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SD Dems Can’t Afford Office Space or Black Hills Fundraiser

The South Dakota Democratic Party is closing its doors. Literally.

In an e-mail to the SDDP Executive Board and State Central Committee Members (which groups leak like a sieve), SDDP chair Paula Hawks says the party can’t afford to maintain a physical office presence:

Dear SDDP Executive Board and State Central Committee Members,

As many of you have likely heard, we have recently uncovered numerous issues with SDDP finances. After working with our accountant and attorney about the current state of SDDP’s financial health, we’ve had to make some difficult decisions to ensure we get back on track. In reviewing our budget, the biggest operating expenses are attributed to the office rent in Sioux Falls and Rapid City. Therefore, we have made the necessary decision to close both offices within the next month and staff will begin work remotely. We anticipate this being temporary until we are in a better financial position [SDDP chair Paula Hawks, e-mail, 2019.08.29].

This is far worse than to the misreported Clinton money that has SDDP in dutch with the Federal Election Commission. This is the Democratic Party not able to manage its money sufficiently to maintain a dedicated space for operations and meetings.

In the absence of cash, the SDDP is also canceling its big fall fundraiser in the Black Hills:

We have also made the decision to cancel our Democratic Round Up event originally scheduled for September 28 in Rapid City [Hawks, 2019.08.29].

One can only assume that the Buffalo Round-Up Dinner, an event started just four years ago, was not producing enough cash to justify the expense.

The Executive Board and State Central Committee will meet in September 28th in Fort Pierre to discuss the situation. If you have any questions, you can contact the party online (the SDDP still has a website) or maybe catch party officials running the loyal opposition from Caribou.


  1. jerry 2019-08-30 09:18

    The closing of one door may be the opening of a bigger door by consolidating Independents, Libertarians and Democrats to some sort of parliamentary party that would actually function.

  2. Jeff Barth 2019-08-30 12:37

    Those E-Board members who presided over the years of dysfunction that have brought us to this point should resign.

  3. Michael L. Wyland 2019-08-30 15:11

    I’ve told Cory this in person, and I’ll repeat it here. I believe a weakened SDDP is bad for both Democrats and Republicans. I believe in the two-party, non-parliamentary system we currently have in the U.S. It requires two sustainable and strong parties to be successful. Competition benefits everyone, regardless of who wins a particular election.

    Some SD Republicans are/will be gleeful about the travails of the SDDP. I am not among them.

  4. Porter Lansing 2019-08-30 15:25

    Wyland sez: I believe in the two-party, non-parliamentary system we currently have in the U.S. It requires two sustainable and strong parties to be successful.
    – Where I live there are three political groups with equal membership. Dems, Republicans, and Unaffiliated. Everyone registered to vote can do so in either primary. Dems and Repubs are softened in their extremism because we UA’s are judging them and we swing every election. It’s a good paradigm.

  5. Old Spec.5 2019-08-30 18:43

    Say what ?? “Everyone registered to vote can do so in either primary”

  6. Porter Lansing 2019-08-30 19:04

    Yes, sir. But, you can’t vote in both primaries. Only one.

  7. Old Spec.5 2019-08-30 19:09

    Please educate me, amuse a fool as I may have missed something When did the wretched SDGOP allow open primaries ?

  8. Porter Lansing 2019-08-30 19:17

    Old Spec.5 – This is in Colorado not SD. We also vote by mail. Saves a lot of money for the state.

  9. Old Spec.5 2019-08-30 19:46

    Sorry Porter I was assuming you were referring to SD. Me a bit edgy after seeing the “demise” of the SDDP.

  10. Porter Lansing 2019-08-30 19:53

    The demise is an interesting situation. I like the idea from someone (sorry I don’t remember, whom) who advised all SD Dems to register Republican and all Dem candidates to run as Republicans. The SDGOP would start pointing fingers at each other and become discombobulated. They don’t trust anyone now but if they had that situation, things would at least be comical.

  11. grudznick 2019-08-30 22:14

    grudznick warned you all.

    grudznick told you this would happen.

    grudznick does not dance gleefully, as grudznick cannot dance.

    I blame Paula Hawks, and welcome her to the Libertarian Party.

  12. Roger Cornelius 2019-08-30 22:26

    Democrats, all of them, are just happy that they are not grudnick’s.

