The most crushing, crowd-pleasing comeback of last night’s ballot question forum in Sioux Falls came from Amendment V campaign chairman Rick Knobe, just seconds after my video memory card blinked FULL.
Knobe squared off against Will Mortenson, the SDGOP’s designated hitter against the open nonpartisan primary bill. Mortenson repeated the ad hominem/ad pecuniam argument of his committee’s cheap YouTube attack on the funding sources of the Amendment V campaign, saying that the biggest reason to oppose V is some six-figure donation from New York. Amendment V is “not grassroots stuff coming out of Highmore,” said Mortenson (thus establishing the new criterion for ballot measure validity: making sure the first signatures on our initiative petitions come from Highmore… and maybe out in the suburbs in Holabird—Nick and Mary Jo Nemec, the next petition drive starts at your place!)
In his closing remarks, Knobe noted that it is… odd to hear Republicans bristle about outside money in South Dakota politics when their Senator John Thune has gotten 70% of his campaign cash from outside South Dakota. The fifty-some crowd at the forum laughed heartily.
Knobe actually lowballed that figure for Thune’s take in the current election cycle. A quick check of FEC records shows that donors listing non-South Dakota addresses have contributed 78.3% of Senator Thune’s itemized individual donations since January 1, 2015. PACs with non-South Dakota addresses have given Thune 99% of his recent committee contributions. Combine those pots, and out-of-state money makes up 89% of Thune’s recent contributions, $3.78 million out of $4.24 million.
Opponents of Amendment S and Initiated Measure 22 also lodged the argument that out-fo-state money means a ballot measure doesn’t reflect real South Dakota interests. That argument rings particularly hollow when it comes from anti-22 campaigner Ben Lee, spokesman for the wealthy Koch Brothers’ organization Americans for Prosperity.
But if Republicans lend that argument any credence, they must agree that a Senator who gets 89% of his money from outside of South Dakota isn’t representing the grassroots in Highmore, Huron, or Sioux Falls. Looks like Republicans will be voting for authentic South Dakota candidate Jay Williams, who has received 71% of his itemized individual contributions and 100% of his committee money (80% total) from Holabird, Houghton, and other South Dakota locations.