Reviewing campaign finance reports leads me to a Sunday openness jeer at Kristi Noem and Billie Sutton for deliberately obscuring their donors.
South Dakota candidates are required to list the names and addresses of every donor who gives over $100 to their campaigns. Noem, Sutton, and Marty Jackley all do that with supplemental spreadsheets.
Jackley’s supplemental donor list to his 2017 year-end report is a paragon of clarity.
He alphabetizes by donor last name, and his scanned PDF is still searchable: I can hit Ctrl+F and type in “Adelstein” or “Dakota Dunes” and zoom right to the text of interest.
Kristi Noem is not as nice:
Noem sorted her spreadsheet by street address, the least useful column. Noem’s own team can’t make walk lists or mailing lists by that sort. Sorting by house number jumbles ZIP codes, states, cities, and names. The only reason to sort by street address—and not even by street name but by the leading house number, making sequential 11212 196th Street in St. Onge, 1147 Orchard Circle in St. Paul, and 1150 Indian Hills Road in Brookings—is to make it much harder to search the list for all donors from Minnesota, or from Brookings, or with the last name Randazzo or Meierhenry or Jewett.
Plus, instead of sending a document in searchable format, Noem submits a scanned PDF that preserves no searchable text, ensuring that the only way to analyze her campaign finance report is by slow eyeballing.
Democrats are supposed to be better about openness. But on this point, Billie Sutton isn’t.
Sutton’s first supplemental, submitted on January 22, 2018, was at least searchable. I Ctrl+F’d “Seiler” and zoomed right to Wanda Seiler’s $2,000 donation to support my campaign finance analysis in my preceding post. But Sutton’s March 5 supplement to his amended report—re-itemized as a courtesy, not a legal requirement, to suit Secretary Krebs’s sensible 180 on her interpretation of ActBlue contributions—is pure visual scan, not text-searchable.
But both of Sutton’s itemized donor lists are obfuscatorily sorted. The January 22 supplement shows some hint of sorting by donation amount, but the order resets every few records… so, what, we sorted by week, then by amount ascending? The March 5 amended supplement simply adopts Noem’s specious trick of sorting by journalistically useless street address.
Nothing in statute says campaign finance reports have to be neatly sorted. So if Noem and Sutton want to make it harder for journalists and their opponents to research and identify their donors, they are free to do so. But Marty Jackley’s donor-alphabetized, computer-searchable report shows how fearless candidates make their campaign finances transparent for the public.