- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 9, 2016

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Future political candidates will have access to a new public campaign finance system under a ballot measure approved Tuesday that has the potential to shift how campaigns are funded in South Dakota.

The measure was the sole survivor among a trio of ballot measures aimed at reshaping state politics. On its own, the law is intended to tighten campaign finance regulations and oversight of politicians.

“It shows the primacy of the people in a democracy,” said Don Frankenfeld, a former GOP state senator who’s backing the plan. “If we become part of a national movement, that’s going to give fits to the millionaires and billionaires who have until now pretty much had their way with the American electoral process.”

The measure creates an ethics commission, requires additional campaign finance disclosure and bars lobbying by state officials and high-level employees for two years after exiting government.

Voters who want to use the program will be able to tap a state fund capped at $12 million to give two “democracy credits” worth $50 each to political candidates who agree to campaign contribution and spending limits. Each election year, participating legislative candidates will be authorized to receive up to $15,000 in democracy credit funds, while a gubernatorial candidate could collect up to $700,000, with varying amounts for other offices.

The credits could be given directly to the candidate, to their representative or to the ethics commission. They could be delivered in person, by mail or electronically through a system to be developed by the commission.

Supporters say the credit program is meant to give power to regular people so they can contribute to their favored candidates - or run for public office and win.

Sioux Falls resident Connie Wernke supported the measure because she thought it would make elections “cleaner,” she said Tuesday after voting. “He who has the most dollars wins - and that’s never fair,” the 56-year-old registered Democrat said.

Ben Forred of Sioux Falls voted against the measure when he cast an absentee ballot Monday, citing the public campaign finance provisions.

“It just seems like you could use that money in a more productive manner,” said Forred, a 30-year-old laboratory technician who is a registered independent.

Foes argued during the campaign that the measure was a waste of taxpayer dollars for the benefit of politicians. Opposition group chairman Ben Lee said in an early Wednesday statement that foes “will work to overturn this measure and protect taxpayers from this costly new law.”?

Lee said he hopes to work with state lawmakers to make tweaks to the law passed by voters Tuesday during the upcoming legislative session.

An aide to Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard said in a statement that the governor was surprised the measure passed. Chief of Staff Tony Venhuizen said the initiative is poorly drafted and the governor believes it will require amending to make it workable.

Frankenfeld said he expects the Legislature to respect the will of the voters who approved the plan.

“Legislators fool with the people at their own peril,” he said.


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