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Dempster Trust Company Seeking More Billionaire-Welfare Business for South Dakota

Hail, South Dakota, a great state of the land!
Cronyism, secrets, and tax-dodging—that’s what makes her grand!

That song came to mind the last time I wrote about South Dakota’s tax-dodging trust laws. With apologies to DeeCort Hammitt, I revisit the topic, as multiple friends of the blog tweet an article on that touts South Dakota’s tax-friendly trust laws:

Tim Kneen, Tom Dempster, and South Dakota: ready to help you dodge taxes!
Tim Kneen, Tom Dempster, and South Dakota: ready to help you dodge taxes!

Best-kept secrets are never well kept, and for good reason. One of the best secrets quickly finding its way to the desks of advisors to the wealthy is the very substantial advantages of moving wealth to trusts in top-tier trust-law states.

South Dakota tops that list. It’s known as the Mount Rushmore state, for its tornadoes, blizzards, ethanol, the Badlands and all sorts of other exotic fare. But over the last decade, South Dakota’s leaders have recognized that a scarce resource and one of their competitive advantages is the ability of their legal community to work with their elected state officials. The result is an impressive body of law that makes South Dakota an extremely attractive place to house wealth [Timothy Kneen, “Why Is My Financial Advisor Suddenly Talking So Much About South Dakota?Worth, Dec 2015/Jan 2016, downloaded 2015.12.30].

The article appears to come from Timothy Kneen, chief investment officer of IFAM Capital, a Denver-based financial consulting firm (middlemen!) with a Sioux Falls office headed by former elected state official Tom Dempster, who apparently worked with South Dakota’s legal community to legislate for himself a really nice job helping billionaires hide—oh, sorry, house—their assets.

Kneen sandwiches his pitch for clients for Dempster between absolute non sequiturs:

South Dakota has long had a populist streak. It was the first state to allow citizens to refer laws passed by the legislature and even to initiate laws themselves.

This populist streak is now infused into South Dakota’s trust laws, allowing people to discreetly avoid federal estate tax laws and the high income taxes of other states. As an aside, according to the FDIC, South Dakota leads the nation for bank assets housed in the state, at $2.7 trillion. South Dakota is also comfortably included in the list of top states for philanthropic giving in the country [Kneen, 2015.12.30].

As a genuine populist democrat, I take offense at Kneen’s nonsensical equation of the enshrinement of people power in Father Haire’s initiative and referendum amendment and the pandering of the modern Legislature, which hates initiative and referendum, to sneaky plutocrats trying to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. And the fact that South Dakotans like to give to charity casts no moral glow on our willingness to let lawyers and financiers co-opt our legislature to give handouts to out-of-state billionaires.

Kneen cites the December 2013 Bloomberg article on South Dakota’s tax-dodging trust laws. Kneen refers to the article by its gentler Prairie Business reprint headline, “SD Tax-Friendly Trust Laws Draws [sic] Billionaires,” rather than the headline Bloomberg chose, “Moguls Rent South Dakota Addresses to Dodge Taxes Forever,” which more directly details the service Kneen and Dempster are offering you, Mr. and Mrs. Zillionaire!

Wait, maybe just Mr. Zillionaire, not that scheming former Mrs.—Kneen highlights this line from Bloomberg as part of his list of what makes South Dakota great for hiding assets:

Others are drawn by South Dakota’s iron-clad secrecy and protections of trust assets from creditors and ex-wives, with features emulating those available in Bermuda and other island havens [Zachary R. Midler, “Moguls Rent South Dakota Addresses to Dodge Taxes Forever,” Bloomberg, 2013.12.26].

Oooo, those cursed money-grubbing ex-wives! Tax-dodging, secrecy, and misogyny! Hail, South Dakota!


  1. jerry 2015-12-30 10:04

    Indeed Dr. Newquist, the wealth ravages the land and its people while we stand by and allow our elected officials to condone the outrage. Here, we argue over the merits of Medicaid Expansion for our working poor while getting robo calls from the minions of these robber barons. While trillions set in a safe hideaway from prying eyes, we cannot pay our educators the professional wage they deserve for our children. Not once, in my memory, have any politicos even addressed the shame we should feel that we support this through our vote. The Dempster Trust should be renamed the Dumpster Trust for the waste they have caused.

  2. Porter Lansing 2015-12-30 10:11

    I’ve forwarded a copy of this blog post to President Obama’s office. Slap ’em down, Mr. President.

  3. leslie 2015-12-30 10:48

    there it is. $2.7 T cash flow. woooow. 850,000 pop., millions of empty acres, repubilcan admin. what could go wrong? joop (and sveen) has gotta be involved too. wonder if lisa furlong is somehow connected? transparency kills cancer.

    hi barack and michelle!

