The most significant IM22 replacement bill, Senate Bill 54, is still hung up in Senate State Affairs. After hearings Monday and Wednesday, the committee is still working on amendments.
One of the most significant amendments came from Democratic Minority Leader Billie Sutton, who tacked on this provision to outlaw the conversion of campaign funds to personal use:
Contributions received by a candidate campaign committee may not be used for any purpose other than a purpose related to a candidate’s campaign. Contributions received by a candidate campaign committee that are not used for any purpose related to a candidate’s campaign may be donated to any other candidate, candidate campaign committee, or nonprofit charitable organization [Senate Bill 54, Amendment 54ff, approved 2017.02.15].
Right now, candidates for statewide, legislative, and lower offices can spend the campaign funds on groceries, beer, home mortgages, flowers for their secret lovers, whatever they want. The only restrictions on such conversion of campaign funds to personal use would be (a) public scorn, (b) torqued-off donors, and (c) IRS requirements that such conversions be declared as taxable income. Senator Sutton’s amendment would end such personal conversion.
Unclear is whether the Sutton amendment would prevent candidates from paying themselves a salary from their campaign funds. FEC rules allow Congressional candidates to write themselves a check, although that salary cannot exceed the salary of the office for which the candidate is running or the income the candidate earned the previous year, which is less. Sutton’s amendment doesn’t address the salary question and thus could leave a door open for candidates to pocket their campaign funds for personal use.
Senate State Affairs will take up SB 54, along with campaign finance restriction SB 173, ethics complaint reform SB 151, and Governor Daugaard’s protest/war zone SB 176, next Wednesday, the last day for committees to deliver their bills.