  13. grudznick 2019-08-30 23:05

    There are no more Democrats in SD, Mr. C. Did you not read the memo that Ms. Hawks issued from her high-falooting chair in the gold plated place of reign? No more Dems. So while they all used to be grudznick’s, now there are none and grudznick owns no more Democrats.

    (apostrophe detail courtesy of my good friend Bob, placement by Mr. C his ownself.)

    Mr. C, this is a huge breakfasting weekend, so I expect I’ll see you about town and we’ll chortle a bit about your bloggings, as usual.

  14. Debbo 2019-08-30 23:55

    Oh South Dakota. So much potential, but your dedication to the SDGOP flushes it all down the drain. You’ve no idea how much you need the SDDP. If you did, you wouldn’t let this happen.

  15. Curt 2019-08-31 00:03

    Alright, a few things … Demise of the Party? Probably not. If the Trumpster cannot sink the GOP, I do not think sloppy bookkeeping will kill the SD Dems.
    Cory – At the top of your post, you seem to bemoan “leaking” of the info that followed. Granted, the news is awful, but facts are facts and attempting to hide them from the public – or ourselves – is just delusional. Mistakes – lots of them – BIG ones – were made. Own them and clean them up.
    Grudznick is evidently drinking again – Paula Hawks is as much to blame for this fiasco as the cop who catches the speeding motorist is responsible for the speeding driver. She is a good hand and this will be remedied.

  16. Clyde 2019-08-31 06:33

    The electoral college and I’m sure many other institutions force the two party system on this country.

    I’m with Jerry….declare bankruptcy, shut it down and start with something truly democratic. Make a big issue of it so that it makes the press nationally….we emptied our coffers mainly for the Clinton campaign.

    If the Dems in this state are unwilling to do so the GOP ought to make an issue of it. This is something that ought not be swept under the rug.

  17. tom schmitz 2019-08-31 13:02

    Why doesn’t HRC reach into her bulging pocketbook and help out here?

  18. Roger Cornelius 2019-08-31 13:29

    I don’t why HRC doesn’t reach into her bulging pocketbook and help out, maybe you should ask her, tom schmitz.

  19. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr., 2019-08-31 13:58

    Going forward we must be united as a party to clean-up this mess, but as a party that believes in facts and often cites the need for transparency, then we must also be cognizant there were warning signs to this recently admitted chaos. Those warning signs were the poor attendance at the McGovern Day Dinner. The fact that the SDDP struggled to find a speaker for that event. The fact that Ann cleared out here office at the SDDP a month before the end of her term even though McGovern Day was approaching still under her tenure. The fact that the initial Eagle Butte State Central Committee and Executive Board Meetings, which were to be held in Eagle Butte on July 20th, were not even put on the “Events” calendar of the SDDP website until late June, even though the RoundUp event in September and a further SDDP meeting in Mitchell for December were already posted under the “Events” category. And the fact, that the obvious last minute preparedness for the Eagle Butte event turned into a reality, where due to a lack of potential quorum, the Eagle Butte event became a conference call instead, which was based out of Sioux Falls and demonstrated in my opinion all of the realities of a hurried and bothered event for some, and where sadly some of us heard a verbal reprimand taking place between two party officials via the telephone conferernce call during the beginning of that meeting.

    Keep in mind also, that it was at that (Eagle Butte/Sioux Falls) SCC meeting, via phone or Zoom, that we learned that we would be hiring a new Executive Secretary for the party at roughly one and a half times the amount the prior Executive Secretary was being paid at, and this announcement fell on the same day the most recent monthly filing to the FEC stated that we only had $3,100 in the bank as a party.

    Keep also in mind, that at that time (July 20th), we were also still planning to spend $20,000 as a political party on grants for county parties and other local political organizations, while we only had $3,100 in the bank. And that all of this hopefull spending was still going forth even though the SDDP’s June 30, 2019 FEC semi-annual report showed a reduction in contributions to the party, which would have put the party to be on track to be a $100,000 behind from what was garnered from contributions in 2017, the last non-election year to compare to.

    So I guess what I am really saying is, that we cannot blame Ann, who left office April 30th, for all of this, or allow her to be the whipping-girl going forward for all of the partys woes or future woes, because if we do that, then we are only fooling ourselves, and thus, not being even transparent to ourselves.

