Pierre political reporter Bob Mercer complained last weekend that South Dakota’s campaign finance laws gives PACs and unchallenged or inactive campaign committees too much leeway to pour money into campaigns without timely public scrutiny. Now Mercer reports that Secretary of State Shantel Krebs will convene a panel of legislators, Board of Elections members, and businesspeople (businesspeople? Why that sector specifically? Why not journalists? Civics teachers? Poli sci profs? Construction and CAFO workers?) to review our campaign finance system:
Proposed changes will be presented at the October meeting of Board of Elections.
“She wants the review to ensure that the public and candidates have access to information that clearly identifies who is funding political committees when the information is most relevant,” [SOS spokesman Jason] Williams said.
Section 21 lifts the reporting exemptions that irk Mercer: Everyone except for candidates for county office and committees who already file with the Federal Election Commission would have to report campaign finance activity during non-election years, and candidate committees would have to file pre-primary and pre-general reports even if they aren’t on the ballot.
Section 21 adds “fifth Tuesday” reports due five weeks before primary and general elections. These reports would alert the public sooner to who is supporting various candidates and ballot questions.
Section 21 adds a “fourth Friday” post-primary report and “second Friday” post-general report, which would give the public more timely information about the final dollars that poured into campaigns.
Section 22 requires committees to report the occupation and employers of donors who give more than $500 in one calendar year.
Section 23 requires committees to file “timely contribution disclosure statements” when any donor’s aggregate support tops $500 for the year. Usually, committees must report this information electronically within five days of receipt of the 501st dollar; however, if we’re only 20 days or less from a vote, committees must file those timely reports within 24 hours.
Section 28 requires any committee receiving at least $1,000 to file all campaign finance reports electronically. Those reports have to be typed; handwritten and scanned PDFs are verboten.
Section 30 requires the Secretary of State to make all campaign finance reporting data available to the public for free, both as bulk downloadable file and as “retrievable, downloadable, indexable, and electrinocially searchable” online database. (Yeeeessssss!!!)
Initiated Measure 22 would take a big whack at the transparency Mercer and other interested citizens want. If special interests succeed in beating IM 22 back on their dubious concerns about the small-donor/public campaign finance system, Secretary Krebs should consider bringing the above campaign finance reporting provisions of IM 22 to the Legislature as their own reform package.
We can’t count on South Dakota’s Senators to knock down this sop to their wealthy masters. We’ll have to count on the President to use his veto pen… or perhaps on Democrats to expand their current filibuster to block H.R. 5053 and everything else until the Senate acknowledges that letting rich people hide their political donations is less important than protecting regular Americans from more mass shootings.
Maybe Governor Dennis Daugaard should just stay home during the primaries. As in 2012, the Governor’s contributions to GOP Legislative primary candidates in 2016 appear to have produced no better results than flipping a coin.
As of May 27, Governor Daugaard had blessed nine Republicans with contributions to help them beat fellow Republicans in yesterday’s primary. (Post-primary reports may reveal more assistance from the boss.) Daugaard favorites Senator Larry Tidemann, Senator Deb Peters, Senator Alan Solano, Senator Terri Haverly, and Representative Jeff Partridge all won their Senate primaries against radical right-wing party outsiders. Daugaard-favored incumbents Senator Bruce Rampelberg, Representative Roger Solum, and Representative Jacqueline Sly all lost Senate primaries to radical right-wingers.
We can argue that Daugaard squeaked out a win in these contests, 5–4. Recovering from a prematurely published story last night that flipped those numbers, Bob Mercer can contend that counting gubernatorial appointees brings Daugaard’s Tuesday tally down to 5–6. Either way, Daugaard’s primary influence seemed to have as little discernible effect in driving victories as it did in 2012.
There’s a strange contradiction here: liberals and conservatives alike grumble that the Governor’s office dominates the direction of the Legislature during Session, yet when primary season rolls around, his dominance over Legislative candidates disappears.
Rep. Mickelson is more focused on his 2018 statewide campaign than his District 13 campaign: while he drums up his statewide donor base, he hasn’t updated his Legislative campaign Facebook page since last August. That inattention to the home fires could offer Democratic challengers Ellee Spawn and Jim Eckhoff a chance to make some headway and upset the incumbent’s aspirational calculus.
