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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Measure 10 ban on tax-funded lobbying fully constitutional

GUEST COLUMN

By Stephen Wesolick

Voting "Yes" on Measure 10 will stop politicians from using our tax dollars for lobbying and political campaigns, prohibit campaign contributions by government contractors, and require posting government contract information on the Internet.

As a lawyer and drafter of Measure 10, I am obliged to set the record straight. Voters can be assured, knowing that such laws in place federally and in other states have been upheld as fully constitutional.

For example, the Hatch Act prohibits federal contractors from making campaign contributions. The Securities and Exchange Commission and a growing number of states have adopted the same restriction.

The SEC prohibits municipal bond underwriters from doing business in states where they've made political contributions within the previous two years, saving taxpayers an estimated $500 million the first year alone. A U.S. Court of Appeals upheld that law in Blount v. SEC, specifically finding that restrictions on "indirect" contributions by underwriters' family members are constitutional in cases where "(the government contractor) is directing their contributions."

Anti-"pay to play" laws, which stop politicians from kicking back government contracts to campaign donors, have been routinely approved by courts nationwide to advance the public's interest in preventing corruption and the appearance of corruption.

States with such laws already in place: Vermont, New Jersey, Connecticut, West Virginia, South Carolina, Hawaii, and Ohio -- plus Illinois, just last month. Like South Dakota, Alaska and Colorado will decide such laws on the ballot.

Other states have adopted industry-specific bans to stop trading of government contracts for campaign contributions. Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Virginia apply such laws to the gaming industry; Delaware and Montana, the insurance industry; Florida, the retail food and insurance industries; and Georgia, public utilities and "all regulated entities."

Measure 10 will empower average citizens to speak without being drowned out by tax-funded lobbyists and tax-financed government contractors.

Everyone knows the Constitution protects every American's free speech, and that no state law or ballot measure can change that. That is why the "No on 10" campaign's television ads are so deceitful. It helps to explain that all those television ads were financed entirely out of state. Liberal NEA union officials in Washington contributed $1.1 million to the "No" campaign, 85 percent of its entire budget.

The majority of that money was collected, by compulsion, from teachers in non-Right to Work states where they can legally be forced to financially contribute to NEA union officials’ political activity as a condition of employment. In layman’s terms, “pay up, or you’re fired.”

The broader off-the-books campaign against Measure 10 is financed with our tax dollars by city, county and school district officials, along with their tax-funded lobbying groups which -- like the NEA’s lobbyists -- also spend our tax dollars lobbying Congress and the legislature for things like gun control and higher taxes.

Compulsory NEA union dues and our own tax dollars are being combined to deceive voters and crush the citizen-led reforms by which Measure 10 would level the playing field for taxpayers.

Measure 10 will end "pay to play" contracts and stop politicians from "laundering" our tax dollars for lobbying and political campaigns. Please vote "Yes," knowing it will simply require state and local politicians to play by the same commonsense, constitutionally-tested ethics already required of our federal officials and in other states.

Rapid City attorney Stephen Wesolick is responsible for drafting Initiated Measure 10 and is legal counsel for South Dakotans for Open and Clean Government, the ballot campaign committee promoting a “yes” vote on the measure.


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