South Dakota’s swamp and what it means for everyone else


The Appalachian Online


This last election, while most of the world was focused on the fierce presidential race, another fight was happening in South Dakota.

Ballot measure 22, otherwise known as the South Dakota Government Accountability and Anti-Corruption Act, was passed by the voters of South Dakota.

According to The New York Times, in their post election coverage, the bill was passed with a 52/48 margin.

This act, a bipartisan ballot initiative backed by groups such as the Take It Back effort and the national anti-corruption organization Represent.Us, was meant to, as President Donald Trump would say, “drain the swamp.”

And boy did the proverbial swamp that is South Dakota’s state legislature need draining.

As of 2015, the Center for Public Integrity gave the state legislature an overall F for integrity. Not only that, but South Dakota ranked in at 47th for overall integrity, beating out only Michigan, Wyoming and Delaware.

In terms of specific categories, South Dakota received an F in such categories as “Political Financing,” “Legislative and Executive Accountability,” “Lobbying Disclosure” and “Ethics Enforcement Agencies.”

With all this in mind, it could certainly be said that a law like this has been a long time coming for South Dakota.

The specific points of the act are that it would limit monetary gifts from lobbyists and require them to be disclosed to the public, which were previously unlimited and undisclosed.

Additionally, it would increase transparency requirements for campaign contributions, establish a watchdog organization to investigate potential ethics violations, lower limits on campaign contributions, prevent certain high-level officials from taking jobs as lobbyists after leaving office, create a public election fund and increase the penalty for bribery by defining it as a felony.

A law such as this would fall in line with the a similar executive order from Trump that would ban federal officials from lobbying five years after leaving office.

That said, the passing of the Anti-Corruption Act should be sign of positive change in the coming future right?

The people won. Citizens came together in a grassroots movement and managed to get a law passed fighting systemic corruption. Democracy won, the people can celebrate, right?

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Instead, the state legislature, with an overwhelming Republican majority, has devoted itself to setting aside the new law using emergency powers.

Normally, when a citizen-backed initiative would be repealed in South Dakota, the citizens can propose a referendum to reverse a repeal.

However, according to the Huffington Post, were the bill repealed under these emergency powers, the citizens would not be able to reverse the repeal.

In addition to all of this, the Huffington Post stated that Circuit Judge Mark Barnett has issued a preliminary injunction preventing the law from being implemented on grounds of constitutionality.

This is merely temporary, and should the law survive the upcoming vote, which had initially been scheduled for last week but postponed, the final decision would be rendered by the South Dakota Supreme Court.

This raises the question though, why would the Republican legislature seek to repeal the law in such a devastating manner?

It’s because they’re afraid, they’re afraid that their way of operating is at risk, that they’ll no longer be able to profit off selling their state out to rich donors.

As infuriating as this whole situation is, it’s the broader implications of it that should inspire fear and worry.

This is a blatant disregard for the will of the people, the duly elected representatives of the people have chosen to ignore the voice of the people in favor of their own interests.

It’s an extreme version of similar events happening across the country, and even in the federal government itself.

Somewhere along the line politicians forgot about representing the best interests of their constituents, and began devoting their time and efforts to acquiring wealth and personal power.

The contract between citizen and state was, at the very least, tarnished, and at the worst, outright broken.

At this stage the only recourse that citizens have is to pay attention, to watch for corruption and to fight back against actions such as those taken by the South Dakota legislature.

Get organized, take initiative and let those in power who would abuse said power know that they’re being watched, and that any wrongdoing won’t be tolerated.

Q Russell is sophomore journalism major from Charlotte, North Carolina