“Open Primaries” group backing Amendment V to the tune of nearly $250,000 has interesting supporters.

There’s an interesting question that’s swirling around Slick Rick Weiland and his allies as they come out in the public eye, promoting Amendment V, a measure that would simultaneously remove most instances of political party labels on the ballot, as well as make sure there’s never another independent or third party candidate who appears on the November ballot ever again.

Recall that chart I posted a couple of days ago on where the money is coming from for the “Yes on Amendment V” movement?

screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-2-36-03-pm

The shadowy out-of-state group “Open Primaries” has put just shy of $250,000 into using South Dakota as their laboratory for promoting Amendment V. But who is this “Open Primaries” group? Who exactly has Rick Weiland – who brought Amendment V to South Dakota – allied himself with? The answer may surprise you.

Open Primaries bills itself as  “a movement of diverse Americans who believe in a simple, yet radical idea: no American should be required to join a political party to exercise their right to vote” and that “The mission of Open Primaries is to advocate for open and nonpartisan primary systems, counter efforts to impose closed primaries, educate voters, train and support spokespeople, and participate in the building of local, state and national open primaries coalitions.”

What is is not telling you? Well for one, it’s largely funded and tightly affiliated with a former Enron commodities trader.  Yes, that Enron. The one that perpetuated one of the biggest frauds in corporate history.

For starters,Enron billionaire John Arnold has been trying to set himself up as a national political kingmaker, and in the past, as noted by Rolling Stone, he’s allegedly engineered plans to slash benefits for public workers, as well as becoming known as a corporate raider..

The dynamic young Rhodes scholar was allowing her state to be used as a test case for the rest of the country, at the behest of powerful out-of-state financiers with dreams of pushing pension reform down the throats of taxpayers and public workers from coast to coast. One of her key supporters was billionaire former Enron executive John Arnold – a dickishly ubiquitous young right-wing kingmaker with clear designs on becoming the next generation’s Koch brothers, and who for years had been funding a nationwide campaign to slash benefits for public workers.

and…

Anyone who has seen the Oscar-winning documentary The Smartest Guys in the Room and remembers those tapes of Enron traders cackling about rigging energy prices on “Grandma Millie” and jamming electricity rates “right up her ass for fucking $250 a megawatt hour” will have a sense of exactly what Arnold’s work environment was like.

In fact, in the book that the movie was based on, the authors portray Arnold bragging about his minions manipulating energy prices, praising them for “learning how to use the Enron bat to push around the market.” Those comments later earned Arnold visits from federal investigators, who let him get away with claiming he didn’t mean what he said.

As Enron was imploding, Arnold played a footnote role, helping himself to an $8 million bonus while the company’s pension fund was vaporizing. He and other executives were later rebuked by a bankruptcy judge for looting their own company along with other executives. Public pension funds nationwide, reportedly, lost more than $1.5 billion thanks to their investments in Enron.

Read that here.

But more recently, Arnold has been aggressively at the forefront of the Open Primaries movement, actively advocating and opening his checkbook when the effort has gone to various states.

Such as in Oregon in 2014..

Last week, Texas billionaire John Arnold reported giving $500,000 to help pass the top-two primary initiative — setting the record for the largest single political donation in Oregon this year.

Turns out that was just the start.  Late Wednesday, the group Open Primaries revealed that Arnold has given another $1 million in support of the ballot measure that would rewrite Oregon’s primary system.

Under Measure 90, partisan primaries in the state would be replaced with a single primaryopen to candidates of all parties.  The top two finishers — regardless of party — would advance to the general.  California and Washington both have almost identical systems.

Arnold, a former natural gas trader who once worked for the now-bankrupt Enron Corp., has been involved on a number of political causes, including revamping the education system and public employee pensions.

Read it here.

And in Arizona this year..

Organizers of twin initiative campaigns to tighten up on dark money and open up political primaries suspended both efforts Thursday after a key source of funding dried up.

Texas billionaire John Arnold and his wife Laura, who had fronted each of the groups $500,000 with a promise of more, is apparently interested in financing only the proposal to create a system where all candidates ran against each other in an open primary, regardless of party affiliation, said Chuck Coughlin, treasurer for both efforts. Under that system, the top two vote-getters would face off in the general election, even if both were of the same party.

Read that here.

So, why would a billionaire want to push a nationwide effort to eliminate political primaries, and create the jungle primary, where most of the field is swept away early, and party labels are removed from the ballot?

It’s obviously not from an ideological standpoint, given his past track record in trying to push public pension reform as well as eliminate political parties. In fact, according to the Houston Chronicle, John Arnold is a big Obama supporter:

“In the small world of the Houston ultra-wealthy, the Arnolds cut a different profile. They are not on the political right – they have donated significant amounts to the Obama campaign and Democratic National Committee.

Read that here.

So what’s in it for him?

