Public has right to know candidates finances

Public has right to know candidates finances Your September 4 guest editorial from the Yankton Press and Dakotan urged my campaign to focus on economic and education issues rather than character and ethics.

For over 12 months, I have addressed the issue of low wages, small business development, tourism, agriculture and education.

Seldom has the media shown much interest. But news reporters arrived in droves when we announced that Gov. Janklow improperly moved $36,000 from the state budget to his personal retirement account.

I'm not being critical of the media. Character and ethics should matter in government today, whether the issue is Bill Clinton or Bill Janklow.

But the media decides what is important. Not the candidate. I didn't place the emphasis on character. Editors and reporters did that.

Last week we released an extensive plan that details all we've been discussing over the last 12 months. It is called "South Dakota at the Crossroads: A Plan for the 21st Century."

I doubt that any other gubernatorial candidate in recent history has published and released such a detailed plan. I hope that all the reporters and editors who covered the financial discussion will give at least as much attention to our detailed plan for South Dakota's future.

On Sept. 9, I released an updated version of my finances, because the public has a right to know how candidates for high political office have earned and invested their money. And we've also indicated that if my opponent continues to stonewall on his own financial disclosure, then we would release what is known about his finances as well.

I have no doubt that good reporters would also cover debates on the issues. But Gov. Janklow has refused almost every opportunity to debate. Gov. Walter Dale Miller gave Mr. Janklow 33 opportunities to debate in 1994. We've had only one in 1998.

My only concern about the media of South Dakota is that they've been too quick to apologize editorially for the governor's indiscretions. One daily editor suggested that because the governor is worth more to the private sector, perhaps it is OK that he stretched the rules on his own behalf.

The retirement issue is not "convoluted" or "technical," as the Press and Dakotan editorial suggested. Actually, it is quite simple. The governor wrote himself a $36,000 check on the taxpayer's money. State government had absolutely no obligation or responsibility to deposit that money in his retirement account. It was as wrong as if he had taken the $36,000 to buy a new Cadillac or a trip overseas.

He took the money secretly. Rumors leaked out. After he decided to run for re-election he gave the money back. If he did nothing wrong, why did he give the money back?

And what else isn't he telling us? Did his blind trust officer recommend the pension grab? How else has he invested his money? And how did he earn it?

Those are legitimate questions, and South Dakotans deserve answers, especially when they involve our tax dollars.

Thankfully, we still have a two-party system in South Dakota. We still have elections rather than coronations. We still have discussions of the issues � including the ethics of how incumbents have used or misused public funds.

Gov. Janklow has bullied his way through other elections. He has bullied his way through the legislature. And he has bullied much of the media to the point of intimidation.

But he won't bully his way through this campaign. We will hold him accountable for his record. In the meantime, we look forward to the response from the media � and more important, from the people � to our positive plans to move South Dakota forward into the 21st century.

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