For quite some time, like, since the IRS non-profit codes were put into place in the mid-20th century, people with deep pockets have been actively influencing American politics. There is no doubt of that. Being able to hide behind the non-disclosure shields of 501(c) (4)s or Political Action Committees that do not have to list who their funders are, has been a god-send for the billionaires who seek to put laws into place that massively benefit them.
The state of South Dakota would like to put an end to that. On the ballot this fall is Initiated Measure 22 (pdf), dubbed the Government Accountability and Anti-Corruption Act, which seeks to “ensur[e] that special interest lobbyists and their cronies aren’t buying influence with our elected officials,” according to proponents South Dakotans for Integrity.
In other words, the people want to get the big money influence from out of state out of their state. What would this measure do? Common Dreams tells us:
Specifically, it calls for public disclosure of donors to campaigns and advocacy groups; lowers contribution amounts and imposes limits on political action committees, political parties, and candidates; and it creates an ethics commission to enforce campaign finance and lobby rules. Further, it establishes a publicly funded campaign finance program for state and legislative candidates.
No more big pocket donors seeking to push one law over another without anyone knowing who they are. Naturally, the people who push fracking and profit from afar are not happy about this. Specifically, according to the Common Dreams article, the Koch Brothers. They are spending lots ‘o cash to see the ballot initiative defeated.
State residents will have the chance to vote on the measure in November and, apparently, the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is hoping to quash this effort before it gains traction in South Dakota, or anywhere else.
USA Today‘s Fredreka Schouten reported Wednesday that an AFP-founded coalition, Defeat 22, has launched an aggressive opposition campaign, which “already has run commercials on talk radio and country-music stations, contacted 50,000 voters through phone calls and door-knocking and distributed mailers denouncing the initiative as a money-grab by politicians.”
Since the opposite is usually true, it looks like the Koch brothers are using Alinsky-like tactics to shame the voters into opposing the initiative. As it happens, South Dakota ranks in the bottom five of American states for transparency when it comes to “dark money” feeding politics. It’s even money or worse that the Koch brothers want to keep it that way given the reality of South Dakota having so much oil.
Leaving aside the arguments for and against fracking, the way the American system is set up allows for the states to determine their own fates when it comes to their territories. There are organic movements both for and against the practice of fracking, and that is healthy in a democratic discussion. That the titans of the oil industry are spending money to influence public opinion is very telling. They are worried about their gravy train going POOF! if the states decide against Wall Street interests.
2016 is turning out to be one of the most interesting years in a long, long time.
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