Billie Sutton: Open, Honest, and Accessible Government Measures Still Needed

As we wrap up the 2018 Legislative Session, it remains evident that additional government accountability measures and campaign finance reforms are still badly needed in a state that has seen an onslaught of political scandals. I championed good government measures in the state senate, including proposals with bi-partisan support that would help restore integrity in government and campaigns.

I sponsored and passed a transparency measure this Session to help clean up the mess in our government. But, cleaning up an entrenched system is never easy.  A host of other reform measures I proposed with support from people across the political spectrum were rejected by a system rigged in favor of the status quo, leaving loopholes for government mismanagement and a festering influence of money in politics.

South Dakota needs a leader in the Governor’s office willing to fight for the type of open, honest, and accessible government South Dakotans deserve. We need to ensure tax payer dollars are being spent wisely, not mismanaged or steered to political insiders for personal gain. We need to limit the influence of money in politics. I have championed legislation in these areas, but with the legislature’s inaction, we must continue to find ways to implement these good government measures in Pierre.

And while many politicians say one thing and do another: I lead by example. I brought legislation that would have opened government records and emails to the public. To show my commitment to transparency, I voluntarily released emails to the Rapid City Journal to show I mean what I say and I say what I mean. 

With the support of the South Dakota Newspaper association and the Citizens for Liberty, I brought legislation to retain important government records for longer so if things go wrong we can look back and determine if taxpayer money was wasted or was spent wisely. Politicians in the legislature rejected this powerful reform, but a similar measure I co-sponsored is still working its way through the process. If that bill doesn’t become law this year, I will implement a more robust records retention policy as the next Governor of South Dakota.

I support the will of the people for more openness and transparency in campaign finance, and I’ll match my words with action. I led the charge to restore voter-approved campaign finance limits to help combat the influence of money in politics. To show my commitment to integrity in campaigns, I made the financial support I received open and transparent to the public. 

Most recently, my campaign voluntarily made available more information than is required by law about supporters who gave to a grassroots funded campaign committee on my behalf. Commitment to transparency isn’t new for me though. In my state senate campaign committee, clerical errors were discovered that justified refunding some financial support received during previous elections from friends and neighbors’ accounts associated with an organization rather than their personal account. My state senate committee fixed the error when it was discovered and reported it publically without being asked because I am committed to honesty, integrity, and transparency. My campaign did the right thing in these situations, and that is at the heart of why South Dakotans know they can trust me–– to lead by example, with honesty and integrity. 

Despite many of the bills I proposed this Legislative Session to promote good and honest government being rejected by those who prefer politics-as-usual, I am committed to implementing policies as governor that will help ensure our government has adequate oversight, transparency, and accountability. It’s time to clean up the system.