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Diverse Coalition Forms to Oppose Lobby-Ban Initiative

May 27, 2008

Pierre, SD – The "South Dakota Open and Clean Government Act," which would prohibit tax-funded lobbying, is one of a long list of initiatives that will appear on the South Dakota ballot this fall. But David Owen, president of the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry, suggests people look beyond its catchy title to examine the true intent of the Act.

Owen's organization has joined a diverse coalition, including the South Dakota Federation of Labor, to oppose the Act, otherwise known as "Measure 10." He says a closer examination reveals it could deny people and their extended families the right to participate in the political process.

"They're basically saying, if you do business with the state or with a county, or any of the political subdivisions like utilities or phone companies; if you're involved in one of those as an employee, you and your family, which includes cousins, uncles, aunts, in-laws, domestic partners – it's a ponderous paragraph – they're saying you can't make political contributions to anybody."

Proponents believe the Act would make state government more responsible, transparent and accountable. But Owen's group disagrees, and says more groups are becoming aware of the potential consequences of Measure 10.

"This thing is a direct attack at the union, so we've had meetings with them. It's a direct attack on groups like the Municipal League, the Association of Counties, some of the groups that represent elected officials around the state. It's going to be an attack on economic development groups in the business community. So, we'll have a number of those groups at the table."

In Owen's view, the Act is long, complex, and may even be unconstitutional. He feels if it passes, most South Dakotans would see their rights eroded when it comes to political participation and free speech.

David Law/Steve Powers, Public News Service - SD