District 19 Republican candidate for House ReGina Osborn is robocalling GOP voters across her district to alert them to what she calls “fraud” by her primary opponents:
We also need to discuss the fraud that has been committed against us all. Some of you have received the James River Republican Newspaper Special Edition. It’s a fraud created by the three young candidates to fake Republican support for themselves to fool you. I think we can agree—disgusting and disqualifying conduct to say the least. Please tell your neighbors, friends, and family about this so they are not fooled by this fraud [my transcription; ReGina Osborn, robocall, distributed 2016.06.06].
Osborn concludes the call by urging voters to pick her for House and her “fellow veteran” Stace Nelson for the Senate “We may be gray and mature and blunt-speaking,” she says, “but we are honest and we will serve you, not the tax-and-spend establishment.”
Yesterday I dissected the fake newspaper from Obsorn’s incumbent Republican opponents Rep. Kent Peterson and Rep. Kyle Schoenfish and their Senate-aspirant compadre Caleb Finck. I’m not sure if I’d use the word “fraud,” but the Peter-fish-Finck flyer certainly makes an effort to look like the regular newspaper. I’m hearing that readers and even some newspaper folks are alarmed at the young trio’s use of “the Editor” as a byline amidst otherwise anonymous content (which ranges from sloppily fallacious to simply false). But “fraud”—that’s a fightin’ word! Have Peterson, Schoenfish, and Finck committed fraud by creating the illusion of some sort of editorial endorsement for their paid views? Or does their teeny-print disclaimer at the bottom of the back page excuse them from any repercussions?
District 19 voters, if you haven’t early voted, you have 27.5 hours to decide.
Bonus Campaign Finance Minutiae! At the end of yesterday’s post, I asked readers to consider whether Peter-fish-Finck’s advocacy for NO votes on all ten ballot measures triggered an obligation for them to file Independent Expenditure reports under SDCL 12-27-16. It turns out I was asking a trick question. The issue isn’t the nature of the communication—did they really advocate voting NO, or did they use enough weasel language about “it’s harder and harder to argue with the people who suggest we JUST VOTE NO” to avoid actually telling people how to vote?—but of the communicators. The flyer was paid for by the three legislative campaign committees. SDCL 12-27-16 applies only to “persons” and “organizations.” By statutory definition (SDCL 12-27-1) “organizations” do not include political committees or political parties. Legislative candidates can thus use their campaign funds to publish anything they want about the ballot measures (as Peter-fish-Finck do) and other candidates (as Osborn does in telling neighbors to vote for Stace) without having to file independent expenditure reports within 48 hours of publication.
Update 17:10 CDT: To clarify why Osborn calls the James River Republican a fraud, here are images of pages 2, 3, and 4 of the fake newspaper:
“Our Endorsements…” “Why do we like….” Only if you flip to the back and squint at the smallest, faintest print on the document do you see “James River Republican is paid for by Finck for State Senate, Kyle Schoenfish for House, and Kent Peterson for District 19” and learn that these three fellas are talking about themselves.
A Republican campaign guru said something earlier this campaign season about how newsletter inserts in the local paper are a waste of campaign funds. (My third campaign newsletter will appear in the Aberdeen American News later this month—stay tuned!)
That guru must be apoplectic over his own District 19 GOP favorites’ ignoring his advice and wasting monumental sums on a full four-page insert masquerading as the James River Republican in the latest Emery Enterprise and Alexandria Herald:
The newsletter appears to be paid for by the District 19 GOP wonderkids: incumbent Rep. Kent Peterson of Salem, incumbent Rep. and arguably myopic Mid-Central Educational Cooperative auditor Kyle Schoenfish of Scotland, and Governor Dennis Daugaard’s favorite newcomer Caleb Finck of Tripp. All three stand in Tuesday’s primary against arguably more conservative challengers.