    So with all of that said, I will not be at the September 28th meeting in Ft. Pierre due to a prior family commitment, but the issues I raise here need to be discussed at that meeting -if we are to be a party of facts and transparency going forward – and I encourage others to raise these issues.

    I might also add, that my aforementioned facts, and/or observations, were all things that any Democrat is privy too, and thus, the public in general, because the July 20th conference call – according to the party’s constitution – is open to all Democrats, and is such, not “eyes only,” nor private executive matters.

  20. Jeff Moser 2019-08-31 14:10

    I think the office space issue is just temporary. You know, the Republicans nearly vanished from South Dakota during the 1930s. Almost no one could be found who professed they were going to vote for any Republican in the Great Depression. This could happen again, and it may happen sooner than people think.

  21. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr., 2019-08-31 14:39

    One further comment, I will be in attendance at the SDDP SCC meeting on the 28th, if the party chooses to have the meeting available for some via Zoom and/or conference call, which I greatly encourage.

    In fact, some have called for an emergency meeting of the SCC, which should take place before the 28th, which I think is a good and needed idea.

    It is my understanding the 14th and 21st are off the table due to the SD Hall of Fame Awards Dinner and the wedding of a prominent Democrat, but frankly, I think this current chaos warrants immediate attention.

  22. David Newquist 2019-08-31 15:00

    Here we go again. When Ben Nesselhuf took over leadership of the party, it was in serious debt, and he made it his first priority to eliminate that debt. He succeeded in so doing. And it seemed that the party was determined not to let that problem be a limiting factor again.

    It’s not that long ago that the party announced its West River office and seemed engaged in intensifying its organizational efforts. Apparently all this was going on while, as Mr. Claussen relates above, finances were dwindling to a point where the party would be put into stasis.

    It will be hard to ask Democrats to bail the party out when no funding program seems to be in place. The new set of leaders have a huge, difficult task before them.

  23. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr., 2019-08-31 16:10

    I promise that this is my last “further” comment, but when you look at the totality of what I mentioned above, what bothers me the most is that party leaders are claiming they just became aware of this problem according to yesterday’s Argus piece*, but how could the July 20th and the June 30th (Even if inaccurate, shows a decline in contributions) FEC reports have not made them already aware? Not to mention, that the poor attendance at the McGovern Day Dinner was truly the canarie in the coal mine for the party, if you ask me, and that happen last April 23rd. So as a political party, we cannot allow ourselves to wonder into a world of self-denial and mere spin, because curative attempts like that, will offer no prevention for the future.


  24. David Newquist 2019-08-31 16:48

    I agree that the governing committees just did not seem to be paying attention. I found it confounding that the Argus Leader would ask for an assessment from GOP SD president Lederman. That’s like asking Trump for an assessment of Alexandra Ocasio Cortez.

    But as a former treasurer of a county party, I know that the monthly treasury status reports were examined with critical eyes on the funds necessary for effective operation. I wonder if the new executive secretary would have taken the job if she knew the actual financial state of the party.

  25. Curt 2019-08-31 17:39

    Well. the job title is State Party Chair. I think Exec Sec’y may be a Repub term, but no matter.
    Had Paula Hawks known of the dire financial situation prior to seeking her position, she may well not have chosen to accept it. Remember, there were 5 other candidates for the job, and that included both the aforementioned Ms. Tornberg and Mr. Kennedy Claussen.
    I really do not think it was a case of “governing committees (who) just did not seem to be paying attention.” Information was regularly provided to those committees. If that info was inaccurate or incomplete, the committees are powerless to demand more. The blame – if people need to assign blame – lies with the paid staff who clearly failed in their jobs.

  26. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr., 2019-08-31 18:06

    Actually, I asked at the July 20th meeting questions about the McGovern Day numbers. I found it odd they claimed they were only $3,500 short for that event. Their initial response was that money from PACs helped with the numbers even if the attendance was low. They (the staff) also asked for my phone number and were going to give me more info, but I never heard from them. I also asked about the union contract for staffers and wasn’t told much, but was told they would contact me by phone about that, too. So questions can be asked in front of staff and party officials, but where are the answers? Questions, which by the way, were asked roughly seven weeks before it all apparently became evident to everyone else based on the Argus piece.

