Press "Enter" to skip to content

Gibson to Gant: Is Municipal League Advocacy on Referred Law 14 Legal?

Rep. Peggy Gibson (D-22/Huron) is asking Secretary of State Jason Gant to look into whether the South Dakota Municipal League is using taxpayer dollars to advocate a Yes vote on Referred Law 14. The Municipal League, which is funded primarily by dues paid by local governments, has come out in favor of RL14, Governor Daugaard's corporate welfare slush fund. Using taxpayer dollars for political advocacy violates South Dakota law.

Rep. Gibson sees the Municipal League's funneling of tax dollars into advocacy for the Daugaard regime as an example of the "culture of kickbacks and pay-to-play" that Republicans foster to maintain dominance in Pierre.

In her letter to Secretary Gant, Gibson demands the following six actions:

  1. Disclose any and all sources of income used to publish the South Dakota Municipal League Magazine during the past six months;
  2. Disclose any and all SD Municipal League funds spent to promote "Yes on Referred Law 14" or any other political campaign including donations to candidates, political action committees, and political parties;
  3. Disclose any and all advertisements SD Municipal League has or is planning to issue in support of "Yes on Referred Law 14";
  4. Disclose any and all private and public events SD Municipal League has or is planning to sponsor or host in support of "Yes on Referred Law 14";
  5. Disclose whether the premises of the SDML and the staff of the SDML funded by taxpayer dollars were used to defray and assist in the publishing of the SDML Magazine;
  6. Determine whether applicable laws and regulations relating to disclaimers on political advertising were followed for the front cover ad published in the SDML Magazine's October issue.

Here's Rep. Gibson's full statement on her request to Sec. Gant, as released by the state Democratic Party:

In a letter sent on Wednesday, October 10, I asked Secretary of State Jason Gant to immediately make a determination as to whether a non-profit organization is using taxpayer dollars in violation of state law to influence the outcome of Referred Law 14, a budget-busting special interest giveaway program.

As a state legislator whose job it is to protect our tax dollars, I am very concerned that special interests are using our tax dollars to lobby for more of our tax dollars.

What's happened here deserves extra scrutiny from the Secretary of State. In its October monthly magazine, the South Dakota Municipal League, whose member towns and cities pay for their dues with our local sales and property taxes, printed a front-page endorsement of Referred Law 14. The executive director explained the endorsement within the magazine, which explicitly states its dependence on membership dues &ndash your tax dollars &ndash in a disclaimer. The Municipal League is an organization with interests I often strongly support.

I'm afraid this is just the tip of the iceberg. For years, Pierre insiders have rewarded business executives supporting them with state economic development grants, and those directors have returned the favor with big political contributions. I've seen it again and again. Pierre Insiders dole out your tax dollars to special interests. Then special interests kickback your tax dollars for political contributions to Pierre insiders.

It's a culture of kickbacks and pay-to-play that must end.

Democrats have pushed legislation to prevent kickbacks and pay-to-play schemes, but our Republican counterparts in the last two years have repeatedly blocked our efforts &ndash even while trying to expand a broken program of taxpayer funded giveaways.

Now we know why. Republicans in Pierre depend on using our tax dollars for their campaign treasury. And that's why they are pulling out all the stops to support Referred Law 14.

Fortunately, Secretary of State Jason Gant has the power to investigate this particular issue before the November 6 election on Referred Law 14 if he acts immediately to seek answers for our questions in the letter. Time is of the essence.

No matter what your political persuasion, South Dakotans want fair elections. We don't want government picking winners and losers in the marketplace. We don't want special interests diverting our tax dollars to influence elections. And we certainly don't want a culture of kickbacks in Pierre. It's machine politics at it's worst, and South Dakotans deserve better.

Our tax dollars and our elections are at stake. Taxpayers deserve answers before November 6 [Rep. Peggy Gibson, press release, October 11, 2012].

Expect Gant's response to land somewhere between I don't know and I don't care. After all, he's not hanging onto his job by knowing and following the law.


  1. Dougal 2012.10.12

    At last! A Democrat is finally articulating exactly how the culture of corruption works (so brazenly) in Pierre. After 38 years of one-party, unfettered, iron-fisted rule, the desk shufflers and their enablers in our State Capitol are caught red handed. There are sooooo many examples of corrupt behavior over the decades that serve as examples of how this corruption has been passed along from administration to administration, and how this corruption has been harmful to our state's people.

    Democrats need to document and catalog the litany of corruption and use it as the big stick to drive the crooks out of Pierre, from the Governor to the constitutional seats to the legislature to the hundreds of political appointees/GOP activists to the contracted services kickbacks to team of lobbyists who seem to think it's their job to serve the Pierre power structure.

    The public in South Dakota sort of knows this, but ignores it, just as the press in South Dakota has ignored it. Nobody's demonstrated the depth and width of this kickback culture to effectively educate the public. I agree Gant has nothing to fear because the legal arm is bought and sold, and Gant is the sloppy cop who looks the other way.

  2. Donald Pay 2012.10.12

    This is exactly the sort of debate that needs to happen in South Dakota. This sort of stuff happens in all states, of course, and with both parties. When you have one-party rule over such an extended period of time, things start to ossify and what amounts to shortcuts and petty corruption starts to become the normal way business gets done.

    The Municipal League has been an especially egregious player in this game, since, at least at first blush, they seem to launder taxpayer money back into pay-or-play schemes. What I think they also do is launder money from out-of-state interests, businesses, etc., especially those peddling financial instruments for increased debt.

    It would be nice if they could audit this people to find out where they get their money.

    I think, though, this culture of corruption is so ingrained in South Dakota that

  3. Dougal 2012.10.12

    Important note: The S.D. Municipal League hired John Thune to serve as its executive director, which took care of Thune's expenses while he waited to run for Congress in 1996. Prior to that, Thune worked as a political appointee by Sen. Jim Abdnor on his Senate staff and after 1986 for the U.S. Small Business Administration. Next, Thune landed a job as ex. dir. of the S.D. Republican Party and then as Gov. Mickelson's political appointee to the railroad division of the S.D. Department of Transportation.

    The SDML provided the "private sector" cover that Thune needed on his resume before running statewide. It's interesting to notice that if it were not for government dollars paying his salary and health care benefits package, Thune would not have been able to make a living since he graduated at Jesus College in California. If this is what happens when government bankrolls someone from graduation to retirement, maybe some nasty cuts are in order.

    Interesting that Thune opposes government spending ... unless your taxes go into his pocket and the pockets of his pals and contributors.

Comments are closed.