If I were a cynical man, I would point out that political parties serve an important function in supporting a candidate, rallying volunteers, providing a somewhat loose organizational structure, and many things a candidate would otherwise have to have to muster tremendous amounts of time and money to put in place themselves.

What if that was all erased? What if there were no party labels, and you could clear most of the field early – instead of letting them compete at the finish line, and you only had to choose between the last two?

Well, for starters, millionaires and billionaires would have a far easier time buying political races, as they could simply just start opening a checkbook for their hand picked candidates, and not have to contend with pesky political party activists who might be backing candidates because of ideology.

You can very quickly buy a lot of name ID with a million dollar television blitz. But the party apparatus has always served as an organizational counterweight, providing a strong level of support that money can’t buy.

No more party apparatus, and Slick Rick’s new buddies would have a lot easier time buying elections, especially as you get into bigger media markets across the nation.

That is, I’d think that, if I were a cynical man.

Somehow, I don’t think they’re going to put that on the literature.

24 thoughts on ““Open Primaries” group backing Amendment V to the tune of nearly $250,000 has interesting supporters.

  1. Anonymous

    I also see “Represent Us” the other group pushing IM 22 also contributed significantly to this measure also….

    NO on V and NO on 22.

    Reply
  2. grudznick

    This Slick Rick fellow is bad for South Dakota, and he is doing it intentionally and not from ignorance. Slick Rick is bad.

    Reply
  3. Springer

    Wouldn’t “take it back” be considered racist??!! Just making fun of Bill Clinton’s latest gaff when he said the “Make America Great Again” slogan was racist (even though he himself used it many times before).

    Reply
  4. David Bergan

    “Well, for starters, millionaires and billionaires would have a far easier time buying political races, as they could simply just start opening a checkbook for their hand picked candidates, and not have to contend with pesky political party activists who might be backing candidates because of ideology.

    You can very quickly buy a lot of name ID with a million dollar television blitz.”

    Hi Pat,

    If that’s Weiland’s angle, then why is he also promoting IM22 which severely limits campaign contributions?

    Kind regards,
    David

    Reply
    1. Springer

      I’ll hazard a guess here. The Dems in SD are already limited in what they can raise; they are only looking to limit everyone else’s contributions!

      Reply
      1. Dave R

        IM 22 would substantially increase the amount of money in politics. There would be a mad scramble to get that 12 million. Outside contractors and full time employees would hired to grab as much of the slush fund as possible. Everyone would be hammered to donate “their: $100.

        Reply
        1. Anonymous

          Plus the money program is a sham…if everyone sends in their vouchers that is near $50M….only the first $12M would get it…..

          You think the Democrats put up a lot of straw candidates now…just wait till the money grab begins….so we need to stop it before it does….NO on 22.

          Reply
          1. Springer

            A question. If I want to donate $50 to X candidate, do I send in my actual $50, or do I just tell the state (the rest of the taxpayers) to cough up $50 for X candidate? In other words, does this become my money or the state’s money toward the candidate’s coffers? And if it does amount to more than $12 million and is actual money, where does that extra money go? And if it is a voucher, what happens when people pledge a voucher for a particular candidate after the $12 in vouchers are used up – are those candidates out of luck? In other words, this is a sham and is just worded and promoted to get those who don’t understand to vote for it, thinking they are doing something good.

            Reply
            1. George

              up front..yes this is a sham…I’d refer you tot he actual IM but as I understand it.

              The state will MAIL YOU ( ie there is a cost to mail to every registered voter) 2 “democracy credits” and you can allocate them to whoever you want….however it is first come first serve…the money does not come out of your pocket directly….but out of the $12M fund allocated from Legislature…So lots of games could be played…as how do you know who to allocate them for until there are candidates…Dems throw in some placeholders…then go grab the money right away….then after $12M is exhausted any taxpayer sending back int he forms…so there is a cost to you to send it back in (or if they send out prepaid envelopes another cost to the state) your candidate is out of luck and/or your voice wasn’t heard. 22 has multiple Constitutional violations in it and we are buying a lawsuit because how is it “fair” that my candidate choice doesn’t get the money…

              All of these Weiland measures are a sham…T and V address situations where they have invented problems and 23 is as vague and misleading of a piece of “legislation” and I use that term kindly as I have ever seen.

              Reply
    2. Anonymous

      David, I see you used the old change the subject trick…you can’t answer the question or refuse to do so so you change the subject……

      The fact is, name ID elections and tricking the voters will be the new game in town….NOT ONE STATE hides party labels from the voters….but V seeks to do that….

      It will become a popularity contest which is not good for Democracy….

      I’ll be voting NO on V also

      Reply
  5. Anonymous

    and IM 22 allows candidates like Jay Williams who cant raise any money to get $700,000 of TAXPAYER dollars….no thanks at all

    NO on V and 22 and if Weiland is for T also then NO on T

    Reply
  6. Springer

    2016 08 23 Wang Analysis SD IM 22 South Dakota Governmen Accountability and Anti Corruption Act

    IM 22 does a whole lot more than limit campaign contributions. Of course, just saying it will limit contributions sounds a whole lot better and less confusing (an of course less truthful).

