption, misuse of office, and government waste have taken a clear toll on our state. Politics-as-usual is no longer good enough. We need solutions to these problems. Amendment W will give us the transparent tools and assurances we need to know that our government is serving us rather than special interests, bringing us one step closer to our state’s motto: “Under God, the People Rule.”
Read Amendment W for yourself at www.yesonamendmentw.com. Then, I hope you will join us in voting Yes on Amendment W this November.
Mitch Richter is co-chair of the Yes on W Coalition and a former Republican legislator