Monthly Archives: January 2010

Gubernatorial campaign finance filings so far: Daugaard, Heidepriem, Knuppe and Volesky

Ken Knuppe tied with Ron Volesky as the third candidates for governor to file their 2009 campaign finance reports. Their reports became available earlier today via the Secretary of State website ( The deadline is Feb. 1. Yet to show up are the reports for Scott Munsterman, Dave Knudson and Gordon Howie. Here’s the snapshot summaries for the four who have filed so far.

Knuppe, a rancher from the Buffalo Gap area who is seeking the Republican nomination, broke about even in 2009. He began the year with $6,193 cash on hand and ended 2009 with $6,170 cash on hand. In between he raised just about $13,404 and spent about $13,426. He also received in-kind contributions valued at $780. He owes no debt nor obligation.

Volesky, a former legislator and lawyer in Huron, is running for the Democratic nomination. His 2009 report contains only zeroes. He reported raising no money, spending no money, borrowing no money, owing no money, receiving no in-kind contributions, and having no money on hand at the end of 2009.

Scott Heidepriem was the second candidate for governor to get his 2009 report in. Heidepriem, a state senator and lawyer from Sioux Falls, is seeking the Democratic nomination. His report is more complex. He took in $26,125 of unitemized contributions and $241,189 of itemized contributions from individuals. He also received $17,310 of political party money from legislative candidates’ campaign committees and from state- and county-level Democratic Party organizations; $23,575 from South Dakota-based political action committees; and $30,628 from federal-level PACs. Together his direct contributions totaled $338,827. He also had in-kind contributions valued at $6,695. His total spending came to $147,053. He also owes himself $4,050. He started the campaign last summer with $729 cash on hand, evidently transferred from his old state Senate campaign account. He finished the year with $196,553 cash on hand.

Lt. Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s report was the first filed. Daugaard, who previously was CEO for the Children’s Home Society based in Sioux Falls, is seeking the Republican nomination for governor. He’s been running the longest and the hardest. His campaign account reflects that. He began 2009 with $811,583 cash on hand. He raised $728,082 in direct contributions in 2009 and received $22,054 in other income (such as bank account interest). His in-kind contributions were valued at $27,306. He reported spending $283,442 for the year. He finished 2009 with $1,278,277 cash on hand. His direct contributions included $21,952 of unitemized contributions and $693,438 of itemized contributions from individuals; $542 from the Yankton TARs (Teen Age Republicans) group; $7,500 from South Dakota-based political action committees; and $4,650 from federal-level PACs. He reported no debts or obligations.

Will S.F. again elect a former GOP legislator as mayor?

Six candidates have filed paperwork so far to run in the April 13 election to be the next mayor of Sioux Falls to succeed Dave Munson, who has served the maximum two terms allowed by the city. Most people outside Minnehaha County probably don’t recall that he previously was a state legislator, as was his predecessor, and that both are Republicans. The question is whether that pattern will be repeated this spring with two more Republican former lawmakers in the race.

Munson spent 24 winters in Pierre: 1979 through 1996 in the House of Representatives and 1997 through 2002 in the Senate. Prior to Dave, the mayor of South Dakota’s largest city was Gary Hanson. He served six years in the state Senate from 1983 through 1988 before running for mayor. Like Munson, he had to leave the mayor’s office because of term limits. When his city duties came to a close, Hanson was elected to the state Public Utilities Commission, a role he’s held since 2003.

Now Sioux Falls is moving toward another mayoral election. There are two former legislators, both Republicans, in the increasingly crowded race. The conventional wisdom is that no candidate has emerged as a clear favorite to win outright and a secondary run-off election likely will be necessary. One of the former legislators who’s running, city councilman Kermit Staggers, likely could make it into the run-off. Caught in the big pack of candidates is the other former legislator, Bill Peterson.

Staggers spent eight sessions in the state Senate from 1995 through 2002. Peterson served eight years in the state House from1997 through 2004 when he was term-limited. He was the Republican majority leader for the 2001 through 2004 sessions. Staggers is known for his dogged door-to-door work campaigning, as well as for favoring smaller government and being tight-fisted with taxpayers’ money. He likely is the most conservative candidate who has a chance in the race. That’s why observers see him as likely to make it into a run-off, while the other candidates split the other half to two-thirds of the electorate.

