October 20, 2007

Go Stand in the Corner!

The Black Hills of South Dakota is a wonderful place to live. We’ve waxed positive on the numerous reasons for our love affair with this region – but there’s a fly in the ointment, and it might be categorized as “politics as usual.”

South Dakota ranks among the worst in the nation in the disclosure of campaign finances for political candidates. You can read the depressing details at the web site “
Grading State Disclosure,” a project supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Results were announced October 17, 2007, and South Dakota received a big fat “F”!

While the report acknowledges improvements were made in campaign disclosure laws this year, we’ll likely remain near the bottom of the barrel when they do the survey again next year.

South Dakota is among the 10 states with the weakest public access to campaign finance records. Among deficiencies cited: our state does not have electronic filing; only Oklahoma and South Dakota don’t require the name or identity of campaign expenditures, even though they do require that the amount of expenditures be disclosed; and if you want to get a written copy of disclosure reports from Pierre, you’ll pay $1.00 per page – the highest in the nation. Most states charge between $ .10 and $ .25 per page.

Conditional kudos should be extended to those persons responsible for making some progress on strengthening disclosure laws. And we presume Secretary of State Chris Nelson is among them. If you visit the
South Dakota Secretary of State web site, you’ll find a nice-looking template for campaign information, but not a lot of substance that’s easy to find. And when you do find it, you’ll likely have to work at deciphering many of the reports. Handwriting in some of the scans is very hard to read.

South Dakota is improving a bit with campaign disclosure – but it’s too little and too slow. We hope to see further improvement in the near future, but it’s not likely to come easy.

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