Monday, November 10, 2008

South Dakota dead last in integrity ranking


After qualified Democrats got creamed even worse than 2006 in West River, the Rapid City Journal gets around to publishing a week-old AP wire story from October 27 on the lack of integrity in our State government. (I am simply shocked, of course, that they held it back until a week after the election.)
South Dakota is ranked 50th in the study by the Better Government Association. It ranked states based on government transparency, accountability, whistleblower protections, open records and campaign finance laws.

New Jersey was the top-ranked state. The bottom five after South Dakota were Vermont, Alabama, Tennessee and Montana.

The Better Government Association says its mission is to fight waste, fraud and corruption in government.
A few thoughts:
  • Lest you call me a leftie crank, I want to a shout out to some bright lights in this area: Legislative Research Council, the SD Dept of Health (against all odds, given the sex-obsessed Republican legislators), and (usually) Sec of State Chris Nelson (who got ranked low for a low-tech SOS website, I think unfairly).
  • Before you poke fun at New Jersey getting first, I lived there fairly recently, (1987-1995) and (probably because of the horrible corruption and mob influence up until the 1960s) they have VERY strong anti-corruption laws, a vibrant press that lets neither party off the hook, and a a highly involved citizenry that keeps a close eye on government officials from borough up to the governor's office. If the New Jersey governor hired his family for key positions, you'd probably hear about it. Here, it's just what we do.
  • The report was released (download here) is very methodological and not political... and no state apparently did very well. But do we really have to be last?
  • According the BGA:
    ...this updated [2008] edition of the Index rates the performance of states in five areas of law: open records, whistleblower protections, campaign finance, open meetings, and conflicts of interest.
    Notice that the RCJ article left out that bit about conflict of interest. Shocking.

    Take our West River Republican Representatives, (please)

    • Alan Hanks, mayor of Rapid City, who in the Legislature in the 2007 session spoke openly and voted against changes in Custer State Park policies that would have directly affected his campground business. (To be fair, the RCJ did criticize him on this abuse of his office.)
    • Jeff Haverly, State Rep, elected decisively to the State Senate last Tuesday, who proudly speaks and votes from his legislative seat about the child care issues that directly affect his income as owner of a longtime daycare business.
    • David Lust who showed a lot of integrity by telling the RCJ exactly why he is running for Legislature:
      I want to contribute to the policies that will impact me and my family. I work with business, business code and regulations. That has been my focus in my first term.
      When he was labeled a "one-trick-pony" for being only interested in promoting business, he said (at a forum I attended) that if he could only do one thing, it would be to promote business. (Remember, Lust is a business lawyer; these are his clients.)
I'm sorry. I have a problem with this.

If you are in Pierre as a legislator, and your livelihood or family are directly affected by a law, you may (and probably should) get up from the table, walk around to the front of the hearing room, and argue your case. But you definitely do not have the right not sit up there in your legislative chair and speak and vote from your chair.

You were elected to represent the good of your District and your State, not yourself and your family. Is this a difficult concept? Yet we continue to elect these people.

Until we can get legislative candidates that are qualified, and have integrity AND that the voters know they can trust, this will continue. This is why Democrats continue to run for office here, folks. We just aren't willing to accept this.

So, maybe you're proud, like many Rapid Replyers on the RCJ site, in being dead last.

I and my friends invite you to join us when you finally get sick of it.

If you've had enough too, please feel free to come join us, and, please consider a small regular contribution. We really need to get on the ground here in a pro-active way in the long term, or things will not change.

1 comment:

  1. You don't think the Rapid City Journal would withhold a story from the South Dakota public do you? A larger number of voters here don't spend anytime "online" reading anything...in fact...reading or thinking about what they read. People are involved in their own lives...or dying under the 6th street bridge. They just hope the legislature doesn't do anything to directly affect them...theft, insider deals, corruption...that's South Dakota politics. There are no Woodwards and Bernsteins here investigating what's going on. It's been that way since the beginning and will go on forever...unless someone opens the books, follows the money, takes the photos and tapes the secret, illegal meetings. But that won't happen...and don't count on the Democrats taking any election any time soon. It's a police state...with missing ballots and every thing you can think of. Honesty? Integrity? You're dreaming. You should hear the stories I've heard over the years about how contractors divy up the government contracts. It doesn't surprise me one bit that we're dead last...or first, depending on how you look at it. I like to think we're first in lack of integrity in government and corruption.

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