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Our View: A crying need for PAC reform

Abortion and the large number of issues on the November election ballot may be the focus in coming months, but voters might want to give some thought to much needed reform of political action committees.

These committees, or PACs, as they are commonly called, are becoming the tools of the monied class, of the wealthy who want to bend public policy to their will.

This practice was clearly detailed by Daily Republic Capitol Correspondent Bob Mercer in Saturday's edition.

The trend of using PACs to advance favorite causes or political philosophies by those with large bank accounts is corrupting the political process.

Here's how it works: State law limits individual donations to political campaigns to $250 for legislative or county candidates and $1,000 for candidates seeking statewide office.

But there is no such limit on PACs. So, politics being what it is, some PACs have been established by virtually one person and funded by one or a very few in order to influence election outcomes.

This is not limited to either political party, though Stan Adelstein, R-Rapid City, an ardent foe of the anti-abortion law passed last session, has used the loophole more effectively than most. However, he was defeated in the primary earlier this month. Democrats are exploiting the practice, as well. One example was the Warner PAC, which had one contributor, a Rapid City woman. The PAC sent $1,300 to Eric Abrahamson, the Democrat candidate for lieutenant governor.

There have been a number of attempts to reform PAC law, the most recent two years ago by Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, but it went nowhere.

We believe that South Dakotans are beginning to see the inequities created by the exploitation of PACs. State lawmakers should either tighten up how PACs are used, or remove the ceiling on individual contributions that are now in place. Circumvention of the intent, if not the letter, of any law is as bad as breaking it -- but without the consequences.