No-on-8 Co-chair Greg Dean says my charges are 'baseless'
But I'm not so sure

Greg Dean, whom I've been acquainted with through work and politics for many years fired off a few comments under the recent post I did on the Association of County Commissioners dropping better than $45,000 into the No on 8 committee.

I questioned whether or not it was allowable in light of an Attorney General's opinion that said no to the question - "Can a municipality, county, or school district expend public funds to advocate a position on an election measure."

Suffice it to say, he didn't agree:
The answer is to question is simple: The contribution comes from NON-DUES revenue. It is not public money.

The County Commissioners Association checked with their attorney before deciding to use this NON-DUES money. The attorney's opinion was that according to SDCL 12-25-2, the use of these funds was above reproach.

PP, maybe next time you might think about getting both sides of the story before making accusing good people of breaking the law.

GREG DEAN
Co-Chair
NO on 8 Committee

ps -- Maybe the bigger story is the nearly $1 million of out-of-state money that has been spent on this campaign, mostly by Verizon (close to $900,000 out of their coffers alone).

pss -- Or maybe the bigger story is the fact that Alltel has been assessing a $.30/month surcharge over and above the $.75/month surcharge that the state allows, so that Alltel can pay for 911 equipment. The feds allow companies like Alltel to assess this kind of fee, but it is wholly hypocritical for the big cell phone companies to assess this kind of surcharge. Why is it OK to add a double tax (ie. a new 911 surcharge) to offset their costs but it is wrong to have the big cell phone companies pay a tax to bring tax fairness to the communications industry.

pss2 -- maybe the bigger story is the fact that the leading spokesman for the big cell phone companies, a state senator from mitchell, advocate increases in property taxes to make up the revenue shortfall for the counties.

and...

This is the same charge that was thrown out in the waning days of the 2004 election in an attempt to smear the SD Municipal League in the ballot issue to repeal the food tax. The Municipal League was using NON-DUES money to pay for expenses related to the campaign. The AG looked at the issue then and found their use of NON-DUES money to be a LEGAL use of the money.

If you, like PP, want to make baseless charges, that is up to you. Just have the integrity to stand behind your accusations.

and...

The difference is that the county association tracks the non-dues money seperately from the public money it receives as dues revenue.

PAC money comes from individual contributions, and there have been some individual contributions from county commissioners put forward into this campaign. I don't think a PAC could have accepted this money. PACs can only take contributions from individual contributors.
Like I said, "he didn't agree" with me. Although simply on his say so, I can't just brush it aside and concur that the charges are "baseless." Greg cited the 2004 food tax election in his favor and noted that "The AG looked at the issue then and found their use of NON-DUES money to be a LEGAL use of the money."

Unfortunately, I can't find where an AG's opinion exists on the topic. So, I'm forced to rely on what does - specifically Attorney General opinion 88-28 which seems to imply that it's possible that there might be trouble with it.

But let's take a look at Greg's argument - Specifically that the county association tracks the non-dues money separately from the public money it receives as dues revenue.

I'll certainly agree that the organization might take in additional revenue from other sources. Greg implies that they funds are co-mingled, but kept separate on the organization's books.

But with public funds and private funds all being plunked into the same bank account, that still leaves me with troubling questions, not the least of which is "where is the accountability?" Greg can say they're accounted for separately. But, aside from the fact that he's personally not privy to the financing for the SDACC, where's the proof?

As Ronald Reagan once quipped "trust, but verify." I'm certainly willing to trust. But in this case, there's no mechanism to verify.

But, even assuming Greg's explanation is valid (which I question) there are still significant public policy questions out there that this brings up.

For the sake of argument, let's say that the SDACC budget is $100k. $60,000 in taxpayer funded dues, $40,000 in other funds. If they went out and raised the $40,000, that's great. But you still have to recognize that they used at least a portion of the $60,000 in salaries, equipment, etcetera, paid for by the taxpayer to raise the $40,000.

It's my understanding that at least a chunk of the non-dues related income results from their annual convention revenue, such as exhibition booths and workshops for commissioners. And that revenue includes money charged to the commissioners who attend the workshops. So who pays the fees for County Commissioners to attend SDACC workshops? You guessed it. The County Commissioners would typically vote to pay for it as Commissioner expenses. Out of money collected from the taxpayers.

If I'm wrong, someone please let me know. Maybe I am, and I'm way off base. Maybe Greg's charge that my concerns are 'baseless' are true. Maybe. But in my heart of hearts, I doubt it.

Even if Greg is 100% right, I'm still left with a troubling question. If the SDACC can afford to spend over $40,000 out of their budget to tell taxpayers that they need to keep paying a tax - then something is wrong.

I don't think that the SDACC would be willing to admit that they can cut themselves off of the public dole, since their fundraising seems to indicate their success at it obviates the need for public financing.

Comments

Anonymous said…
What the hell is 'non-dues money'?

