I hear a lot more griping about Initiated Measure 22, the voter-approved Anti-Corruption Act that took effect last week, from Republicans than from Democrats. Hmmm… I’m thinking if the beneficiaries of one-party rule in Pierre are unhappy, we voters must have done something right.
One aspect of the Anti-Corruption Act that hasn’t received much attention are the new campaign finance limits. The new law lowers the cap on individual contributions to many candidates and caps contributions from PACs and parties, which previously could give unlimited sums to their favored candidates. These new limits forced Kristi Noem to announce last week her intention to ignore her job and run for Governor, so she could transfer her huge pot of out-of-state money before the new Anti-Corruption Act campaign finance caps kicked in.
Here’s the rundown on the limits on contributions that candidates and committees may accept from each donor, with section numbers from IM 22 after the new limits. Note that IM 22 now classifies candidate committees, political action committees, and ballot question committees all as “political committees” but still excludes ballot question committees from contributing to candidates, PACs, or parties.
|Office/Cmte||Previous Limits||Anti-Corruption Act Limits|
|Governor||Individual: $4,000||Individual/candidate/PAC: $4,000
Party: $40,000 (Sec. 5)
|Lt. Governor and Attorney General||Indiv: $4,000||Indiv/cand/PAC: $2,000
Party: $20,000 (Sec. 5)
|Other statewide||Indiv: $4,000||Indiv/cand/PAC: $1,000
Party: $10,000 (Sec. 5)
|Legislative, county||Indiv: $1,000||Indiv/cand/PAC: $750
Party: $5,000 (Sec. 6)
|PAC||Indiv/candidate/PAC/ party: $10,000||Indiv/cand/PAC/party/org: $2,000
|Party||Indiv/candidate/PAC/ party: $10,000||Indiv/cand/PAC: $5,000 (Section 8)|
Candidates can still make unlimited contributions to their own campaigns. However, the exemption for family members is gone. IM 22 strikes the exemption of immediate family members from the rules on independent expenditures (Section 3) and the caps on contributions to statewide (Section 5) or legislative or county (Section 6) offices. Plus, candidates can’t use Democracy Credits (the public campaign finance mechanism of IM 22) to pay themselves or any entity in which they or a family member has at least a 10% ownership interest (Section 61).
My mom and Mark Mickelson’s mom will thus no longer be able to donate unlimited sums to their loving sons’ campaigns. (Maybe that’s really why Mickelson bailed!)
The Anti-Corruption Act cuts off another source of unlimited funds in Section 10:
For the purpose of the contribution limits established by §§ 12-27-7, 12-27-8, 12-27-9, and 12- 27-10, all committees established, financed, maintained or controlled by the same corporation, labor organization, person, or group of persons, including any parent, subsidiary, branch, division, department, or local unit thereof, are affiliated and share a single contribution limit both with respect to contributions made and contributions received.
Last month, I could have set up a dozen shell PACs, asked Tom Steyer and George Soros to each pour $10,000 into each fund, and then had $240,000 to pour into my District 3 Senate race in addition to whatever I raised in my actual Senate campaign committee. Section 10 ends that practice. If I control multiple committees (and right now, I do: my candidate campaign fund, plus two ballot question committees), the Anti-Corruption Act views them all as one entity for accounting purposes. If I get $750 from my mom for my campaign committee next year, she can’t send any money to my ballot question committee to help refer whatever godawfulness the Republican Legislature passes.
Let those soak in. I’ll tackle the new reporting requirements in a separate post. But these new contribution caps alone could explain a lot of the grousing from big-money Republicans… and maybe, once everyone digests the impacts, a few Democratic candidates and donors.