  4. 96Tears 2015-12-30 11:03

    Too true, Leslie. What are we getting for spreading our legs and letting the plutocrats have their way with our tax loopholes and lax usury laws?

    It would be interesting to poll America’s 1 percenters to see if they even know where their assets are “housed.” Or if they know what is the capital of South Dakota. (Reminds me of that Groucho Marx joke.)

    The only people who are aware of this are the lawyers and tax accountants of the 1 percenters and they don’t care if the investments do no good for South Dakota as long as their clients are happy. Even our esteemed Protect Class in Pierre are mere paupers compared to the employees of the 1 Percent.

  5. Porter Lansing 2015-12-30 12:50

    Pierre isn’t the capital of South Dakota ….. hidden money is.

  6. Rorschach 2015-12-30 12:51

    We’re so populist that we don’t merely bend over backwards for the billionaires, we just plain bend over for them. That’s populism! Who needs ex-wives when they have us?!

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-12-30 13:01

    96, if they don’t know their money is here, maybe they won’t notice if we tax it! Let’s see, $2.7 trillion, taxed at 50 cents per thousand dollars, 0.05%, for the privilege of sitting here… $1.35 billion, paying for over 90% of the Governor’s proposed FY2017 general fund.

    Forget sales tax. Forget income tax. All we need is a minuscule “Park your money here” tax that 99.9% of South Dakotans would never pay.

    We even incentivize it: we say to the trust investors, “Hey! Park more money here, get your friends to park their money here, and we won’t need to tax it at as high a rate!”

  8. Porter Lansing 2015-12-30 13:08

    Cut it out, Cory. You’re makin’ Troy nervous. ? ? ?

  9. 96Tears 2015-12-30 13:20

    Cory – I support it. What have we got to lose? If they pay the “park it here” tax, we win. If not, who cares? If they threaten to pull their money out and put it in Swiss accounts, we lose NOTHING. The state coffers receive no benefit as things are now.

    I remember this issue coming up in the 90s. You wouldn’t believe the howling from the GOP legislators and governor’s office. This might be good for self-servers like Dempster, but it’s stupid public policy.

  10. jerry 2015-12-30 14:05

    I see that President Obama has just given troops a raise in pay. The republicans here are moot about that as they see it as a give away. To them, going to fight is wonderful, as long as you don’t charge them to much to fight. They sure as hell don’t want to be there if you are wounded, sick or homeless though. Thune, Rounds and NOem have thwarted Obama so many times in what could possible end this billionaire welfare business we have here in our poor house.
    How any citizen, be it woman, farmer, rancher, businessperson or anyone in between, think that the current crop of congress is worth the vote for a continued screwing is beyond comprehension. The state of South Dakota is being turned into a third world ghetto no different than the other places of off shore banking for the elite. Laws need to be enacted to tax that money and bring a little more equality into the system.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-12-30 14:47

    The NYT article David provides is very important. Special access, special influence, special rules… and a Republican Congress committed to hobbling the IRS, the best agency available to make sure the rich pay their fair share.

    Handouts to the rich increase the deficit far more surely than Medicaid expansion, yet South Dakota Republicans holler about the latter and proudly defend the former. That pro-rich policy must end. The loopholes must end.

  12. Rorschach 2015-12-30 15:54

    The aptly named Louis Moore Bacon should be made to pay his fair share. (See NYT article for the reference).

  13. leslie 2015-12-30 16:08

    The irony of a little state that could…pass state laws exposing EB5 fraud, election FRAUD and International Tax Fraud

  14. Winston 2015-12-30 18:57

    Oh yes, oh yes, the propensity to perpetually hide from the “Rule against Perpetuities” lingers on complements of the Janklow legacy…. Oh yes, oh yes ( I would rather be in Philadelphia right now, unless my name was Cosby, Oh yes, oh yes…..)

    Now this Dempster, was he not once a Democrat fellow bloggers? I think so. Then he ran as a Republican and finally won, if my memory serves me right…. Oh yes, oh yes.

    And when he ran as a Republican we really were not sure where he lived…. Oh yes, oh yes:

    Then a few years later he couldn’t find enough good Republicans to sign his re-election petition, so he tried the Independents for a change…. Oh yes, oh yes….:

    And if my memory also further serves me right, back in the day, back in 1994 in fact, It was Dempster, BJ’s stockbroker, whom the media interviewed over insider trading allegations made against BJ at the time…. Oh yes, Oh yes….

