PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A restriction on campaign spending that the South Dakota Legislature added in 2017 specifically allows a campaign to contribute to non-profit charitable organizations. That state law is how Governor Kristi Noem’s campaign is explaining the decision to pay for dinners Monday night for 600 armed-forces veterans and their families.

The dinner in Sioux Falls, which will also feature Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden, comes on the same evening as Noem’s two challengers, Democrat Jamie Smith and Libertarian Tracey Quint, take the stage without her at a South Dakota Public Broadcasting gubernatorial debate ahead of the November 8 election. Noem has limited herself to one debate this fall.

Matt McCaulley, a Sioux Falls lawyer representing her campaign, said in a statement to KELOLAND News on Monday, “Governor Noem is honored to support and thank veterans and their families this evening. The event tonight is a ticketed event and is open to the public – it is not a campaign fundraiser and is not a get out the vote rally.”

McCaulley continued, “The purpose of the event at the Alliance tonight is to honor veterans, not recruit voters. Any and all proceeds of this event benefit non-profit veterans organizations, and the use of campaign funds for this purpose is specifically authorized under South Dakota law (SDCL 12-27-50).”

Noem’s campaign is making a donation to the South Dakota Military Heritage Alliance, which is hosting the dinner.

Another state law defines various acts as bribery of voters. Whether a meal several weeks before the election is banned as “other valuable consideration” isn’t clear. For example, Democratic state Representative Shawn Bordeaux of Mission has described $5,500 of event expenses as “Feeding the public in five communities” on his current pre-election report.

In 1997, the western South Dakota community of Wasta was told to stop its election-day tradition of offering food at the local polling place by Mark Barnett, who was South Dakota attorney general at the time.

Noem originally declined the SDPB debate because she said she would be treated unfairly.

“In the past, Governor Noem has made clear that she will not participate in debates hosted by hyper-partisan organizations or outlets. SDPB has repeatedly promoted the radical effort to re-write American history and cancel our Founding Fathers,” Ian Fury, a spokesman for Noem’s campaign, said in a statement at the time.