    Reply
  7. David Bergan

    “IM 22 does a whole lot more than limit campaign contributions.”

    Hi Springer,

    You’re absolutely right. And so are a lot of the other commenters here today. I wasn’t intending to mislead anyone about the scope of IM 22. I simply asked Pat my one-sentence question because it would be impossible for John Arnold to have a significant financial impact on South Dakota elections if IM 22 passes… and yet that’s what this article speculates Weiland’s master scheme might be.

    The relevant text from IM 22 follows:
    =====
    No candidate for governor, or the candidate’s campaign committee, may accept contributions from a person or political committee which in the aggregate from one source exceeds four thousand dollars during any calendar year, or contributions from a political party which in the aggregate from one source exceeds forty thousand dollars during any calendar year.

    No candidate for attorney general or lieutenant governor, or the candidate’s campaign committee, may accept contributions from a person or political committee which in the aggregate from one source exceeds two thousand dollars during any calendar year, or contributions from a political party which in the aggregate from one source exceeds twenty thousand dollars during any calendar year.

    No candidate for secretary of state, state auditor, state treasurer, commissioner of school and public lands, or public utilities commissioner, or the candidate’s campaign committee, may accept contributions from a person or political committee which in the aggregate from one source exceeds one thousand dollars during any calendar year, or contributions from a political party which in the aggregate from one source exceeds ten thousand dollars during any calendar year.

    No candidate for statewide office may accept a contribution from a ballot question committee.
    =====

    IM 22 would change campaign finance drastically, in terms of limiting corporation and out-of-state contributions, and giving South Dakotans “democracy credits”. It would be a very different game if IM 22 passes… the measure is quite long, and I’m not an expert on the nuances, but I think some of the things mentioned here are worthy concerns.

    My only point was that if Weiland’s three ballot measures pass, John Arnold would not be able to do what Pat alleges he could. And thus, I can’t reasonably think that Weiland was hoping for some kind of scheme that allows Enron money to buy the SD legislature for the Democrats.

    Kind regards,
    David

    Reply
    1. George

      I think 22 is way too long, 34 pages with no scrutiny in putting it together…all of these measures should at least have to go to the legislature to improve upon them first and at least be Constitutional….22 is not Constitutional in many ways….

      23 is misleading, vague and deceptive to say the very least.

      T–Why is Farmer’s Union even pushing this one…where is the problem the lines were drawn 5 years ago….

      David what say you on 23 and T?

      V has been defeated in other states, but even in those other states they kept the party label on…I read PP article and looked Oregon crushed it 68-31….not a SD effort clearly….

      Reply
  8. David Bergan

    “David what say you on 23 and T?”

    Hi George,

    Amendment T is probably my favorite of the ballot measures. I don’t have any issue with the current legislative districts, but on principle, I detest the possibility of gerrymandering and think that the maps should be drawn independently with no regard to the voters’ party registration. I’m also a techy software/math guy and enjoy thinking about the best algorithm for drawing maps of equal population with the least inconvenience for voters.

    I don’t care for IM 23. I think the economy is doing great in SD and don’t want to monkey around with union laws. Have yet to hear of any stories where 23 solves a dire problem.

    Kind regards,
    David

    Reply
  9. George

    David,

    I think you said it best when you said “I don’t have any problem with the current legislative districts”

    This Amendment to our state Constitution seems to be seeking to “fix” a problem which is not there…I believe the real gerrymandering if this passes. if it is not broke why do we want to fix it? especially since it takes amending the constitution to do so… I have read a lot about this one and it seems like there are no issues….so again I will vote T.

    I say the same with 23…nothing is broke, so why are we trying to fix it….but I believe the same for V and 22 also….a lot of made up problems by out of state people trying to tell us we are broken…when we are not.

    George

    Reply
    1. George

      Plus 23 is just totally deceptive…it says nothing about Unions, right to work or anything else and yet that is what it is all about….

      I would prefer the voters know MORE not less, probably why I don’t agree with removing party labels from ballots either….plus I dont see how V fixes your ideological argument anyway…I think this will produce more “establishment” candidates not less actually….

      Reply
  10. MK

    Wouldn’t it be interesting if the states had the power to define their own laws and regulations? Why such a vested interest in how other people should live when they don’t even live there? A young girl came to the house with info on why to vote yes for Amnd V. Mostly focused on how people not getting to vote are still having to pay for primary. I mentioned how I still have to pay taxes to murder babies. Oh, and she was from NE, said someone paid for a place for many supporters to live & campaign. I didn’t want to “trigger” her so I said we hadn’t decided yet. No on V!!

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      heck everyone in this yes campaign is from NEBRASKA..the land of high taxes…

      good point about paying to murder babies….

      NO ON V

      Reply
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