Initiated Measure 22 is Worthy of ‘Yes’ Vote [OPINION]
Initiated Measure 22 is one of ten issues on the ballot this year. I believe the intent of the people who put this effort together is to fix some very broken things in our state government.
There are three basic components to the proposal.
Re-establishing the State Ethics Commission is first. We had one. During a previous administration several years ago the governor proposed it be eliminated, and it was.
Today the lack of ethics, honesty, and integrity of some in Pierre, and connected to Pierre, has caused us embarrassment and more importantly, personal tragedy. The EB-5 scandal was the result of some leaders not paying attention, and some employees taking advantage of that lack of attention. The lawsuits underway today total several million dollars in potential liability to the state, and are currently costing us legal fees, which you and I are paying with our tax dollars.
The Gear Up scandal and resulting loss of innocent lives is still being played out. Clearly people involved with Gear Up had no understanding, or didn't care about, conflicts of interest. They were also able to take advantage of holes in the state’s investigative process dealing with organizations given the responsibility of managing both federal and state dollars. When finally caught, innocent people died.
I know there is no guarantee the deaths would not have happened if we had an Ethics Commission. However, a group looking into ethical practices of our state government and people entrusted with tax money may have prevented the overlapping organizations and board memberships which paved the way for the abuse of public money and the deaths of innocent children which resulted.
Next is financial reporting of campaign gifts/donations by lobbyists. There is nothing in place today.
None of us want to believe our elected representatives can be bought and paid for by lobbyists. However, going back to the above events, none of us could fathom the mismanagement and deaths which are still fresh in our minds and hearts.
We are naïve to think that money doesn’t buy influence and access in our state. It happens all the time all over America. To think we are above that kind of skullduggery is foolish. We need proof that our elected officials and lobbyists are operating above the table in all ways, including money.
Finally is the public funding of legislative races.
This is a voluntary program. However, this part of Initiative 22 is the one getting all the attention, and yet in the big picture is the least consequential to ensuring ethical behavior by our elected officials and government employees.
This feature is NOT a full public funding. And it is voluntary. Donations from all individuals and groups currently allowed under state law will continue.
This allows voters who don’t have money to contribute to a candidate, to access two $50 donation credits to give to the legislative candidate of their choice, each election cycle. The person wanting to give those credits would access them on a first come first served basis. There is a limited amount of money which can be used each election cycle.
There are many groups lined up against Initiated Measure 22. Many of them want the status quo to continue. Many of them don’t want financial disclosure.
Some of them are in denial about the lack of ethics in our state. They are hanging their hat on the hope that you will find the partial public funding of elections, so distasteful that you will ignore the first two elements and vote no.
We need an Ethics Commission in this state. I think disclosure of lobbyist donations would be a step in the right direction.
Frankly, I am not enamored with the public funding provision, however, taken as a package - and it is a package - I think the good of the first two components far outweighs the negatives the opposition is using on the public financing issue.
Two of the three elements in Initiated Measure 22 are needed to return confidence in our elected officials and state government.
I am voting Yes on Initiated Measure 22.
The Secretary of State has published a voting guide on the ballot issues.
I have published my thoughts on other ballot issues, you can read them.