As the June primary inches closer, the gloves are coming off in South Dakota's U.S. Senate Race. On Monday, in a joint news conference, Democrat Rick Weiland and Republican Stace Nelson questioned Republican candidate Mike Rounds's campaign fundraising.
Nelson and Weiland have challenged Rounds to release the number of out-of-state cities and towns he has visited during the campaign and how many days he has spent asking out-of-state supporters for campaign donations. So far, Rounds has raised $2.9 million, confirmed by his campaign.
"Keep in mind what brought Stace and I together today. It's our concern that this senate seat could go to the highest bidder," Weiland said.
Weiland and Nelson pointed out, multiple times, their differences as candidates. However, both men said they believe too much of Rounds's money is coming from outside of South Dakota. According to the Federal Election Commission, Rounds's funds include donations from Goldman Sachs in New York and The Cypress Group in Washington, D.C.
"I am concerned at this point that we are allowing outside special interests to buy our elections. When a candidate is boasting he's getting 76 percent of his contributions out of D.C. and the east coast, folks, I don't know a lot of South Dakotans who live in D.C. and the east coast," Nelson said.
"Big money has gotten in the way of a government that used to be of, for, and by us. Not big corporations and big donors," Weiland said.
Both Nelson and Weiland have also raised money from out-of-state donors. When directly asked about his own out-of-state fundraising, Weiland did not deny it, but also did not directly answer the question.
Both also question Rounds's campaign travel, saying they are spending a majority of their campaigns touring South Dakota.
"It's probably no secret that Stace and I don't share a lot of the same political philosophies. We have found some common ground," Weiland said.
Rounds's campaign declined any type of interview, but campaign manager, Rob Skjonsberg, sent KELOLAND News the following statement.
"There wasn't anything new that came out of the press conference. We're thankful and proud of our grassroots support. We have over 2,000 volunteers and more than 2,000 South Dakotans have contributed to our campaign. Over 7,000 South Dakotans signed Mike's petition and we had 260 South Dakotans circulating those petitions. In fact, I'd suggest that no one in this race has more South Dakota grassroots support than Mike Rounds.
The bottom line is strong grassroots support leads to fundraising success. Mike's driven thousands of miles traveling the state every week - talking to South Dakotans. We're focused on issues that South Dakotans care about -reining in federal government overreach and intrusion, repealing and replacing Obamacare and eliminating the national debt."