Politics

Closer Look At Groups Behind Political Mailers

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Political mailers are raising questions for some South Dakota voters.

They're both from South Dakotans Against Higher Taxes.  The group wants you to vote no on Initiated Measure 25.  One says the South Dakota Democratic party opposes the measure; The other says the state's Republican Party opposes it. 

Initiated Measure 25 would raise taxes on tobacco and put some of that money toward technical schools.

State Representative Mark Mickelson says it would help with the workforce shortage.  Opponents say the measure ignores other forms of education.  They also worry the money could end up in the State's General fund. 

So, who are the opponents?  South Dakotans Against Higher Taxes is located on East Capitol Avenue in Pierre.  It's in the same building as the South Dakota Petroleum and Propane Marketers Association, which are run by the group's treasurer.  Dawna Leitzke is a lobbyist for convenience stores and truck stops. 

Campaign finance reports, detailing spending, aren't due until October 22.  But a document filed with the Secretary of State confirms that Philip Morris has donated or plans to donate more than $9,000 to the vote no on IM-25 campaign.  

So, who else opposes the measure?

The logo may be on one of the mailers, but a spokesman with the South Dakota Democratic Party says South Dakotans against Higher Taxes didn't have permission to use it.  He says there was a resolution against IM-25 during the state convention, but the Democratic party is not taking an official stand on the issue. 

We also reached out to the Republican Party.  A party official tells us it passed a resolution opposing the measure at its convention.  Because of that resolution, he says the party opposes IM-25 and it gave permission to include the logo on the mailer.  

This isn't the first time a tobacco company has gotten involved in a South Dakota ballot issue.  In 2006, South Dakotans voted to raise the tax on cigarettes by a dollar a pack.  Phillip Morris donated $65,000 to fight the tax.  R.J. Reynolds spent $2,700 fighting it.  Even with those donations, the measure still passed. 

Review all ballot issues South Dakota voters will decide by visiting Your Local Election Headquarters page


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