Mehlhaff’s early money from out of state

This will wag some tongues. Deputy State Treasurer Mike Mehlhaff is running for the No. 1 desk in the office with the support of State Treasurer Vern Larson, who’s term-limited. Mehlhaff’s 2009 campaign finance report for his treasurer candidacy became publicly available today and shows he raised $2,350 last year. He spent $274 and received in-kind contributions valued at $1,360. The interesting thing is that nearly all of it came from outside South Dakota. Ten people contributed amounts ranging from $100 to $250. Six have New York addresses, one is from Massachusetts, one from Connecticut and one Maryland. The in-kind contributions were made by Arthur Marcus of 750 Columbus Avenue in New York, New York, and by Bruce Piatt of 120 N. 96 Street in New York, New York. Mehlhaff also lists $5,374 of debts and obligations incurred in 2009, with all but $500 owed to himself. He finished 2009 with $2,076 cash in his campaign treasury.

Meanwhile State Auditor Rich Sattgast, who is term limited and is seeking the Republican nomination for treasurer too, filed his 2009 report showing he raised $1,100 and spent $7,124. He started last year with $7,127 in the bank. He accepted $6,636 of in-kind contributions, including $969 worth of transportation and a printer from Rik Drewes and the rest from himself, and also gave his campaign account another $5,667 from his own pocket. He ended 2009 with $6,770 in the bank.

The serious candidacy of Ben Nesselhuf

The numbers on the 2009 campaign finance report show Sen. Ben Nesselhuf of Vermillion wasn’t coasting into his 2010 run for the Democratic nomination for South Dakota secretary of state. He raised $40,469 and spent $21,846 for the year. That’s a lot of green. He raised more than any of the three Republicans seeking their party’s nomination. In fact, he raised more than all three of them did combined. Getting contributions of $4,000 apiece from Sharon and Tom Warner of Rapid City, and contributions of $4,000 and $3,500 respectively from Lewis and Renee Weinberg of Sioux City, certainly helped pump up his total. But even without their help he raised some serious cash. The last time a Democrat was secretary of state came in the 1970s when Lorna Herseth held the office.

Grading the State of the Union speech

I give it an A-minus. President Barack Obama had substance. He hit the nail on the head with his line about “a deficit of trust.” He didn’t aim for the middle. Instead he laid out priorities which were favored in some cases by the left and in other cases by the right. 

What separated him from an A-plus? His taunting at times of the Republicans. That struck me as a bit of playground trash talk beneath the dignity of the presidency and the occasion.

I also winced a bit at his comments about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on corporate spending in political campaigns, especially with the justices seated in front of him. The State of the Union speech seemed to be an inappropriate occasion. 

Setting aside the JFK addresses, which I was too young to remember first-hand, I don’t recall hearing a better State of the Union speech start to finish in my 51 years on this earth.

Rep. Deadrick, Sen. Gant, Deputy Bray are first into the pool

We continue to check daily to see which candidates for state office have filed their 2009 campaign finance reports. Unless I’ve missed something, the first to show up on the Secretary of State’s official web site are reports from three of the people running for … secretary of state!

They’re state Rep. Thomas Deadrick, R-Platte; Deputy Secretary of State Teresa Bray; and state Sen. Jason Gant, R-Sioux Falls. All three are seeking the Republican nomination to succeed Secretary of State Chris Nelson. (He’s term-limited and running for the Republican nomination for U.S. House of Representatives.)

Deadrick, Bray and Gant all filed their reports Jan. 27.

Deadrick reports raising $5,841 and spending $2,370 in 2009. His itemized receipts came from two people: himself for $691 and brother-in-law John Persinger for $5,000. He also reports receiving $150 in unitemized receipts.

Bray reports raising $6,445 including a $1,000 contribution from Nelson’s campaign committee and spending $13. (That’s not a misprint.) She also reports in-kind contributions valued at $17,696 for tee shirts, banners, printing, travel and other campaign expenses, which she paid for. 

Gant reports raising $15,025 and spending $7,858. His campaign also owes $7,842 to him for money he’s personally laid out. His revenue includes $5,883 he transferred from his Senate account.

