Would it be bribery of a legislator if a lobbyist or group of lobbyists operated what’s known as a drink room at a motel or hotel during session?
How about if they had a house just a block from the Capitol where the door was always open for the same purpose? What if a business group handed out passes to legislators, allowing them to ride the River Cities transit buses whenever they wanted? What if a lobbyist took a legislator, or a few legislators, or an entire committee of legislators, to dinner? What if a group of legislators invited lobbyists to a fundraiser for their political party during session? What if a legislator sent a letter to lobbyists asking for contributions?
What if a candidate for state office set up a political action committee, commonly known as a PAC, so that it appeared to be independent of his campaign? And then routed money from the PAC to his campaign, as a means of allowing donors to give more than they otherwise legally could directly contribute to the campaign?
All of these things happened in South Dakota in the past two years.
No one was investigated or prosecuted. Evidently none of this was illegal.
The South Dakota Supreme Court has never been presented with a case involving the state constitution’s provisions regarding bribery of a legislator or considered any case involving the state laws regarding bribery, unlawful influence, improper influence, compelling action, compelling inaction, or solicitation of a legislator.
I wonder if "improper influence" and "compelling action" also applies to the governor's office? More on that later.
Mercer then details the problem from a constitutional point of view:
The reason for this seemingly unblemished record of legislator integrity might be the words of the constitution itself. Consider the oath legislators take, when they promise:
“… I have not knowingly or intentionally paid or contributed anything, or made any promise in the nature of a bribe, to directly or indirectly influence any vote at the election at which I was chosen to fill said office, and have not accepted, nor will I accept or receive directly or indirectly, any money, pass, or any other valuable thing, from any corporation, company or person, for any vote or influence I may give or withhold on any bill or resolution, or appropriation, or for any other official act.”
Then there’s this second section from the same Article III, regarding the Legislature, in the constitution:
“Any person who shall give, demand, offer, directly or indirectly, any money, testimonial, privilege or personal advantage, thing of value to any executive or judicial officer or member of the Legislature, to influence him in the performance of any of his official or public duties, shall be guilty of bribery and shall be punished in such manner as shall be provided by law.
The catch, of course, is proving that someone “directly or indirectly” gave something or made an offer or made a demand in an attempt to influence.
What our Legislature does is look the other way. So does our secretary of state, whose office oversees campaign finance regulations.
And unless someone takes an official complaint to law enforcement, the state attorney general isn’t going to open an investigation. The trails aren’t hard to find, however.
What can I say but WOW! And remember South Dakota recently was rated 2nd for the higherst risk of corruption. Mercer ends with the PAC loophole:
A person can give $10,000 apiece to as many PACs as he or she so chooses.
At least four of the six candidates for governor in 2010 benefited greatly from these loopholes: Democrat Scott Heidepriem, and Republicans Gordon Howie, Dave Knudson and, to a limited extent, Dennis Daugaard.
So did the two candidates for secretary of state, Democrat Ben Nesselhuf and Jason Gant.
And we could start naming legislators but for fear that someone would be left off the list. One legislator received a single $10,000 contribution that paid for about 40 percent of her campaign.
No one introduced legislation in the 2011 or 2012 sessions to do anything about any of it.
This is the way our Legislature is.
So who could that unnamed legislator be? Deb Peters did received $10,000 form the Warner Pac. Sharon Warner is the contact for the Warner PAC. Sharon Warner is on the board and Vice Treasurer of Equality South Dakota. Equality South Dakota was looking for Republican Primary Candidates for 2010:
It may be the first time someone or a group has run want ads for a political candidate. Well, at least in KOTA Territory.
Starting Sunday, one of South Dakota's largest political action committees is running want ads in local newspapers, for republicans willing to mount a primary challenge in legislative elections.
What makes it even more unique: the Equality South Dakota Political Action Committee is the group putting out the ad. The group supports and promotes equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
It's a community conservatives have tended to snub in the past. But, Don Frankenfeld, the vice chair of the group, says he knows there are republicans who support gay rights.
"I think it's a traditional republican principle to provide for tolerance and fairness," Frankenfeld said.
The SDGOP platform says:
7.5 The South Dakota Republican Party believes that marriage is the union of one man and one woman and must never be redefined to include civil unions of same-sex couples, or groups of individuals. To defend the sanctity of marriage, we support the passage of the Federal Marriage Amendment and appropriate South Dakota laws.
The Warner PAC was not too successful in finding Republican candidates. The only Republican receiving Warner Pac money was the $10,000 going to Deb Peters. The Equality South Dakota PAC did a little better. They gave $6,000, in a losing effort, to Casey Murschel, $500 to Joni Cutler, and $1,500 to Deb Peters.