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Marijuana Measures Needed Six-Figure Budgets, Out-of-State Support to Qualify

Campaign finance reports are finally in from all ballot questions committees that circulated petitions in 2019. Let’s compare the successful petition drives with my own failed efforts:

Ballot Question Committee/petitions circulated signatures collected error rate expenditures cost per sig
SD Voice: PPI+HB 1094 Ref 10,100
(not submitted)
unknown $21,553.89 $2.13
New Approach SD: IM 26 (medical marijuana) 34,192
(official SOS count)
25.35% $272,418.78 $7.97
SD for Better Marijuana Laws: Amendment A (all marijuana + hemp) 53,400
(official SOS count)
31.26% $900,891.94 $16.87


The successful petition drives spent 3.7 to 7.9 times more per signature than my ballot question committee did. The lesson from 2019’s empirical data is that if you plan to put a measure on the South Dakota ballot, plan to spend six figures.

Where did those six-figure budgets come from?

  • 33% of the itemized money SD Voice raised came from donors with out-of-state addresses. All of those donors, I believe, are South Dakota ex-pats.
  • Only 0.3% of the itemized donations (cash and in-kind) IM 26 received came from donors with out-of-state addresses. But 96.4% of IM 26’s finances came in the form of donated services from the Amendment A committee, and…
  • 96% of the itemized money and in-kind services Amendment A received came from donors with out-of-state addresses. The D.C. New Approach PAC made up most of that money, with $922,968.26 in cash and donated services. According to IRS 8872 filings, New Approach PAC’s funders in 2019 included the following:
Donor Location 2019 Aggregate Donations
Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps Vista, CA $950,000.00
Scotts Company Marysville, OH $350,000.00
Phil Harvey Washington, DC $100,000.00
Henry Van Ameringen New York, NY $1,000,000.00

The two measures that made the 2020 ballot depended almost entirely on support from out-of-state donors. G. Mark Mickelson tried to outlaw such out-of-state support with Initiated Measure 24, but thanks to my successful lawsuit against IM 24 last spring, a federal court overturned that unconstitutional ban on free speech and you get to vote on those two ballot measures this November.

You are welcome.


  1. tara volesky 2020-02-03 09:11

    No different than SD statewide candidates needing out of state support to win in state elections.

  2. Donald Pay 2020-02-03 11:30

    I would point out that considerably less money was used to run the pre-petitioning and petitioning phases of the nuclear waste vote initiative, the corporate ag ban, three surface mining initiatives, a solid waste initiative and a solid waste referendum. None of these initiatives required out-of-state fundraising, as they were volunteer efforts headed up by grassroots organizations in South Dakota. (Some money was collected from ex-South Dakota residents or part-time residents, but generally this was during the post-petitioning phase.)

    How did these initiatives get by with in-state funding? First, ballot measures in the 1990s were organized by groups who dealt with issues having broad-based, bi-partisan support. A core group did grassroots organizing over years and touched base with countless individuals across the state. We held meetings across the state to educate and organize, but mostly to hear the concerns of citizens. Second, while one to two staff members were paid a small salary, most work was done by in-state volunteers. We relied on research conducted by in-state people, legal advise from in-state attorneys, political and media work from in-state consultants and many others willing to do the work pro-bono. We had legislators willing to assist us, and they provided help getting our initiatives drafted by the Legislative Research Council. Thus, pre-petitioning costs were low. We relied exclusively on volunteer petition gatherers. We had large numbers of these, and they willing to go out repeatedly in all kinds of weather. And, because staff who petitioned did so on his or her own time, I would venture to say we spent about 20 cents per signature, and that was for cups of coffee, soda or pizza we might pick up to keep up our voluteering spirits.

    That’s all fine, but it was a different time, a time before all the unnecessary pre-petitioning bureaucracy that requires a lot of time and effort and distracts from the grassroots organizing. So, you end up substituting out-of-state money for in-state organizing and volunteer efforts of grassroots citizens.

    What would be best for the citizens and the state is to go back to the old ways of doing things, back to the 1990s. That requires getting rid of all the bureaucracy set up by the fat cat special interests to discourage grassroots South Dakotans from using the initiative.

    Now just a little comment on the marijuana measures. The pot industry is just another special interest now. It used to be pretty grassroots, but even when Newland was running things, they used paid circulators. Today they’ve become just another corporate-controlled enterprise. They’re buying politicians and, even some citizens, all over the country. They act just like, oh, like any other industry in the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce.

  3. Porter Lansing 2020-02-03 11:59

    The four donors Cory listed are a who’s who of philanthropy, nation wide … with specialized ulterior interests. Dr. Bronners uses hemp in it’s soap. Scott’s is Miracle Grow. Phil Harvey and Henry Van Ameringen are national advocates for gay rights and marijuana legalization.
    When people’s rights are being ignored anywhere, it’s all of America’s problem.
    “Money, ideas, and petition gatherers are fungible. It doesn’t matter where they come from. It matters how they’re used.”- PHLIV (that’s me :)
    Well done and thank you, D.C. New Approach PAC.

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