Yesterday Bob Mercer and the GOP spin machine called for resurrecting Senate Bill 33, the Indian Voter Suppression Act, with an amendment to require that private groups who fund voting stations and other elections administration activities reveal their funding sources. The only such group in South Dakota is Four Directions, which has advocated for and funded voting stations that have improved access and raised turnout among American Indian voters. Apparently if we don't know where Four Directions gets its money, the republic is in peril (unlike Mike Rounds, who can get support from a secretive PAC and catch no flak).
Four Directions doesn't make any big secret of its funding sources. Four Directions exec O.J. Semans says one big donor is the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community from Minnesota. Semans wrote this commentary in eulogy of Shakopee Chairman Stanley Crooks in 2012:
Chairman Crooks along with President Bordeaux of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Presidents John Yellow Bird Steele, and President Two Bulls of the Oglala Sioux Nation, were instrumental in opening up early voting stations on the Reservations. Chairman Crooks was aware of the importance of having Tribes participate in Federal and State elections to ensure fair treatment and to protect our treaties and sovereignty. He was also aware that Tribal members were not treated equally when it came to voting and provided the funding to help Four Directions make it equal.
In 2004, the South Dakota Tribes had one day of voting. The rest of the state had six weeks to vote. Chairman Crooks understood that Tribes could never compete in elections with a 1 day to 42 day ratio. He funded Four Directions to open the door to equality. Because of Chairman Crooks, we have permanent early voting on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation, and full early voting on the Oglala Sioux Nation in 2012. We are now working with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Dewey County Commissioners to have six weeks of early voting and have the tribal secretary’s office as the deputy auditor to help conduct the state and federal elections [Oliver J. Semans, "Chairman Stanley Crooks, a Great Leader, Is on His Journey to the Spirit World," Indian Country Today, 2012.08.31].
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux have also helped South Dakota tribes buy land, fund police, build a park, fund new businesses, replace slot machines, give scholarships, fund an after-school training and jobs program, build a nursing home, support a rodeo and culture club at Flandreau Indian School, and put on pow wows. (Read the Shakopee tribe's 2012 funding report to see the full list of charitable projects.)
Four Directions is more forthcoming about its funding sources than Republican groups like ALEC that skip the crap-shoot of "influencing" elections by increasing voter turnout and go straight to buying legislators. Even though he didn't name the Shakopee tribe in response to questions during his testimony on SB 33 last week at the Capitol in Pierre, he was more forthcoming about his organization's activities and intent than Secretary of State Jason Gant, who refused in his testimony to identify any specific, extant threat to fair elections that SB 33 was meant to target and who completely dodged the question of what would happen to Indian voting access if his SB 33 passed.
But if we want full transparency, we need to ask where the Shakopee tribe gets its money. Among their various successful enterprises is the Mystic Lake Casino and Hotel. But where does the casino get its money? Start taking names and voter IDs on the way to the slots, and I'll bet we'll find some well-heeled retirees who are brought there on tours promoted by the Republican-controlled South Dakota Department of Tourism.
So Republicans are supporting the improper influence of elections on South Dakota reservations! I knew it! Shut it down! (For what it's worth, the Shakopee tribe has also been increasing its donations to Republican candidates.)
The funding and intent of satellite voting stations on reservations are no secret. Neither, alas, are the racism and political scheming inherent in the Republican effort to shut those stations down.