Adam McKay, the writer-director who is on the board of a group leading anti-corruption ballot initiatives across the country, warns that the stream of news coming out of President Trump’s White House in its first week is also distracting from what is going on at the state level.
He points to efforts by South Dakota lawmakers to repeal a ballot initiative, passed by voters in November. The initiative was championed by Represent.us, a group on which McKay is a board member, and it established an independent ethics commission, imposed lobbying restricts, and established public election financing.
“I was absolutely stunned when I heard that the state legislature was going to overturn this,” McKay said. “They really were relying on the fact that there is a logjam of news going through the White House.”
The measure to repeal the initiative passed South Dakota’s House, and is expected to be taken up by the Senate this week. The state’s governor, Dennis Daugaard, said that he intends to sign it. He said last month that voters were “hoodwinked by scam artists who grossly misrepresented these proposed measures.” He was citing the public financing portion of the initiative, in which residents would be given $50 “democracy credits” to donate to candidates.
But McKay noted the influence of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political action group that has been funded by Charles Koch, in campaigning against the initiative and pushing for its repeal. The group’s South Dakota chapter has claimed that the initiative Measure 22 is an invasion of privacy because it requires that nonprofits disclose the names of their donors. They call it an “unconstitutional mistake.”
“I heard about this [effort to repeal], and I was hopping mad,” McKay said. “It’s just straight up sleazy, and I was pissed for the voters of South Dakota.” He said that lawmakers were “railroading” through the bill to repeal it by an emergency measure.
Represent.us was among the backers of the initiative, and it has been sponsoring other ethics ballot measures across the country.
Josh Silver, its executive director, predicted a backlash, citing what happened when D.C. Republicans in the House tried earlier this month to scale back the independence of a congressional ethics committee.
“There is nothing the American people hate more than the will of the people being overturned by establishment politicians,” Silver told USA Today. Represent.us’s Creative Council also includes chair Lorenzo di Bonaventura, director David O. Russell, and director J.J. Abrams.
McKay said that his goal is to urge voters in the state to contact their lawmakers. “I don’t think voters realize how much power they can have when they call that office,” he said.
After Measure 22 passed with 51 percent of the votes, it was challenged in court, and a judge in December stopped its implementation as it makes its way through the judicial system, perhaps to the state Supreme Court.