South Dakota Republicans have proposed a bill which would repeal the state's independent ethics commission. The commission, which was just approved by 51% of the state's voters in the most recent election, would put limits on campaign finance and lobbying access. Shortly after the commission was created, 25 Republican lawmakers, backed by a conservative lobbying group, challenged the new law in court. A judge prevented the law from taking effect, and GOP lawmakers are now trying to repeal it entirely.
State Representative Larry Rhoden said that his fellow Republicans were considering alternative ethics reform legislation. “We are pretty squeaky clean, and I can say that with a great deal of pride in South Dakota,” Rhoden said. “The ethics among the people that serve the state in the legislature, I would call impeccable.”
Proponents of the ethics committee disagree, citing two major recent ethics scandals within the past two years. In 2016, a private company stole over $1 million of federal grant money intended to help Native Americans afford college. In late 2014, the federal green card program was misused by wealthy immigrant investors.
Three weeks ago, Republicans in the House of Representatives also tried to push a law that would gut the independent ethics office that oversees them. The move was quickly shot down after much public outrage, and was even criticized by then President-Elect Donald Trump. In South Dakota, however, there are only 16 Democrats in the 105-person legislature, so the repeal is certain to pass if the majority of the Republicans support it.