I’m still waiting to obtain a complete copy of this gem, but none of the clips I’ve seen bear a complete byline. Whoever wrote this GOP mainstream rag thinks the most valuable use of their front page real estate is not “VOTE FOR THESE GUYS” but a lengthy ramble about the merits of the Electoral College, the U.S. Senate, and federalism. I appreciate a good civics lesson, fellas, but I guarantee you, nothing on that front page adds a vote to your column.
Elsewhere, the newsletter turns to ballot questions, wherein we learn you won’t learn the facts about ballot measures from Republicans:
“JUST SAY NO on everying,” says the nameless Editor, who apparently didn’t edit much.
Peterson, Schoenfish, and Finck attack all ten ballot measures not by discussing the details of each measure and the faults therein. Instead, they encourage reactionary do-nothingness (oh, right, these are Republicans) by advancing the thesis that out-of-state groups are duping South Dakotans into passing laws that the Legislature hasn’t reviewed.
Out-of-state groups have pushed some unwise ballot measures in South Dakota. But they haven’t enjoyed much success: South Dakotans soundly defeated the two examples offered, legalization of medical marijuana and the whacky, Cliven-Bundyesque JAIL amendment. (To the best of my knowledge, no South Dakota ballot measure has ever sought to “legalize drugs”… and I am open to correction from Bob Newland and other experts on just how much out-of-state support was behind the 2010 and 2006 medical marijuana measures and the 2002 industrial hemp measure.)
Initiated Measure 21, the real 36% rate cap on this year’s ballot, is not the product of an out-of-state group. The sponsors and heads of South Dakotans for Responsible Lending are Sioux Falls men Steve Hildebrand, Steve Hickey, and Reynold Nesiba. Of the roughly $28,200 in campaign contributions reported on South Dakotans for Responsible Lending’s 2015 year-end and 2016 pre-primary reports, $2,200 has come from out-of-state donors, and $2,000 of that “imported” money came from former South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle in Washington, D.C. North Carolina’s Center for Responsible Lending has provided over $5,800 in consulting as an in-kind contribution, but that hardly looks like an outside group dominating the drive to cap interest payday lending rates at 36%.
Initiated Measure 22, the Anti-Corruption Act, is spearheaded by Sioux Falls businessman Rick Weiland. (I guess to these District 19 boys, Sioux Falls feels like another state rather than the home of a quarter of the people they serve in Pierre.) His South Dakotans for Ethics Reform Committee has gotten all of its actual $228,500 in campaign cash from Represent Us, which oh-my-Gaia is based in Massachusetts. Boom! Out-of-state funders! Must be evil! Take your state ethics commission, lobbying reform, campaign finance limits, and voluntary public campaign finance system and pahk ’em in Hahvahd Yahd!
Of course, if Peterson, Schoenfish, and Finck were really trying to make a case against the evil of out-of-state ballot measures, they’d have focused on the most glaring examples on this year’s ballot. IM 22 may have out-of-state backers, but they were set in motion by South Dakotan Rick Weiland, who recognized the need for reforms, talked with lots of South Dakotans about options, picked a couple, and then went looking for funding. Peter-fish-Finck can stage a much bigger foreign freakout over Amendment S, the duplicative crime victims bill of rights. The entire text of that ballot measure as well as nearly every dollar of the over $792,000 poured into that ballot question (year-end, pre-primary) has come from one man, California billionaire Henry T. Nicholas.
Likewise for Amendment U, the fake 36% rate cap. This deliberately deceptive ballot measure, a blatant attempt to use our initiative laws to undermine the genuine, grassroots Initiated Measure 21, has received nearly all of its $2.43 million (Furlong year-end, pre-primary; Thuringer year-end, pre-primary) from one source: Select Management Resources, Rod Aycox’s Georgia-based payday lending corporation. (By the way, the third committee created to fight the real rate cap, consisting of Pierre lobbyists Brett Koenecke and Doug Abraham, terminated itself May 24.)
If out-of-state involvement in ballot measures is an offense, Peter-fish-Finck would be spotlighting the worst offenders. But that would also mean spotlighting one of their best Republican buddies, Pierre-based GOP consultant Jason Glodt, who is fronting Henry T. Nicholas’s vanity project in South Dakota.
The District 19 boys’ failure to discuss the Nicholas/Glodt Amendment S shows their failure to think through their argument on two other fronts.
