Stan Adelstein in Argus Leader: SD Contribution Limits are too small.

Interesting article in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader today on the effects of PAC's in the Sioux Falls City Elections. And lots of talk on how State Senator Stan Adelstein from Rapid City is spreading money around to affect Sioux Falls Races:
Political action committees operating in South Dakota are on the rise, state officials say, and their influence is felt even at the local level.

In Sioux Falls, PACs reported giving at least $20,000 to candidates in city races through Feb. 28. More than 20 percent of money raised by mayoral candidates came from PAC contributions, or $1 out of every $5 raised.

Much of that money came not from associations but from a small number of wealthy individuals who use PACs to funnel large contributions to political candidates.

State officials say they are seeing a lot more of that.

"The area that we've seen the greatest increase are PACs that aren't affiliated with an association," South Dakota Secretary of State Chris Nelson said Friday.

One individual using that method for contributing is state Sen. Stan Adelstein, R-Rapid City. His All South Dakota PAC contributed $5,000 to Rep. Casey Murschel, who is running for Sioux Falls mayor, $4,000 to City Council candidate David Volk and $2,000 to Councilor De Knudson, who is running for re-election, according to paperwork filed with the city.

Like the state, the city doesn't limit PAC contributions. That's significant because under state law, individuals can't give more than $250 to legislative candidates in a calendar year. For statewide candidates, the limit is $1,000.

The simple way around those contribution limits, according to the Secretary of State's office, is by forming political action committees.


Adelstein said PACs wouldn't be as necessary in South Dakota if individual contribution limits weren't so small. He said those limits should be increased.

"I think that would make a huge difference," he said.
(Read this tale of woe here.) Me too. Dang it. Why can't I give $50,000 to a statewide candidate? Well, first, I'd have to have $50,000.

The point of campaign contribution limits is so no one person can unduly influence elections. As in, so no one person can start buying politicians. If a person gives a candidate a check for $35,000, a reasonable and prudent person would assume that a debt of gratitude is expected. HENCE, the campaign contribution limits.

That's probably my biggest beef with the Senator. He's certainly welcome to his ideology. The problem is when he comes in and drops big cash into races. It provides him influence beyond that of any other individual. It's not a level playing field because "how can joe six-pack compete?"

In fact, how can anyone of average or above average means compete? They're limited to $250 or $1000, but because his means are considerable, Stan sets up a mechanism to violate the spirit of the rules. Whereas I would be limited to $250 in a race, Stan can (and has been known to) put $2500 or $25,000 into it. It's not 1 against 1 - it's 1 against 10 or 1 against 100.

Now, I'm not going to win by complaining. Unlevel playing field? Fine. I'll just have to play by those rules, too. I've been contemplating starting my own PAC simply for the purpose of allowing like-minded individuals to donate to candidates I support beyond the individual campaign limits set in law.

Of course, now I have to find like minded individuals with money.

What is the end result? Nothing but an escalation of the PAC race. Does it end up serving individual voters? No. It just ends up serving my solitary, selfish purposes.

And that's my point.


Bob Newland said…
Rich people always have a disproportionate influence in elections. I doubt that we can get around that. Public financing of elections is a crazy idea promoted by some people that would ensure that no one with interesting policy suggestions would get campaign money.

I propose this: No limits on campaign contributions. No cash (checks only). Strongly-enforced campaign finance reporting, with publication of (or at least free public access to) said reports.

This might, depending on the level of enforcement, provide us with an idea of who's buying whom, and what the price is.
Anonymous said…

You are right-on-the-money. Money corrupts. This is why we have individual limits on campaign cash. Adelstein is violating the spirit of the campaign finance limits with a loophole as big as a semi-truck. This is an absolute abuse of the system and the folks in Pierre just ignor it. It is wrong and should be corrected. But when the Governor accepts unlimited campaign cash from individuals (Adelstein) he is engaging in unethical behavior. That is why we have campaign limits for individuals. PACs are for groups of individuals, but with Adelstein, his PACs are created for the benefit of an individual. It is unseemly and should be unlawful.

We seriously need someone in Pierre to start guarding the hen house. Our state has seriously gotten off track.

Bob: Once again you couldn't be more wrong. Adelstein should not be able to buy Rounds or any other race in South Dakota. It is simply a perversion of our democracy.
Bob Newland said…
Of course, when you have no paper record of election votes, it's irrelevant who's buying whom.
Stan's Brother said…
Stan and his liberal friends, especially in Hollywood and Manhattan, will dump money into dakota to defeat the life law, just wait...and Hildebrand will lead the effort against it. Democrats, Hollywood, Hildebrand, Adelstein working'll see.
PP said…
Bob -

I have to say that I don't disagree with the proposal to open it up for all, with better disclosure.

The bottom line is that you'll never get money out of politics. It's too necessary. Even I'm not that pollyannish.

