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Capitol Notebook: A small way to know candidates a bit more

Capitol Notebook: A small way to know candidates a bit more

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Few voters in South Dakota probably know about something called the candidate statement of financial interest.

State law requires candidates for election to a state or federal office to file the one-page statements. The purpose is to disclose the sources of income for a candidate and the spouse.

These financial interest statements were required long before the push for more public disclosure the past two years in the wake of the EB-5 and Gear Up scandals.

The statements disappeared, briefly, from public access earlier this year.

That was before Secretary of State Shantel Krebs changed her mind and put them back on her office’s website.

There are three ways to see the statements. You can use the internet and visit this simplified address http://bit.ly/1U2axGm.

You also could go to the secretary of state office at the Capitol and ask to see them. Or you could pay the office for copies.

It isn’t easy for voters to know much about candidates for the Legislature. Many of the 35 legislative districts have become so geographically large as the result of population shifts. The financial interest statements are one tool that can help voters know a little more about the people who have stepped forward to run for office.

The statements in South Dakota don’t reveal the specific amounts of income. But they do tell the sources of income.

You learn the occupations and the names of employers and businesses.

The candidates decide how much to tell. Some simply say retired. A registered nurse doesn’t say who pays her. Some don’t list anything about their spouses.

These statements aren’t audited for accuracy or completeness. The law requires disclosure but leaves the degree of detail to the discretion of the candidate.

Even so, the statements are a valuable resource.

First, you can get a feel for the amazing diversity of economic backgrounds of the people who want one of the 105 votes in the Legislature.

Second, you discover the names and occupations of spouses.

State government and state universities employ some of the spouses. Many work for schools, or local governments, or churches.

Many of the households report income from farms and ranches.

Perhaps even more report income from farm and ranch properties that they own and rent to producers.

Many have rental properties whether housing or commercial.

There is a noticeable number who work in video and technology occupations.

My favorite listing this year came from Sue Lucas-Peterson of Sioux Falls, a House candidate. She wrote: “Track Coach, Wife, Mom.”

An incumbent legislator lists among her sources of income, “Fierce Modeling.”

A spouse of another legislator works as a private investigator.

Fascinating.

These forms typically have handwritten answers by the candidates. The handwriting is interesting in itself.

So are the signatures, the autographs if you will. Some are precise, some a mystery.

The business names can be intriguing too. What might the word “Genesis” signal, for example?

The statements help candidates be authentic. They aren’t just names on a ballot running as a Republican or a Democrat or independent.

These are everyday real people, with spouses and jobs, who live real lives.


Source: http://www.aberdeennews.com/news/politics/capitol-notebook-a-small-way-to-know-candidates-a-bit/article_fd9eac63-3512-5277-979e-c01fc788deb8.html

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