PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A promise that her 2018 gubernatorial campaign wouldn’t accept contributions from business entities has proven difficult for Kristi Noem.
During the past year, Governor Noem had an outside accounting firm go through her finance records from that campaign. One of the results: Refunds totaling $1,500 to four South Dakota businesses.
But while those refunds were being written, KELOLAND News has found her re-election campaign was accepting business donations, in much larger amounts, that were routed through what are known as political action committees.
Her campaign’s finance director, Beth Hollatz, who is also the governor’s deputy chief of staff and paid $120,105, said in an email Tuesday: “Our re-election campaign has to face the reality of South Dakota law as it stands today, and accordingly going forward we will abide by the contribution limits posted here: https://sdsos.gov/elections-voting/assets/CFContributionLimits.pdf.“ .
To straighten out its finances after the 2018 election, the Noem campaign hired Sioux Falls certified public accounting firm Nelson & Nelson. Ted Hustead of Wall was the 2018 campaign’s treasurer.
In a letter dated January 31, 2020, Hustead told the state elections office that the accounting firm identified four corporate contributions from the campaign: “Although legally permissible, these corporate contributions are inconsistent with the 2018 campaign pledge to not accept corporate contributions and will be reflected as a refund on the next report filed with your office.”
The refunds were then listed on Noem’s pre-primary report filed in May 2020: $1,000 Kones Korner in rural Castlewood; $250 Anders Trucking of rural Union Center; $200 NTA, Ltd., a refrigerated trucking company at Huron; and $50 Dakota Structures of rural Milbank.
KELOLAND News, while researching a previous story on fundraising and spending since the 2018 election by Noem and her Democratic opponent, Billie Sutton, found two instances where money from businesses was routed into political action committees in 2019. The PACs then donated to Noem’s campaign: Pierre-based Maypac gave $7,500; and Sioux Falls-based Building South Dakota gave $15,000.
Maypac had ended 2018 with a fund balance of $116.53. Its chairman and treasurer is Brett Koenecke, an attorney with the May Adam Gerdes Thompson law firm of Pierre. The PAC received one contribution in 2019: $10,000 from May Adam Gerdes Thompson. It showed one donation in 2019: $7,500 to the Kristi for Governor committee.
Building South Dakota organized as a political action committee December 12, 2018, but reported zero spending and zero donations for 2018. Its chairman, Chris Thorkelson, and its treasurer, Jon Knutson, listed Lloyd Companies email addresses. The committee used the main address of C.R. Lloyd Associates, Inc., doing business as Lloyd Companies, of Sioux Falls.
In 2019, Building South Dakota reported three contributions: $5,000 from Craig Lloyd, $5,000 from Thorkelson, and $10,000 from CR Lloyd Associates, Inc. All three used the same address. The PAC then gave $15,000 to the Kristi for Governor committee.
Both Maypac and Building South Dakota would have violated the $4,000 limit that state law sets for business entities’ contributions to statewide candidates. State law allows PACs to give unlimited amounts to a statewide candidate. There is a $10,000 limit on an entity’s contribution to a PAC.