To me, public financing is a stupid idea. I consider it a step towards governmental endorsements of candidates. And that's unacceptable.

I think the biggest question is how to ensure a level playing field for all.

The system we have isn't a train wreck, but it just needs a little tweaking from time to time.
DJ said…
Public financing is crazy. So are many of our campaign laws on the federal side.

Let's not forget about the First Amendment. I don't like all of the money in politics either, but why should I be prohibited from buying an ad in a newspaper to express my opinion? If I'm crazy enough to want to buy an ad in every paper in the state to express my opinion, what's wrong with that? What if I give the money directly to the candidate, so that he/she can place the ads? Right now, I can't buy one ad saying that I like Tim Johnson unless I form a campaign committee. Crazy. What a perversion of our right to free speech (and a right to use our property as we see fit).

The Federalist Papers make it clear that political speech is the MOST important speech to protect in a democracy.

I don't know how much Bob and I agree, but I do think that disclosure is a better way to go. The press, curious individuals, and hardworking bloggers will use that information to let voters know who is doing what. More information = good. More restrictions on freedom = bad.
Anonymous said…
Unfortunately, money makes (or breaks) campaigns.
Anonymous said…
This may be a case of the means justifying the end. The State needs more more enlightened people in office along with more women.
Anonymous said…
To last person: Don't you mean more liberals and feminists?
Anonymous said…
Adelstein is overreaching. He is trying to buy every office in the land, and that is going to cost him dearly. The word on the street is that he is going to bankroll Tom Hennies' campaign for the Rapid City Council. That appears to be a big miscalculation by Adelstein. People are going to see that as over-reaching. It could even cost him votes in the senate race if he starts attacking Sam Kookier, who is a relatively popular city council member. I have to wonder if Adelstein's support for Hennies is a payoff to keep Hennies from running for the senate
Anonymous said…
to anonymous before last.
Yes that is what I mean. Stan is spending a lot of time with the likes of Looby et. al.
Liberalism is here to stay in S.D.
It has to start somewhere
Anonymous said…
Stan Adelstein is perhaps one of the most corrupt politicians in Rapid City and south dakota history. This is a guy who supported selling the cement plant and is using his fortune to curry favor. Why would he get involved in a SF City Council race? So he can buy De Knudson? Not exactly. It's so he can buy her husband.

And if you look at how Hills Materials treats it's employees, you'll see that Stan's selfishness and his egotism have permeated the business world as well.
Anonymous said…
Buy Dave Knudson with a small donation to his wife's city council race? That's nuts? He's a partner in the largest law firm in SD. Are you from Fall River County or do you just hate Adelstein and his moderate position on social issues that much?
PP said…
Are you going to buy a state legislator or councilman with a $2000 donation? Not likely.

But at what point does it look bad when donating to a legislator who normally has $250 limits? $2500? $5000? $10,000?

How about $30,000 or $35,000 when everyone else is limited to $250?

When you look at it in those terms, it becomes a more diffucult question to answer.
Anonymous said…
Adelstein simply wants to have an influence on everything. That's the bottom line.
Nonnie said…
Just put a time limit on elections, campaigning, # of TV spots, # of radio spots. Each candidate would have a month or so to make their points, would only be allowed to spend X amount of dollars, the campaigns would be thankfully shorter, cheaper, and perhaps more honest and to the point. State their positions and wait for the vote. Simple. I think PAC's are despicable on either side and completely undermine the so-called campaign financing laws.
Bob Newland said…
Nonnie, how do you define a "campaign". Isn't an incumbent "campaigning" 100% of the time?
Nonnie said…
What I mean by campaign is the actual campaign. Daschle started his ads (while he was the incumbent BTW) about 1 1/2 years before the election. Thune wisely let him spend his money in that, as it turned out, fruitless use of his funds. A protracted campaign simply winds up with negative campaigning by eacn candidate and clouding of the issues adn turns off voters on either side.

Limit the campaign to say two months, limit the money that could be spent, limit the number of TV and radio spots they could have. This would get money of the process, eliminate the need or desire for PAC's, keep out-of-state interests from influencing state elections, and give the candidates just enough time to state their positions but not enough time to let the campaign descend into negative politics. Or at least it would protect the voters from having to listen to it very long.

And it would allow people of more modest means to get into the political arena. Right now the whole process is about who can raise the most money.
Nonnie said…
Bob, your question about an incumbent campaigning 100% of the time addresses the issue of pork for the most part. Eliminate that, and most of the problem would be solved. Only in our dreams, right?
Bob Newland said…
Every suggestion here except mine is simly an incumbent protection plan. Mine is, too, probably, since incumbents have a money-raising advantage.
Nonnie said…
My suggestions would take the money out of campaigning. And it would end most of the he said/she said, he lied/she lied since there wouldn't be enough time to do much more than state your positions and reinforce them. Too simple really.

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