Friday, May 28, 2004

Out of State Money Floods South Dakota Special Election

Money from outside South Dakota accounts for over sixty percent of the campaign contributions to the candidates in the June 1st special election to fill former Congressman Bill Janklow’s seat. Between them, Stephanie Herseth and Larry Diedrich have collected nearly two million dollars from out-of-state individuals and political committees. (Check out our Fact Sheet on the race here.)

The money flowing into South Dakota from out of state is blatant interference in South Dakotans’ constitutional right to choose their elected representative. Most South Dakotans can’t really afford to give $100 to a political candidate, much less the $2000 that federal election laws allow. As long as out-of-staters can contribute big bucks, folks in South Dakota will have less say in who represents them than rich people from New York and Washington, D.C.

Money is often decisive in politics. In the 2002 congressional elections, the candidate who spent the most won over ninety percent of the time. The recent Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), also known as the McCain-Feingold bill, increased the limits on individual contributions per election from $1000 to $2000, placing a high premium on getting big donations. Based on a review of filings with the Federal Election Commission, Diedrich and Herseth each took in over one million dollars in contributions of $1,000 or more from individuals and political committees.

Neither candidate’s website states a position on campaign finance reform. While Herseth and Diedrich cannot be expected to forego contributions unilaterally, both candidates owe it to the people of South Dakota to explain where they stand on this important issue.

Big money drives our elections. But we can change that by electing responsible leaders to office who will commit to serious changes in campaign finance laws, rather than catering to the fat cats who now fund their campaigns.

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