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Mickelson Money Ban Makes Ballot as IM 24

Speaker G. Mark Mickelson (R-13/Sioux Falls) has one initiative on the 2018 ballot. Yesterday Secretary of State Shantel Krebs certified his petition to put to a vote a ban on contributions to ballot question committees from out-of-state donors. That measure will appear on the 2018 general election ballot as Initiated Measure 24.

The Secretary counted 18,130 signatures on Mickelson’s petition. The new random sampling rules enacted last year required her to sample 706 signatures. That sample apparently produced 573 valid signatures, an 81.16% success rate. The Secretary thus calculates that Mickelson’s petition has 14,714 valid signatures, 843 more than the 13,781 necessary to qualify for the ballot.

Mickelson’s money ban was one of the four petitions I considered unlikely to make the ballot based on signature count and the average and median 2015 petition error rates. However, after a sloppy start, Team Mickelson apparently got its poop in a group and, with some help from other petitioners, posted an error rate of 18.84%, beating the 2015 median error rate of 25.30% and the Represent SD/Amendment W error rate of 28.63%.

Anyone wanting to kick IM 24 off the ballot has until 5 p.m. CST Monday, February 5, to challenge Mickelson’s petition. Find just 33 more bum signatures in that random sample, and Mickelson’s petition is toast.

But why go to all that trouble? Even if voters approve IM 24, the Koch Brothers will take it to court, and Mickelson’s folly will be thrown out as unconstitutional. Like a similar measure turned down in the 2017 Legislature, IM 24 violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments by saying Minnesotans can’t support the free speech efforts of ballot question committees while South Dakotans can. The constitutional case against IM 24 is much stronger than the constitutional case against IM 22, which measure Mickelson yesterday called “garbage.” Stand back, G. Mark—the garbage truck will come for your initiative even faster.

Besides, IM 24 wouldn’t even achieve its stated purpose of getting out-of-state money out of ballot question campaigns.

  • Mickelson’s language bans non-residents from contributing to ballot question committees. Sufficiently wealthy individuals can set up residency at one of our RV-mailbox shops in days.
  • Mickelson’s language bans political committees “organized outside South Dakota” from contributing to ballot question committees. Sufficiently wealthy interests can hire South Dakota mercenaries like Jason Glodt to form a South Dakota PAC, launder their money, and spend without limit.
  • Mickelson’s language bans contributions to BQCs from entities “not filed as an entity with the secretary of state for the four years preceding such contribution.” Wealthy interests either find an existing entity willing to launder their money, or they look ahead, incorporate some shell company now, and look forward to pouring their money in to ballot measures in 2022.
  • In addition to any of these workarounds, Mickelson’s language says nothing about independent communications. If Mickelson follows through on his desire to repeal the crime victims bill of rights (which repeal is fine with me!), its out-of-state sponsor, California billionaire Henry T. Nicholas, can still try to save his weepy vanity bill by spending millions of dollars on independent communications not paid for by any ballot question committee.

Two measures have been certified for the 2018 ballot; six more petitions await Secretary Krebs’s validation.


  1. Nick Nemec 2018-01-05 09:14

    “Wealthy interests either find an existing entity willing to launder their money, or they look ahead, incorporate some shell company now, and look forward to pouring their money in to ballot measures in 2022.”

    This sounds like a business opportunity for forward thinking grifters. Register a couple score sham ballot question committees with patriotic sounding names now and sell them off to the highest bidder at some future date.

  2. Remington Jones 2018-01-05 09:16

    I asked him about the constitutionality of this when he was circulating his petition and he pretty much just blew off the question, saying that wasn’t going to be a problem. However, I agree that that the court system would probably make pretty short work of this measure if it passes, which it probably will. I’m no attorney, but if Citizens United can be upheld, I don’t see how this stands a chance.

  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-01-05 09:39

    Nick, yes! Do you have a corporate filing we could use? On the crazy chance IM24 would pass and stand, we could advertise our services, invite outside interests to pour their money in, and we’ll handle it for a mere 10% processing fee.

    Rem, yes, Mickelson does like to blow off those constitutional questions. He did that with me when I questioned him on SB 69 in 2015.

  4. Roger Cornelius 2018-01-05 14:21

    Will IM24 earn the VNOE push being made by republicans?

  5. mike from iowa 2018-01-05 14:49

    Why not go county to county and buy up any rights to CAFO sitings you can find. If every county is being forced to accept them or lose gubmint money, how could you lose?

  6. grudznick 2018-01-05 22:11

    If Mr. C can go county to county buying up rights to various properties, I stand ready to implement my management plan, discussed at breakfast last Sunday at Talleys, to make sure he does not lose. I will perform my duties for free.

  7. Francis Schaffer 2018-01-06 09:58

    Is ballot question a legal term? I believe when I vote, voting for individuals is a ballot question. Nice job, Mark. How much money will Kristi not be able to use? And what about money already collected?

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-01-06 11:38

    Francis, I appreciate your inclusive definition (technically, yes, everything on your ballot is a question: do you want to elect this guy or that gal?) and would love to use it to apply Mickelson’s position consistently to all of South Dakota politics, including candidates, not just to the ballot measures that he in general finds don’t serve his interests.

    However, “ballot question” is a legal term! See the definitions in our campaign finance chapter:

    (1) “Ballot question,” any referendum, initiative, proposed constitutional amendment, or other measure submitted to voters at any election;

    (2) “Ballot question committee,” a person or entity that raises, collects, or disburses contributions for the placement of any ballot question on the ballot or the adoption or defeat of any ballot question. A ballot question committee is not a person or political committee that makes a contribution to a ballot question committee. A ballot question committee is not an entity that makes a contribution to a ballot question committee from treasury funds… [SDCL 12-27-1(1–2), last amended 2017]

    Mickelson’s initiative applies strictly to contributions to ballot question committees, not to candidates, parties, or PACs. It would still be unconstitutional if he tried such an inclusive measure, but at least he’d be consistent.

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