Reread their penultimate paragraph, where they say we need to “take a far more critical look at all these laws that people are attempting to pass that have not gone through the state legislature.” I’ve already noted that Peter-fish-Finck aren’t taking a critical look at all these laws; they are taking a misleading glance at two of the ten. But then they add this remarkable criterion that a ballot measure lacks merit if it has not first been reviewed by the Legislature.
Initiated Measure 21 exists specifically because former legislator Steve Hickey tried more than once to get the Legislature to pass reasonable restrictions on payday lending. When the payday lenders offered to support a compromise bill and then reneged, Hickey turned to the initiative process.
Initiated Measure 22 includes a state ethics committee. Rep. Peggy Gibson has tried multiple times to get the Legislature to restore the state ethics commission, to no avail.
Amendment T would end gerrymandering with an independent redistricting commission. Former legislator Bill Thompson and others have offered multiple redistricting reforms, all of which have been killed by a Republican majority heck-bent on keeping its map advantage.
Amendment R is on the ballot because the Legislature put it there.
“all these laws… that have not gone through the state legislature”?! Heck—five of the eight initiated measures that Peter-fish-Finck want us to reject out of hand have had legislative review.
The clearest example of a measure coming out of nowhere, with no legislative consideration, is the Nicholas/Glodt Amendment. I’ve argued previously that if there really were gaps in victims’ rights, local advocacy groups and prosecutors would have brought those gaps to the Legislature’s attention, and legislators eager for a passable softball would have jumped at the chance to sponsor such a feel-good measure. No such noise has arisen. Nicholas and Glodt have blindsided the Legislature and the public with a measure no one not on Nicholas’s payroll has been crying for.
When these three District 19ers cry “Legislature first!” they either don’t know the history of these issues or are simply grasping for arguments that they haven’t really thought through.
Finally, crying “JUST SAY NO” is not the “critical look” Peterson, Schoenfish, and Finck ask for. It’s the frustrated cry of sub-par candidates with an allergy to critical thinking. Ballot measures aren’t drugs, Nancy—they are policy proposals that each deserve serious analysis and votes. Peter-fish-Finck can’t even exert the mental muscle to craft a position that tackles the measures they oppose without undermining the measures their party pals want. By crying “NO×10,” Peter-fish-Finck show they didn’t get the memo from their party buddy Jason Glodt that Amendment S is a good thing. They do my devious Democratic bidding by telling people to vote down Referred Laws 19 and 20, the Incumbent Protection Plan and youth minimum wage that their GOP leaders passed out of partisan snark in 2015. They help me out by knocking down the payday lenders amendment that could protect their industry buddies from our Sandersesque urges once and for all. Crying NO×10, far from clever strategy, only grates your pals’ cheese, spots me four big wins, and lets me focus on prying away just enough votes on the other issues to advance the Democratic agenda.
Look, if you guys just don’t want to think about the issues and prefer just to grunt NO on everything, that’s your business. But don’t burn up good newsprint with flimsy, false attacks that encourage the rest of the electorate to adopt your obfuscatory incuriosity.
Now, how can I boil all that down for my next simple, cost-effective, single-page campaign newsletter?
Bonus Campaign Finance Challenge! I invite readers and the Secretary of State to discuss whether Peterson, Schoenfish, and Finck need to file an Independent Expenditure statement (within 48 hours of publication!) in accordance with SDCL 12-27-16 for issuing a political communication that expressly advocates against multiple ballot questions.
Haverly, Partridge, Rampelberg, Sly, and Solano all voted for House Bill 1182 this Session. Sly co-chaired the Blue Ribbon K-12 task force that came up with the plan; Sly also offered the last-minute House floor amendment to the new K-12 funding formula (Senate Bill 131) that knocked about $6 million off the amount the state would put toward teacher pay in schools with declining enrollments. All five of these Republican recipients of SDEA’s support face GOP primary challenges from hard right-wingers—Bob Mercer labels them “ultras”—who are whacking SDEA’s favorites for supporting the biggest tax increase in state history.
