South Dakota yesterday approved an initiative that provides public financing of elections, but also makes substantial improvements to campaign finance rules.

Public Integrity describes the measure, financed by out-of-state tech millionaires and opposed by the Koch political lobby, which hates transparency in government.


Among its many provisions, it would create an independent ethics commission with subpoena power to watch over the statehouse, limit gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers, cap the size of political contributions and require greater disclosure from those who give them. And it would institute a system of public financing for elections: Each registered voter would have access to two $50 “democracy credits” to donate to candidates, with no more than $12 million for the entire fund.

Here’s the thing that has the Kochs upset (and many other dark money groups).

The initiative’s disclosure provision is a major sticking point for Americans for Prosperity. It requires any group that pays for an ad advocating for a candidate or ballot question to disclose its most recent top donors. That’s a key dividing line in the debate over the role of money in American politics.

The Kochs say it is un-American to require people to be identified as financing political campaigns. In the ear of Trump Supreme Court appointees, I’m afraid they might find some sympathy. The new South Dakota is inevitably headed in that direction.


Meanwhile, a variety of people have been pushing to try for ethics legislation along these lines in Arkansas, either in the legislature or by future ballot initiative. Yesterday’s election, in which, for example, the Koch organization worked mightily to defeat some Democratic legislators, isn’t likely to help the movement.