Sen. Ben Nesselhuf of Vermillion, who’s seeking the Democratic nomination for secretary of state, filed his report today. As of 11:30 a.m., it hadn’t been posted yet today on the SOS web site (

Feb. 1 is the deadline to file.

Senators running for higher office split on retire-rehire vote

The state Senate today (Wednesday) adopted reforms sought by the South Dakota Retirement System’s board of trustees to make retire-rehire less lucrative and more difficult by reducing retirement pay 15 percent during re-employment and requiring a three-month wait to be rehired. The 24-10 vote didn’t split along any obvious partisan or geographic lines. Among the three senators running for governor, Senate Democratic leader Scott Heidepriem and Republican Sen. Gordon Howie voted for the bill, SB 18, while Senate Republican leader Dave Knudson voted against it. Democratic Sen. Julie Bartling, who’s running for state auditor, voted against it, too, while Democratic Sen. Ben Nesselhuf, who’s running for secretary of state, voted for it.  You probably need a Ph.D. in political science to figure all that out.

Democrats paint a bull’s-eye on donors to PUC campaigns

The political life of Public Utilities Commissioner Dusty Johnson is going to turn very interesting. Just as Johnson, a Republican, gears up his 2010 re-election run, Democratic legislators have filed a measure that would shine a light on who’s giving campaign donations to PUC candidates. House Bill 1142 seeks to ban any company, executive employee, major shareholder, or other affiliated person or affiliated family member from contributing to a PUC campaign if the commission supervises the company. The ban also would apply to not-for-profit 501(c) organizations in a similar manner. The legislation lands just as annual campaign reports come due. Dusty’s 2009 report could provide interesting reading, or not, in the context of this legislation once it becomes publicly available in the coming days through the Secretary of State’s office.

Maybe I missed it, but lawyers with independent contracts who lobby for PUC-supervised companies or represent the companies before the PUC don’t appear to be prohibited from contributing. Based on my years of watching the PUC’s meetings, there is a small group of private attorneys who regularly represent companies and organizations before the PUC. The prime sponsor of HB 1142 is Rep. Marc Feinstein, D-Sioux Falls, while the main sponsor in the Senate is Senate Democratic leader Scott Heidepriem of Sioux Falls. It’s likely just one of those coincidences that seem to crop up in politics and legislating, but both happen to be lawyers.

From a partisan politics standpoint, the Democrats probably have little to no chance of getting their legislation passed. But they will put the Republican majority in the House of Representatives in the position of having to explain why HB 1142 must die. The Senate’s Republican majority will be spared because the bill probably can’t get out of the House. The PUC’s political lineup is one Democrat, Steve Kolbeck, and two Republicans, Gary Hanson and Johnson.

Wires crossed on stem-cell research legislation

Supporters of legislation that seeks to repeal South Dakota’s ban against stem-cell research using human embryos thought their measure, Senate Bill 74, was going to be scheduled for its first hearing today (Wednesday) by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Dave Volk, co-chairman of the South Dakotans for Lifesaving Cures group promoting the legislation, went so far as to publicly announce the hearing would be held today. But somehow the bill didn’t get posted by the committee’s chairman, Sen. Stan Adelstein, R-Rapid City. As of right now, the bill still doesn’t have a scheduled date for hearing. The legislation’s prime sponsor is Sen. Ben Nesselhuf, D-Vermillion. A somewhat similar attempt by Nesselhuf last year won the committee’s endorsement but failed in the full Senate. The current ban is strongly supported by pro-life organizations and legislators who can be expected to defend it just as strongly.

State procurement process has legislators’ focus

House Bill 1046 looks like it will require considerable time and attention from the Legislature. It would completely revise the procurement process used by state government for purchasing goods and services. The original legislation is being scrapped, and a complete amendment has been offered instead by state Commissioner of Administration Jeff Bloomberg. The House State Affairs Committee adopted the hoghouse amendment this morning (Wednesday) but deferred further action until next Wednesday. There are lobbyists lined up to offer further amendments to the amended bill. “We want to get it right, so we’re going to take our time,” House Republican leader Bob Faehn of Watertown said. He is the committee’s chairman.