SDEA/EPIC’s pre-primary report listed direct contributions to the above five Republicans and several other candidates:
Name of Candidate or Committee (candidates ordered by District)
South Dakota Republican Party
The Majority Project
South Dakota Democratic Party
Tidemann for State Senate
Peters for State Senate
Willadsen for State House
Holmes for State House
Zikmund for State House
Kirschman for State Senate
Peterson for State House
Schoenfish for State House
Rampelberg for State Senate
Johns for State House
Conzet for State House
Solano for State Senate
Sly for State Senate
Partridge for State Senate
Haverly for State Senate
Werner for State House
SDEA essentially cancelled out the $750 it gave to the South Dakota Republican Party with the $750 it gave to The Majority Project, the South Dakota Democratic Party’s PAC.
The only Democratic candidate on SDEA/EPIC’s list is Rep. Patrick Kirschman, who voted for this year’s teacher pay plan and now is running for the District 15 Senate seat against fellow Democrat Dr. Reynold Nesiba.
If SDEA’s fifteen Republican primary picks prevail on Tuesday, thirteen of them (all except Senator Haverly and Rep. Werner) will face Democratic challengers in the November election. In that scenario, would SDEA continue to support conservative incumbents who have been part of a Republican caucus that resisted teacher pay increases and let South Dakota teacher pay languish in the national cellar for thirty years, or would SDEA swing to support new Democratic legislators who will more reliably protect and enhance the progress we finally made this year on teacher pay?
p.s.: I ask the above question with a keen sense of self-interest. Republican Rep. Al Novstrup is running for the District 3 Senate seat. He voted for HB 1182 and SB 131. He faces a Democratic challenger—me—who advocated raising South Dakota teacher pay to more regionally competitive levels with a less regressive tax plan and no assumed or coerced staff reductions.
In more news from the “Almost Nothing to See Here” Department, District 25 Democrats are spending almost nothing on their primary campaigns for two House slots on the November ballot.
Former legislator Dan Ahlers from Dell Rapids reports $200 in individual contributions and $250 from the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations. His campaign owes Performance Press (of Brandon?) $74.20 and has just about $1,300 in cash on hand.
District 25 Republicans have their own three-way House primary and are spending a bit more on their efforts than the Democrats. Incumbent Roger Hunt of Brandon wants to go back to Pierre and do more damage to equality and decency. To forward his backwardness, Rep. Hunt reports $3,350 in support from six South Dakota PACs (realtors, chiropractors, contractors, bankers, retailers, and trial lawyers) and $200 each from the Lee Qualm and Bill Van Gerpen campaign committees. Rep. hunt gave $180 to the House GOP PAC, then spent $1,347.97 for his own campaign. He owes the Garretson Gazette $332.52 and has $4,248.95 on hand for further propaganda.
Courtney Ecklund of Brandon appears to be the son of Scott Ecklund, who served one term in the House for District 25 in 2013 and 2014. Roger Hunt served as Scott Ecklund’s treasurer in the 2012 campaign. Courtney Ecklund’s pre-primary report lists the same address as Scott and Allison Ecklund, who have contributed $500 of his $550 in individual donations and $114.77 of his $607.54 in in-kind contributions. Lee Qualm’s campaign committee kicked in another $200. Roger Hunt bought Courtney a $298.26 campaign ad, and Courtney has spent $194.51 of his own money on vinyl campaign stickers and a leather notebook. Courtney has $750 on hand.
Tom Pischke of Dell Rapids has raised $1,137.19, but $1,000 of that comes from two $500 contributions from donors outside of his district. He has spent $1,111.37 on advertising and the voter registration list and has loaned his campaign another $1,000. Pischke thus has $1025.82 on hand.
Campaign finance reports for the District 3 Republican House candidates show some predictable sums and a couple of violations of campaign finance law.
The top fundraiser is first-time candidate Drew Dennert. He’s got the eye of the tiger, raising $8,190, including 17 donations from individuals chipping in more than $100. As of May 25, his report submission date, Dennert had spent just under $2,000, meaning he had over $6,200 last week to propel him to the primary finish line and regird for the general.
