The Black Hills Pioneer website today has an op/ed from Lee Breard, executive director of the South Dakota Conservative Action Council, on some of the recent coverage about his group’s donor list.
Lee makes an important point that I think has been lost or ignored in the drive by some to paint SDCAC as hypocritical because they aren’t providing the same “openness” they expect of the government:
First and foremost, contributions to SDCAC are NOT kept strictly confidential because we feel we have something to hide. Rather, they are kept confidential because SDCAC is a 501c4 non-profit organization, which means that by federal and state law the right to privacy of our contributors is considered sacrosanct.
This stringent protection of the right of citizens to be quietly and privately benevolent dates back to the teachings of the Gospel (see Matthew 6:1-6 and 16-18) and our Republic’s founding. If Bob Mercer considers that suspect, he needs to take up the issue with Christian principle and Mr. Jefferson and his fellow patriots at the Constitutional Convention — not cast aspersions on SDCAC and its fine supporters.
Mercer questioned me on my supporters numerous times during our interview and tried a few different angles to trip me up. He demonizes SDCAC’s ability to operate as a non-profit and does not differentiate between tax dollars and private money. How do you think he would reply if I asked him to disclose his sources for all his news stories?
I have to agree. Government is accountable to the people; private people and private groups are not and should not be accountable to other people.
SDCAC serves the interests of those South Dakotans who agree with them, but they are not employees of the people of South Dakota.
Our government IS comprised of employees of the people of South Dakota; we don’t need instant access to every jot and tittle that our government is doing, but we should be able to reasonably gain access to what is being done in the name of the people.
And while people should have a right to spend their money where they want and how they want, the people should know about money being taken by government officials who are hired by us to represent our interests. That is especially true if taxpayer funds are being used to lobby other taxpayer employees for more taxpayer funds.
If I’m an employer, I don’t expect to see the financial records of a company I don’t own. But I do expect to have access to the financial transactions of my own company. And government belongs to the people, and those who work for it are employees of the people.
I have good friends and people I respect on both sides of the proposed Open and Clean Government Act, and while I haven’t discussed it’s implications at length with those opposed to it, so far I haven’t seen anything substantive that tells me it’s a bad idea.
As we move closer to the election in November, I’d like to see more honest discussion of the merits of Initiated Measure 10, and even the ideals of the South Dakota Conservative Action Council.
Misplaced criticisms that simply don’t apply to the situation only serve to distract from the issue.