South Dakota Limits on Lobbying, Initiative 10 (2008)

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The South Dakota Limits on Lobbying Initiative, also known as Initiative 10, was on the November 4, 2008 ballot in South Dakota as an initiated state statute, where it was defeated. The measure would have banned taxpayer-funded lobbying, stopped the exchange of campaign donations for state contracts, and created a website with information on state contracts.[1][2][3]

Election results

See also 2008 ballot measure election results

South Dakota Initiative 10 (2008)
Defeatedd No232,68464.68%
Yes 127,040 35.32%

Election results via: South Dakota Political Almanac, South Dakota Constitutional Amendments, Initiatives and Referendums 1970-2010

Text of measure

The text of the measure can be read here.


South Dakotans for Open and Clean Government sponsored the initiative and formed as a Ballot Question Committee (BQC) to promote the issue.[4]

The committee believed that the initiative would have made government contracts more accessible and apply stiffer regulations that would protect taxpayers. Tonchi Weaver, one of the board members, thought that too many elected officials become state-funded contractors after leaving the legislature and that the initiative would have been a way to combat that cronyism.[5]

In January, 2008, South Dakotans for Open and Clean Government announced that they had received $10,000 to support their efforts from Americans for Tax Reform, a national taxpayer advocacy group.[6]


  • The measure would reduce or eliminate trading government contracts for campaign contributions.
  • It would put an end to "taxpayer-funded lobbying," that is, the practice of organizations supported by tax dollars lobbying for more taxes.
  • The measure requires a website be made available so that anyone can search through and review state contracts.
  • The opposition Yes on 10 has made many claims about Initiated Measure 10. Among these claims is that the this law applies to employment contracts and individual employees.[7] A read of the measure shows that Section 10(2) limits the effect of the law references by these criticisms to only contracts over $500 and completely exempts employment contracts:
    • "(2) “Government contract,” includes any contract awarded by an agency or department of this state or any public body receiving state subsidy or authorized to levy taxes, for the purchase of goods or services for amounts greater than five hundred dollars, indexed for inflation per the Consumer Price Index after the year 2010. A contract for services includes collective bargaining agreements with a labor organization representing employees but not employment contracts with individual employees;"
    • Section 10(3) defines who is a "Holder of a government contract" - the only people whose ability to donate is restricted by accepting a government contract, under the Open and Clean Government Act:
    • (3) “Holder of the government contract,” includes any party to the contract, including partners, owners of five percent or more interest, officers, administrators or trustees of any person who is a party to the contract, or, in the case of collective bargaining agreements, the labor organization and any political committees created or controlled by the labor organization;
    • While it is true that family members of holders of a government contract cannot give campaign contributions to the elected official ultimately responsible for the award of that contract, proponents of Initiated Measure 10 argue that this is a common sense step to close a gaping loophole that otherwise would allow contractors to contributions through their family members. It also protects the family members from being pressured by politicians to make campaign donations to ensure the continuation of their family member's government contract. Additionally, in the case of a special no-bid contracts, employees CAN give donations to any candidate they wish, but they cannot be used as a conduit through which the holders of that contract (the company's owners) pass money through them to the political candidates.[8]

Campaign contributions

The most recent financial reporting filings shows South Dakotans for Open and Clean Government reported donations in the amount of $175,800. South Dakota Conservative Action Council, a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization gave $175,000. The campaign report lists all donors.

Opponents of Initiated Measure 10 have said that the South Dakota Conservative Action Council must release its donor list because it made a donation to the ballot committee. A complaint or lawsuit to substantiate this has not been filed. Supporters of 10 say that it is hypocritical for opponents to attack it on this issue because they are not calling for other 501c nonprofit groups that have given to other statewide ballot campaigns ("," Yes on 11; "Healthy Families," No on 11, and "NO on 10") to release their donor lists.[9]

The National Taxpayers Union supports government spending transparency on their web site, including online databases of grant and contract spending.


Governor Mike Rounds came out in opposition to the measure, saying that it was not well thought out and had the potential to interfere with the political rights of South Dakota citizens. Critics of the governor were not surprised by his position, considering that the he is one of the "recipient(s) of tens of thousands of dollars of campaign contributions from holders of no-bid contractors, contractors who received tens of millions of dollars back."[10]

The state Retirement System opposed the measure and participated in sending a mailing to its 70,000 members urging them to vote "no" on election day. The legality of such a letter was questionable, but upon the advice of Attorney General Larry Long they moved forward with the mailing. [11][12]

Groups like the South Dakota Association of County Commissioners, which collects tax-funded dues from all 66 counties, did not agree with the measure, saying that it is too far-reaching. Both of the state's major political parties have also announced their opposition to it.[13][14]

The Boards of Directors of the S.D. Cattlemen's Association and the S.D. Farm Bureau voted to oppose Measure 10 calling the ballot language "poorly written."[15]


  • The measure is not clear.[16]
  • It goes too far in limiting political contributions from holders of no-bid governmental contracts.
  • South Dakota already provides a website showing government spending.
  • Since anyone could file a complaint with the Attorney General if they believe the measure's provisions have been violated, the courts might get bogged down.[8]


Supporters of Measure 10 filed a lawsuit in late October alleging that the Brown County Commission acted illegally when it passed a resolution in opposition to 10. They said that Brown County broke a law that forbids governments from spending money to influence elections. The state's attorney general disagreed with this interpretation of the law, and said that local governments in South Dakota are free to take positions on ballot measures.[17]

Path to the ballot

On March 21, 2008, South Dakotans for Open and Clean Government announced that they had submitted more than 26,500 signatures to the South Dakota Secretary of State--nearly 10,000 more than the minimum requirement.[18] On April 3, South Dakota Secretary of State Chris Nelson certified the measure for the fall ballot after a random sample of 5% of the submitted signatures indicated a sufficiently high validity rate.

See also

Suggest a link

External links

Additional reading


  1. South Dakota Political Almanac, "South Dakota Constitutional Amendments, Initiatives and Referendums 1970-2010," accessed August 27, 2014
  2. South Dakota Secretary of State, "Historical Election Data," accessed August 27, 2014
  3. Ballot measure would give South Dakotans more government information, Argus Leader, April 4, 2008
  4. PAC application
  5. Group wants to eliminate tax-funded lobbying (dead link), Rapid City Journal, Dec. 3, 2007
  6. Group gets $10,000 for ballot initiative Argus Leader Media, January 31, 2008
  7. Wait a minute. IM 10 doesn’t just affect my loved ones. It would directly affect *me*, South Dakota War College, July 16, 2008
  8. 8.0 8.1 South Dakota Secretary of State, "2008 South Dakota Ballot Question pamphlet," accessed August 27, 2014
  9. SDCAC in violation of South Dakota Campaign Finance Law? You Decide., South Dakota War College, July 10, 2008
  10. SD gov slams ballot measure limiting donations (dead link), Associated Press, October 9, 2008
  11. State Retirement System board opposes two ballot issues, The Daily Republic, October 6, 2008
  12. Long says boards can take stands on ballot measures, Associated Press, October 9, 2008
  13. Group wants to eliminate tax-funded lobbying (dead link), Rapid City Journal, Dec. 3, 2007
  14. Democrats oppose ballot measure, June 28, 2008
  15. Cattlemen, Farm Bureau oppose Initiated Measure 10, The Miller Press, September 30, 2008
  16. County leaders debate pros, cons of Initiated Measure 10, Argus Leader, September 24, 2008
  17. Commission faces lawsuit (dead link), Aberdeen News, October 23, 2008
  18. Group files signatures in open-government measure Rapid City Journal

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