    And now we are being told that the Progressive movement from the 1890s, which kicked the Republicans out of the statehouse for a while and gave the people the power of initiatives and referendums, some how symbolizes now the audacity to hide the wealth of billionaires… Some of the same type of characters which the 1890s Progressive moment back in its day was trying to control and not promote…..Oh yes, oh yes…

    The only thing the Progressive movement of the 1890s and “Dynasty Trusts” have in common is snake oil. One remembers when it use to be sold and the other is trying to once again sell it to the masses…. Oh yes, Oh yes…

  15. jerry 2015-12-30 19:16

    Geesh Winston, that Dumpster has been stinkin up the place for some time now. Good finds.

  16. leslie 2015-12-30 20:02

    1983 janklow very publically suing to stop
    ‘in the spirit of crazy horse”, while SD passed trust protecting legislation.

    could someone retell that history that led to this “climate change ” in SD’s financial world and how are Regents and NSU now operating? preferably a dem!

  17. leslie 2015-12-30 20:05

    winston, i did not see your post.

  18. Rorschach 2015-12-31 07:13

    Your tune is off Winston. Dempster is not a former Democrat. Nor was he the stockbroker who implicated Janklow for insider trading. The stockbroker who did that lost his license. And it wasn’t that Dempster couldn’t find enough Republicans to sign his petition. He had his petition rejected, and the deadline passed to run as a Republican before they could be circulated again. The deadline for an independent petition is later. Facts are a stubborn thing. Oh yes, Oh yes.

  19. THC 2015-12-31 08:37

    Did he actually form a trust company? I don’t think so.
    Your headline is grossly misleading.

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-12-31 08:46

    Your comment is grossly distracting. Dempster works for a company whose formation was made possible by his legislating. My headline tells the truth.

  21. THC 2015-12-31 08:48

    Yes, he works for a registered investment company. NOT a trust company.

  22. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-12-31 08:55

    The company butters its bread with the trust laws spotlighted in the article above. What’s your point, THC? Are you saying Dempster and Kneen aren’t making money on this collusion of business and the Legislature? Are you saying South Dakota’s trust arrangers aren’t complicit in tax-dodging?

  23. THC 2015-12-31 08:59

    I’m saying your headline is inappropriate and not true.
    There is no such thing as a Dempster Trust Company.
    I guess facts don’t matter.

  24. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-12-31 09:23

    Wrong, THC. You’re trying to distract from the main issue—South Dakota passes laws that promote tax-dodging by the wealthy, and a former legislator now makes a nice profit from the shady practices that he helped write into law—by making this discussion about me and my headline choice. You can’t discredit the substantive things I’ve said (and I ask you again: do you think these trust practices are moral?), so you play specious semantic games to create the false impression that nothing stated here can be trusted.

    I capitalize Dempster trust company in the headline because we properly capitalize nouns in titles. I do not claim that there exists an entity incorporated as “Dempster Trust Company”. I state that there is a company in which Tom Dempster works as a director and makes good money helping people form trusts in South Dakota to hide their wealth from taxes. Every word I just said is true and supports my headline.

    Facts matter a great deal. When THC encounters facts she doesn’t like, THC denies them with specious arguments.

  25. Winston 2015-12-31 10:16

    Rorschach, I never said Dempster implicated Janklow. You just whimsically implied that. It was attorney Mike Simpkins who did that. But, back in the day it was Dempster, who KELO interviewed at the time, who was Janklow’s stockbroker… to bad you could not get the inference there…. As to whether Dempster was once a Democrat, I posed that as a question. As far as the petition issue is concern, if your petition is rejected do to a lack of “good” legal signatures then it is fair to say he did not have enough “good Republicans” signing his petition…. But you are right, however, when you claim that facts can be a “stubborn thing”….. In fact, you once expressed frustration over Dempster too, check the comments for this blog piece:

  26. jerry 2015-12-31 10:57

    Insider trading is considered an honor among our owners. It is how the game needs to be played in order to justify the Dumpster in the first place. Thanks Winston again for the insight into that little nugget that seems to have disappeared forever in a vacuum.

  27. Lee Schoenbeck 2015-12-31 16:51

    The trust law changes come with almost unanimous support from both parties. Smearing tom Dempster on this is goofy. Check. I’ll bet every Democrat with a functioning brain voted for those changes. South Dakota has nothing but upside on this. No reason to let all that cash go to you Democrat friends in Deleware

  28. Porter Lansing 2015-12-31 17:09

    Hmmm? Functioning brain? Upside? Really?

  29. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-12-31 17:37

    Lee, even if everyone voted for it, does that make it right? (By the way, can you point us toward the statutes/session laws so we can verify the relevant roll calls?)

