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13% of Pro-IM 25 Funds Came from Mickelsons’ Various Pockets

G. Mark Mickelson got swamped by Big Tobacco in his unsuccessful Initiated Measure 25 campaign to fund vo-techs by raising our tobacco tax. But he still spent a lot of money on IM25… including a fair chunk from his own resources.

In 2017, Mickelson raised over $50K and spent over $37K circulating his initiative petition. About $25K of that was money from his PAC, his Legislative campaign fund, his business, and his pocket.

Mickelson’s IM25 ballot question committee pre-general report shows $557K in donations, most of that from businesses like First Premier Bank, Muth Electric, Midwest Railcar Repair, and Sanford Health. Mickelson transferred $4,663.11 from his IM 24 committee (more on that below) to IM 25. Mickelson’s IM25 committee also took $25,000 from George Mickelson, who lists the same street address as G. Mark Mickelson. Either G. Mark decided to be funny and use his usually initialized first name to list a donation, or his eldest son George made that donation. If it came from George fils, I’m surprised that a young man not far out of high school has that sort of disposable income.

Mickelson racked up some big dollars in the last two weeks of the campaign:

Date of Supplemental Report Total Donated
10/26/18 $172,496
10/31/18 $110,833
11/02/18 $14,000
11/05/18 $6,000
11/06/18 $9,978

That $313K brings Mickelson’s reported fundraising for IM 25 to $870K. Those late donations included another $25K from Mickelson’s Legislative campaign fund, $33K from “George M Mickelson,” $25K from “George & Cynthia Mickelson,” and $500 each from G. Mark’s mom Linda and her husband Tom. That’s about $114K —a full eighth of the campaign’s funding—reported from folks who might show up for Sunday brunch at G. Mark and Cynthia’s house.

Meanwhile, on his other ballot measure, IM24, the out-of-state money ban, Mickelson raised $58K and spent only $47K, $40K of which came from Governor Dennis Daugaard’s campaign fund. He transferred over tenth of that committee’s money to IM25. Mickelson spent 5% as much on IM24 as he raised for IM25, and IM24 is the one that passed. Of course, Mickelson only spent 15% as much promoting IM 25 as Philip Morris did crushing it.


  1. Debbo 2018-11-10 21:23

    So if I contribute $100 to the 25 fund, Marky can switch it to 24 without my consent? Where else can he move my donation to?

  2. o 2018-11-11 12:05

    And to follow up Debbo, if I contribute to candidate, how much of that money can flow to a ballot measure (without my consent)?

  3. Debbo 2018-11-11 18:10

    Right O. It sounds shady to me.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-11-11 19:20

    Mickelson can perhaps escape criticism by contending that the amount he shifted from IM 24 to IM 25 was less than the amount he contributed out of his own pocket to IM 24, so arguably, none Dennis Daugaard’s money went to IM 25. And for all we know, Daugaard may have said, “I’m writing one check, for IM 24, but feel free to divvy up the money wherever you think it will do the most good.” Daugaard does like the vo-techs, you know.

    I agree that, in a normal ballot question campaign, taking money donated to promote one issue and transferring it to another committee to promote a very different issue violates the intent and trust of donors. But notice that there is no recourse for donors in that situation, and ballot question committees usually aren’t around beyond the election cycle to face consequences (like donors snubbing further fundraising pitches).

    O raises the point properly on Mickelson’s candidate committee as well. There are likely many Republicans who donated to Mickelson’s Legislative campaign fund (which on October 16 still had over $36,000 and now, with $25K going late to IM 25, should be down to $11K) who are appalled at the idea of his using their money to raise taxes and throw money at the vo-techs. I would like to know if any Republicans will try to hold him accountable… or if G. Mark really gives a darn about anyone’s opinion at this point.

    I will note that I did redirect some of my campaign fund this year to another candidate. I did so on the reasoning that helping that candidate would help my campaign.

  5. MHR 2018-11-12 08:59

    so it appears that in donating to any political cause you really do lose your ability to direct it to your specific wishes – I suppose no different then donating to a church or any organization – you can state your wishes but who knows where the money goes!

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-11-12 12:15

    MHR, under South Dakota law, well, yeah, pretty much. Donors can be assured that campaign contributions to candidates won’t be converted to personal use, thanks to the amendment Billie Sutton tacked onto campaign finance reform SB 54 in 2017… but I wouldn’t be surprised if Noem governs like Trump and pushes the Legislature to erase everything her opponent achieved from the law books.

    MHR’s comment does get me thinking about special interest contributions. Suppose all those Republicans that SDEA gave money sign onto the McCaulley/Noem Administration’s likely plans to send more public dollars to private schools and defund public education. Should SDEA get a refund of its campaign contributions?

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