As an incumbent, policeman and Rep. Dan Kaiser doesn’t have to try as hard to make his name known. As of May 25, he had raised $5,093 and spent under $1,300.
As we know, Kaiser and Dennert have been campaigning as a conservative team, while school board member Todd Kolden has been running as a moderate, a brave but likely doomed strategy in a Republican primary sure to bring out the rightest of wingers. Kolden is also at a money disadvantage: as of his reporting date of May 20, he had raised only $475 from donors, thrown in another $790 of his own cash, and spent every penny.
But wait—May 20? Pre-primary reports were due May 27, but that’s not a work early bird Kolden gets—that’s Secretary Krebs’s waggly finger! State campaign finance law says that the pre-primary report (like the pre-general report that candidates will have to file by October 28) must be “complete through the fifteenth day prior to that election” (SDCL 12-27-22). Thus, pre-primary reports must include all campaign income and spending through May 23.
If Kolden and Wollschlager raised and spent no money between their report dates and May 23, then no harm, no foul, right? Technically, their reports are complete as submitted. However, a violation of SDCL 12-27-22‘s reporting requirements is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Also committing a Class 1 misdemeanor is Officer Kaiser… or at least one of his donors, Santema Consulting. Not Ken Santema, our Aberdeen neighbor, conservative blogger, and attack-PACker, but Santema Consulting, an organization, which state law prohibits from donating to candidate committees:
“Only PAC’s and Ballot Question Committees may receive direct contributions from organizations“—the campaign finance report sheet says that, right on the page, right above where Kaiser reports this illegal $500 contribution from Santema Consulting. The report also helpfully cites the statute, SDCL 12-27-18. I don’t see anything in the report saying that Kaiser has returned this illegal contribution, so somebody faces a Class 1 misdemeanor. (Not to worry: Kaiser also got $500 from the South Dakota Trial Lawyers PAC, so I’m sure they can hook the malfeasant party with good counsel.)
But hey, keep those calls to your lawyers short: you only have four full days of campaigning left before Primary Day!
*Update 14:54 CDT: Candidates Kolden and Kaiser both have some cover. Commenting below, Kolden notes that the Secretary’s e-mail instructions on the pre-primary report specify that candidates may file early, as long as they submit amendments showing any subsequent campaign finance activity taking place during the pre-primary reporting period. My “no harm, no foul” supposition proves correct, for both Kolden and Wollschlager!
Kaiser’s story is not as solid. In an amendment filed at 11:33 CDT today, two and a half hours I posted this article, Kaiser tells the Secretary his original pre-primary report was incorrect as the $500 in question “is a contribution from Ken Santema not the business.” That oopsie! does not explain why Kaiser listed the contribution under the business name in the first place or why when he listed that contribution in the Organizations section and remind himself, “I can’t have anything in this section, because candidate committees can’t take contributions from individuals.”
Senator Deb Peters (R-9/Hartford) is killing primary challenger Lora Hubbel in campaign contributions. According to the incumbent Senator’s pre-primary report, she’s received $10,148 in individual contributions, another $10,300 from 19 South Dakota PACs, $2,300 from six evil out-of-state corporate PACs (Big Pharma! Big Retail! Big Insurance—even though Peters voted against stealth vouchers!), and $1,750 from three candidate committees. Peters has spent $15,417.74, but with almost $14,000 that she had on hand at the beginning and over $4,000 in personal loans to the campaign, Peters had enough cash to give $600 to the Minnehaha County GOP and $400 to the Senate GOP Campaign Committee and still have over $22,000 on hand to finish off her challenger and prep for November.
To cover her $4,978.40 in advertising, printing, and postage, Hubbel has had to loan her campaign $5,000 of her own money. Even if Hubbel writes off that $5K, her cash on hand of $871.20 is 4% of what Peters has available for the remaining primary season.
One oddity: Hubbel received $300 from SD RPAC, the realtors. During the same reporting period, SD RPAC gave Senator Peters $1,000. Hubbel’s only other PAC backer, the South Dakota Chiropractic PAC, gave her $500 and Peters nothing… signaling that our chiropractors may be one of the most arch-conservative professions in the state. (Curious: does anyone know a good Democratic chiropractor?)