It can only be from three sources:

1. investment income from existing SDACC assets. this is not likely.

2. fundraising from private citizens and companies. this is possible, but if so, the SDACC needs to report the source of its fundraising efforts, since these would not be 'treasury' moneys spent here.

3. tax dollars appropriated for the operation of the SDACC. if so, there is a serious problem, like the one pp is outlining


unless someone can tell me another source of non-dues $$
Anonymous said…
PP is right on this one! Greg Dean is trying to wiggle out of the mess and mistake he has made. We need to know the truth not a bunch of excuses with names such as "non-dues money" Ok, let us see where the 46K came from and from who.
mjb said…
I'm sure the truth lies somewhere in the middle, but there should still be some accountability for where the funds came from.
Anonymous said…
Dean is dead-on. So are the counties. This is another example of a big, out-of-state corporation coming to South Dakota and putting something on our ballot. Thank God somebody is there to stand against this issue. Why should wireless companies be treated differently from their land-line competitors?
Anonymous said…
Why should our tax dollars go to a group who is spending it to tell us we need to keep a tax that's funding it.

That's not fiscal accountability, It's more like taxpayers paying for self-gratification
Anonymous said…
It's really no different than the Legislature allocating money to the Yes on F campaign....or to the Lottery Commission sending a big check from its operating budget to the No on 7 group.

Both of those would be flagged as wrong.

And 2:27, your 'logic' makes me shudder. The fact that Verizon is an out-of-stater does not mean that we suddenly don't follow the rules.
Anonymous said…
AS TO WHETHER THESE CHARGES ARE "BASELESS"......JUST BECAUSE THE ATTORNEY GENERAL SAYS SOMETHING DOESN'T MAKE IT TRUE...AND IT DOESN'T MAKE IT THE LAW.

THE COURTS HAVE MADE THAT CLEAR OVER THE PAST FEW MONTHS.

SO DON'T LET DEAN REST ON AN OPINION OF THE A.G.

THE OPERATIVE WORD THERE IS "OPINION".
Anonymous said…
pp- While you're seeking accountability on things, how about demanding that Sen. Hunt reveal where the $750,000 came from?
Hunt and the donor deliberately tried to skirt the law with their sham corporation.
How about demanding that Hunt and his donor have to answer to the same campaign finance laws as everyone else?
Where is your outrage about this?
Anonymous said…
PP's outrage on Roger the dodger and the others must be something he keeps to himself. Still, can't believe Kirby would hire Hunt to do anything so must be someone else.
Anonymous said…
I think the dems and their media pawns have enough outrage to go around on that one for everyone.
Anonymous said…
'Way too much space and time devoted to something that costs only pennies per person and is paid by people who use the service, which is the way it should be.
Anonymous said…
By the way, does anyone know if Yes for Life ever turned in THEIR campaign finance disclosures? It was due Oct. 31.
Or are they going to wait until after the election to let people know who has been paying for those intrusive phone calls, junk mail, misleading advertisements and annoying signs?
Maybe the law only applies to people who don't try to force their religious beliefs down other people's throats.
Too bad the dem's "media pawns" don't go after that one.
Anonymous said…
Here's what I don't get. How is any revenue, even if its dues, still considered tax payer dollars - and what does it matter what the private organization does with it once it receives it?

We don't regulate every dollar that flows out of tax revenues, do we? I mean, if the state pays to have a website developed, and the firm that built the website takes that money and spends it on a ballot initiative, do we say taht taxpayer dollars were used on the ballot initiative?

Isn't there a line? I'm curious.

Even if it is county commissions, whose budgets are made up of tax dollars - once they give it to SDACC, isn't that payment for services, and then the funds become part of the SDACC operating budget?

Why is it such a big deal?
Brock said…
Anon 3:04, you stated, "It's really no different than the Legislature allocating money to the Yes on F campaign...."

Exactly where does that allegation come from? It hasn't happened.
Anonymous said…
Brock, it was a hypothetical. Reread the post.

People are so trigger-happy with their responses here.
Anonymous said…
I don't think any of the things discussed here are as off base as schools using taxpayer money to sue the taxpayers.
Anonymous said…
Schools using taxpayers dollars to sue taxpayers.

Hunt and cronies using taxpayer dollars to sue taxpayers.

Same thing.
Jake said…
Do Greg or any of the people at No on 8 understand the concept of a tax wedge? Do they understand that regardless of which side of the transaction the tax is imposed - producer or consumer - the tax burden will be shared by the two? If not, then maybe they should not be campaigning on a tax related issue ...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax
_wedge
Anonymous said…
Last Leg. Session, Fast Eddie was looking for a good time hanging out with HOF'er Largent and doesn't give a flying rip about his constituents. At least independent telco's in SD reinvest in SD, as for wireless companies, South Dakotans send over $200 million out of state that a very minimal amount ever comes back.

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