    Consider this syllogism:

    1. Doing X is wrong.
    2. Doing X makes money.
    3. If South Dakota doesn’t do X, Delaware will.
    4. Delaware has more Democrats than South Dakota (307,498 to 169,325).
    5. South Dakota’s doing X is right.

    I feel like I’ve missed a step in that logical staircase. Legislators, logicians, financiers, help me out, please.

  30. Porter Lansing 2015-12-31 17:57

    Syllogism is a three-part set of statements; a major statement or premise, a minor statement or premise and a conclusion that is deduced.
    1. Doing X is wrong.
    2. Doing X makes money.
    3. Making money by doing X is wrong.

  31. Porter Lansing 2015-12-31 18:20

    Or as a Nyaya Sutra five-part syllogism
    1. Doing X is wrong.
    2. Because it hurts USA.
    3. Whatever hurts USA is wrong, as is tax evasion.
    4. So is delaware wrong.
    5. Therefore doing x is wrong.

  32. Winston 2015-12-31 19:09

    The cash should not be going to South Dakota nor Delaware, rather some of it (or more of it) should be going to the federal coffers and the rest of it should stay put where it was accumulated by its rightful owners.

    When the “Rule against Perpetuities” was first removed in South Dakota, I believe back in 1982, I am sure it was justified because the “Rule” was just some silly antiquated common law tradition going back to the 1600s that was in the way of wealth generation or accumulation. Except there is just one problem with that simplistic dismissal and that is that the Rule was instrumental in ending the last vestiges of feudalism. Now feudalism in my opinion is the true silly and antiquated concept.

    Let us also realize, that this practice in South Dakota really only benefits the wealthy and it just so happens to employ a few people in South Dakota, and I am sure the State makes some administrative fee income off it too, but for the most part it just makes the rich richer and the facilitators too. So in other words, the state of South Dakota has the audacity to help the wealthy in this country hide their wealth from proper taxation, while the state of South Dakota continues to be extremely dependent upon federal dollars to balance its state budget….. Go figure (?)

    This is merely a great financial scam or maneuvering for the wealth class under the auspices of the state of South Dakota brought to you complements of the 10th Amendment….

    I am sure there are Democrats who support this, but so what? They are wrong, too. If they are profiting from it, then they need to be called out on this as well….

  33. Porter Lansing 2015-12-31 19:16

    Well composed as usual, Winston.

  34. Lanny V Stricherz 2016-01-01 00:01

    Why isn’t that 2.7 trillion taxed with the Bank franchise fee tax?

  35. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-01-01 07:12

    Three lines for a syllogism, huh?

    1. Republicans hate deficits.
    2. Tax-dodging South Dakota trusts increase the federal deficit.
    3. Republicans should hate tax-dodging South Dakota trusts.

    …which leads us to…

    1. Republicans should hate tax-dodging South Dakota trusts.
    2. Lee Schoenbeck is a Republican.
    3. Lee Schoenbeck should hate tax-dodging South Dakota trusts..

    Commenters should get bonus points for making their points in syllogistic haiku.

  36. Porter Lansing 2016-01-01 09:12

    Lee Schoenbeck? Beatable.

  37. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-01-01 10:40

    Porter, alas, Schoenbeck is a couple districts southeast of me. Someone else will have to take on that challenge. But keep in mind, as a candidate, I think he’s a tougher strategist and warrior than a lot of his fellow Republican legislators (I’ve seen him hunt pheasants).

  38. leslie 2016-01-01 12:14

    he is a very smart lawyer. that counts for a lot. dem lawyers need to get courageous and run. however, a republican administration can take food out of the mouths of dem lawyers’ familys in retribution, and repubs do not hesitate to do this. this is a fact in SD

  39. Winston 2016-01-01 12:57

    Leslie, I totally agree with your assessment about Republican administrations in this state and Democratic lawyers and their families.

    However, there is one exemption to this rule. Republicans do allow Democrats to be States Attorneys in this state, but I think that is just so the young and up incoming Republican lawyers can stay in the private sector making more money. It also conveniently leaves the Democratic SAs with the burden of growing criminal justice cases and finite budgets to prosecute these cases, while the young Republican lawyers laugh all the way to the bank….

  40. Porter Lansing 2016-01-01 13:05

    Yes, he is. He’s from my district and far from being the sharpest attorney in Watertown. I’ve known the Schoenbecks all my life. He and so many Republicans in Pierre only succeed by standing on the necks of women’s rights. Deutsch and his crowd included. Without their false tirades about “baby killers” and their contrived Christian ethics they’re nothing but bullies.
    ~ “When you hunt bullies you don’t start with the smallest.”

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