Kristi Noem’s campaign claims Jamie Smith has violated campaign finance law and “illegally deposited over half-a-million dollars in contributions.” Team Noem gets it half right.
Yesterday was the deadline for South Dakota candidates and political committees to file their pre-general campaign finance reports. The Smith for Governor campaign filed its report with lazy supporting documentation showing the names of folks who’ve given Smith more than $100 this year but not their addresses.
The “supporting” document also sloppily mingles entity and political committee contributions with individual donations and fails to cite full names for a few individuals:
Sloppiness isn’t illegal, but good grief—failing to report complete donor information is. Every candidate knows that campaign finance law (SDCL 12-27-24) requires that we report the name, mailing address, city, and state of every person who contributes more than $100. Team Smith gave those addresses for their big donors in their pre-primary report and their spring supplemental reports. How did treasurer Spencer Hawley not print the address column from the spreadsheet this time? Is he trying to wreck another Democratic candidacy?
Team Noem comes predictably and somewhat properly screaming that Smith has broken the law and should be investigated immediately:
“Jamie Smith committed 33 pages of campaign finance violations today,” said Ian Fury, Communications Director at Kristi for Governor. “There is not a single itemized contribution in his filing that complies with the most basic requirements of the law. How can we trust him to follow the laws of our state and faithfully execute the duties of Governor? We are calling for an immediate investigation into these violations.”
Smith violated SDCL 12-27-24 (12) by failing to include the “mailing address, city, and state of each person making a contribution of more than one hundred dollars.” Smith’s campaign did not provide the address of a single such contributor. In doing so, Smith made at least 1,500 itemized violations.
If the information required by statute is not provided, the donations cannot be deposited. SDCL 12-27-24(12) says “If any information required by the section is unknown to the political committee, the political committee may not deposit the contribution.”
“It seems that Jamie Smith’s campaign illegally deposited more than half-a-million dollars in contributions,” continued Fury [Kristi for Governor, press release, posted without commentary to Dakota War College, 2022.10.24].
Yes, Smith broke the law by not reporting addresses for his $100.01+ donors. He deserves every bit of scorn his opponents can lay on him for this unforced error two weeks before the election.
But no, Smith did not break the law by depositing and spending that money. Read the statute spokesboy Fury cites: it does not say that candidates may not deposit contributions if they do not provide the address information to the state. Smith and Noem both deposited and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars this summer and fall before filing their donors’ information. If we had to file donor information before depositing and spending it, campaigns would be punching in donor data every night before going to the bank (which, actually, now that I think about it, might not be such a bad idea—rolling, real-time campaign finance updates!).
SDCL 12-27-24 only says candidates can’t put big money in the bank unless they know the names and addresses of the givers. We have no evidence that Smith doesn’t know the addresses of those 1,500-plus donors. Fury goes too far in claiming Smith has illegally deposited campaign funds.
And actually, what lawbreaking has occurred is not subject to any penalty or investigation, not yet. SDCL 12-27-27 gives Smith’s campaign treasurer seven days from the time of “discovering any omission, inaccuracy, or other change necessary to make the statement or report accurate” to file an amended report. A person who “willfully fails to report a material change or correction… is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor,” but that person (Spence!) is not subject to that charge or to administrative penalty from the Secretary of State ($200 per violation, 1500+ violations—that could wipe out Smith’s remaining $255K war chest!) until “the first day following the seventh day after the candidate, treasurer, or other person is notified of the omission, inaccuracy, or other change necessary to make the statement or report accurate.” (Spence, consider yourself notified.)
Smith’s treasurer boneheadedly broke the law, leaving off basic information about donors that every conscious candidate knows has to be on every campaign finance report. But SDCL 12-27-27’s seven-day grace period means no one is going to jail or paying a fine…until next week, if Team Smith fails to submit an amended report with donor addresses (not to mention full names! Dean? Dietrich? Drovdal? DVM Dan? Come on, Spence: clean up your spreadsheet!).