McGovern-Fiegen race tight in spendingNew reports also show hospitals, NEA spending big money on ballot issues.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
PIERRE — Newly filed campaign reports show some one-sided fights, at least financially, on several ballot measures that South Dakota voters will decide statewide Nov. 6.
Meanwhile, Nick Nemec and Matt McGovern, the two Democratic challengers for the state Public Utilities Commission, are trying to match the money pace of Republican officeholders Chris Nelson and Kristie Fiegen.
Nemec trailed Nelson by a big margin, but McGovern and Fiegen were neck and neck.
The pre-general election reports were due Friday and reflect finances through 15 days prior to the election. Supplemental reports on contributions of $500 or more must be filed through the final 14 days of the campaigns.
Nelson and Nemec are competing for election to the four years remaining on the six-year term that Dusty Johnson won in 2010 but resigned from to become Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s chief of staff.
Nelson, a former secretary of state from Pierre who was appointed to the PUC in early 2011, reported spending $40,623.66 so far and had $62,472.94 cash on hand.
Nemec, a former legislator from Holabird, showed $21,361.83 of spending, plus $5,000 still owed and $4,000 that he had loaned to his campaign. Nemec reported $30,773.93 cash remaining.
In the contest for a new six-year term, Fiegen reported spending $53,059.37 so far and had $89,351.99 cash left. She filed two supplemental reports Monday showing another $7,750 in additional contributions.
McGovern showed the highest spending so far in the PUC races. He reported expenditures totaling $97,238.20 plus $7,028.14 in debts, but still had $55,403.23 cash remaining.
Russell Clark, a Libertarian candidate for the seat, didn’t file a spending report. He instead submitted the paperwork to terminate his campaign committee.
Fiegen was appointed to the PUC last year after Democrat Steve Kolbeck resigned. Kolbeck had more than a year left on his six-year term.
The big spenders so far are the National Education Association and the Big Three health-care companies in South Dakota. They have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into making their cases about two of the measures on the Nov. 6 statewide ballot.
Sioux Falls-based Sanford and Avera and Rapid City-based Regional put in nearly $300,000 apiece, while NEA contributed $200,000, on behalf of Initiated Measure 15. It would raise the state sales tax to 5 percent from the current 4 percent.
School districts and Medicaid would split the proceeds from the additional tax. The official campaign committee for IM 15 is Moving South Dakota Forward, which was formed by the South Dakota Education Association — the state affiliate of NEA — and the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations.
The Forward committee’s campaign finance report shows $970,462.79 was spent as of the deadline for the pre-election report while $145,977.88 cash remained on hand.
The No On 15 committee was dwarfed in effort and money, reporting that $15,885.09 had been spent and $25,374.91 cash remained.
No On 15’s biggest contributors were Harvey Jewett, of Aberdeen, who wrote a $10,000 check and Dusty Johnson’s now-mothballed PUC campaign committee, which gave $3,000.
The legislation known as HB 1234 that would make a half-dozen or more major changes in South Dakota’s laws regarding public schools has some politically active citizens reaching deep into their checkbooks to defend it. The legislation is the subject of Referred Law 16 on the general election ballot.
The South Dakota Education Association is battling to defeat Referred Law 16. The measure came from the governor and had pieces added to it by Republicans in the Legislature.
In the end, only Republican legislators voted for it, and many Republicans joined all of the Democrats in opposing its passage during the 2012 session.
Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard can’t use public funds to defend the law in a campaign, so there is a surrogate group called Committee For South Dakota Students. It has spent $111,546 so far, with $1,954 cash remaining on hand.
Bill Byrne, of Sioux Falls, formed the committee and gave $15,000. Harvey Jewett, of Aberdeen, donated $10,000. A national organization called Students First made the single largest contribution of $50,000. The South Dakota Chamber of Commerce ballot question committee put in $4,000.
The committee received four-figure contributions from John Calvin, of Watertown, $1,000; Dana Dykhouse, of Sioux Falls, $5,000; Mark Graham, of Sioux Falls, $2,500; Thomas Huegel, of Sioux Falls, $5,000; Garry Jacobson, of Sioux Falls, $5,000; Dan Kirby, of Sioux Falls, $5,000; Joe Kirby, of Sioux Falls, $5,000; and Ron Moguist, of Sioux Falls, $5,000. There also were some smaller contributors.
As for the No On 16 committee, its money is coming from two sources: $15,000 from the South Dakota Education Association, the labor organization for teachers and other educators; and $523,000 from the National Education Association, the national organization that is the umbrella for the state-level labor organizations.
The No On 16 committee reported spending $437,352.93 so far and had $100,742.07 cash remaining on hand.
RL 14, others
There isn’t a committee formed to opposed Referred Law 14, the governor’s plan to make millions of dollars available annually for state grants to business projects costing more than $5 million. The Yes on 14 committee reported spending $79,336.49 and had $7,138.51 remaining.
The legislation was petitioned to a statewide vote. Leading the referral drive last year was South Dakota Democratic Party chairman Ben Nesselhuf.
The four constitutional amendments on the ballot — all placed there by the Legislature — don’t have any “yes” committees. The only “no” committee was formed by state Sen. Stan Adelstein, R-Rapid City, to opposed the proposed balanced-budget requirement in Amendment P.
Adelstein’s committee didn’t file a spending report by the deadline but submitted a supplemental report showing that he donated $2,526.96 on Friday.