Yes on Amendment W Launches New TV Ad

Grossest Political Ad of of 2018?

Ad Decries Lobbyist Gifts to Politicians

Vermillion, SD: A new TV ad - possibly the grossest of the 2018 election cycle - launched today spotlighting the problem of lobbyist gifts to politicians and how Amendment W, the Anti-Corruption Amendment, ends that practice.

The ad opens with the viewer looking through a keyhole into a private dinner with a lobbyist and two politicians in Pierre. The voiceover says “Let's take a look at how laws really get made. In backroom deals with lobbyists and politicians.” The ad portrays intentionally disgusting footage of the lobbyist feeding the politicians turkey legs, corn on the cob and lobster as the group discusses legislation. They later hold each others’ glasses of wine - until the sound of a door opening symbolizing the people of South Dakota exposing and stopping this corrupt practice  with Amendment W. The ad closes with the voiceover saying “Amendment W stops lobbyist gifts to politicians. End corruption. Yes on W.”

“This is an intentionally disgusting take on the corrupt culture of lobbyists gifts to self serving politicians,” said Mitch Richter, co-chair of the Yes on W Coalition and a former Republican state senator. “It might be the grossest political ad of 2018. We probably took it too far with this one, but it’s to make a serious point that corruption is gross and we can fight it by passing Amendment W.”

The coalition supporting Amendment W  includes conservative groups, workers and farmers: the conservative South Dakota Constitution Party along with conservative national group Take Back Our Republic; the South Dakota Farmers Union, South Dakota Democracy in Action, South Dakota AFL-CIO, South Dakota Democratic Party, Greening Vermillion, TakeItBack.org, Madison Area Stands Together, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), End Citizens United, and the nonpartisan anti-corruption group RepresentUs and its Represent South Dakota chapter.

“Amendment W creates strong, good government laws like a crackdown on lobbyist gift-giving to politicians,” said Duwayne Wohlleber, President of the South Dakota AFL-CIO. “These will combine to ensure our government is representative of us voters rather than big money interests in Pierre.”

Amendment W ends gift-giving from paid lobbyists to lawmakers. When politicians were supposed tried to create their own gift limit, they left gaping loopholes for things like food, alcohol, and entertainment. Amendment W closes these loopholes in an effort to ensure that lobbyists can’t buy off lawmakers.

“Protecting our initiative and referendum process has always been at the forefront for us,” said Doug Sombke, President of the South Dakota Farmers Union. “This amendment removes legislators’ ability to declare a bogus ‘state of emergency’ and overturn the voters’ wishes.”

Under Amendment W, if voters pass an initiated measure in the future and lawmakers want to repeal it, they will have to send that decision back to the voters for the final say. That protection is also extended to the initiative process itself. In recent years, the initiative process has increasingly come under fire from lawmakers, leading Wendy Underhill of the National Conference of State Legislatures to say that “South Dakota was a standout” when it comes to bills designed to erode voters’ rights.

Opponents of Amendment W are a who’s who of the state’s top lobbying groups and special interests. In a state where there are twice as many lobbyists as there are legislators, the special interest groups opposing Amendment W employ 54 different lobbyists and their members hold state contracts totaling tens of millions of dollars.

Amendment W is a solution written by conservatives, progressives, and independents at forums held across the state. The measure is written to address the very real problem of unaccountability in South Dakota. Corruption has cost us tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. It is time to put an end to this unnecessary and unethical government waste.

“Special interests don’t want us to put an end to politics-as-usual because that has been their bread and butter for years,” said Darrell Solberg, Democratic co-chair and former legislator. “Amendment W sends a message to Pierre to knock it off with the waste, corruption, and backroom deals.”


South Dakota remains one of seven states without statewide, independent oversight. In 2017, legislators tried to create an accountability board, but exempted the legislative branch from its oversight and gave sole appointment authority to one person - the Governor. Amendment W extends from and corrects these shortcomings with an independent ethics watchdog that can field complaints, investigate corruption at all levels, and hold rulebreakers accountable. Amendment W would create an independent, nonpartisan ethics watchdog to investigate and enforce ethics laws subject to judicial review and reasonable oversight.

“The citizens’ ethics commission will provide a place for citizens to take complaints and perceived violations to be resolved,” wrote Democracy in Action leaders. “Best of all, ordinary citizens are eligible to serve on the commission and politicians and lobbyists are excluded.”

Over 180,000 South Dakotans voted in favor of Initiated Measure 22 and nearly 50,000 signed petitions to place Amendment W on the ballot. Hundreds of South Dakotans have demonstrated across the state, testitified in Pierre, and attended educational forums to develop the ideas in Amendment W.