    And lets talk about the Eagle Butte event, too. I inquired in late June to the SDDP about whether the Eagle Butte event was going to happen. I remember Ann talking about it, but I never remember our current Chair talking about it. So, I reached out via email and was told by a staffer that I was right that it should be listed under “Events” of the SDDP website and that it would be soon, but that the “particulars” of the event had not been worked out yet just three weeks before a event is to be held in the middle of summer, when many people are busy and have other plans and an event many many miles from where most potential participants live. Then, this event was posted soon after my inquiry on the website, then a week later, an email to all SDDP SCC members about it came out, then a week or two later a complaint via email from the SDDP about a lack of a potential quorum based on shown interest appeared, which then led to the conference call meeting instead on the 20th from Sioux Falls. Frankly, if I hadn’t inquired in late June, I don’t think the July 20th meeting would have ever happen.

    So, we can blame all of this on the staff, but in the final analysis, who controls the staff?

  27. Curt 2019-08-31 18:37

    In the final analysis, staff is responsible to those people elected to leadership positions. As you know, most of them have exited the scene.

  28. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr., 2019-08-31 19:10

    I guess it was about time, huh?

  29. David Newquist 2019-08-31 22:24

    Actually, the title is Executive Director, and I’m referring to Stacey Burnette, who joined the staff early this month.

  30. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-09-02 08:40

    Curt, to be clear, I do not in this article bemoan the leaking. I agree completely that this information should be entirely public. Trying to keep a lid on this information would only have made the story worse. I simply wanted to make clear that the information was easy to get.

  31. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-09-02 08:43

    JKC, I would suggest that the SD Hall of Fame induction and a wedding are poor reasons for a statewide political organization not to hold an emergency meeting. Even with those events, time and a quorum can be found, if people are interested enough in preserving or re-establishing a two-party system.

  32. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-09-02 08:47

    “Blame” matters only to the extent of identifying the source of errors and ensuring that such errors do not happen again. Time, money, and sweat need to be poured now into positive, change-making activities… like circulating petitions and putting initiative reform and redistricting on the 2020 ballot.

    Let someone else figure out who owes the bank and who goes to jail. I have petitions to circulate… and I invite you all to help.

  33. Jeff Barth 2019-09-02 17:45

    I was on the Sioux Empire Fair Board when we discovered and stopped the embezzlement involving the bookkeeper and manager. We went from a Board that met monthly to a Board that met every day.
    Every day until we saved the Fair and got proper management and staff
    The SD Democratic Party needs an E-Board with that same commitment. For years meetings have lacked quorum. That’s crap.
    Paula cannot do it alone.

  34. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr., 2019-09-02 22:05

    The emergency meeting should be – I emphasize, “should be” – next Saturday, September 7th, in Sioux Falls; and for those who cannot make it, well, they should be allowed to accesss it via tele-conferencing and/or Zoom.

    This whole thing has become a Chernobyl, when at best it should have never got past the Three Mile Island stage. We need a meeting now and not just further time for a good spin.

    Is it fraud, or is it just a collapse of regular monthly contributions? Does not leadership get and/or ask for weekly and/or monthly reports on this issue? It seems to me that such contributions are the blood of the party and should be constantly monitored by party leadership regardless of the EBoard interests.

    It appears to me that there are two issues: One goes back to 2015 with the Hillary campaign, while the other involves current funding. Let’s not confuse the two, nor allow some to combine the two, to try to confuse the real issues and who is really to blame for each one independent of the other.

  35. leslie 2019-09-07 15:27

    Staff, Ann T, temporary commitments-we have suffered a deep blow. Management is key. Experience on staff is key. Competence. Qualifications. Yes Democratic money is hard to get in SD. Yes registrations have declined. Yes we demanded the
    SDDP open and pay for a long promised west river office. Financial accountability is a basic skill SDDP must have.

    BUT Billy and the rest of the candidates in the LAST election were HIGHLY QUALIFIED, contrary to SDPB reporting. And “we emptied our coffers mainly for the Clinton campaign”-is that even a thing?

    The Republicans will deepen the wound mercilessly. Thank God we have Paula right now. And JKC Sr ect. The Koch Bros/Mitch McConnell/justice dilution of Trump admin/ect are taking devastating blows against a democracy that the free press and Democrats can and will save, and then stall climate change and reverse economic inequality that squanders the worlds resources.

    feets don’t fail us now. e pluribus unum

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