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Sutton-Noem

Sutton-Noem

After criticizing the campaign of Kristi Noem for circumventing limits on individual campaign contributions, Billie Sutton’s campaign has benefited from a similar fundraising tactic.

State law caps contributions from individuals to statewide candidates at $4,000. But some Sutton supporters are getting around that limitation by donating the maximum allowable $10,000 to a political action committee, which can then give the money to Sutton’s campaign committee. Some donors have given $10,000 to one PAC and then additional money to another, with money from both PACs ultimately flowing to Sutton’s campaign.

Recent examples have included money that flowed through the Friends of George Kenzy PAC, which is named for and controlled by Sutton’s father-in-law, of Burke. The PAC received $10,000 individual contributions in recent months from Vincent Ryan, of Boston, and Justin Johnson, of Sioux Falls, plus some smaller contributions. The PAC then gave $23,000 to Sutton’s campaign on Thursday.

Another example is the Cowboy Caucus PAC, controlled by state Sen. Jason Frerichs, D-Wilmot. In recent months, the PAC received $10,000 individual contributions from Stan Adelstein, of Rapid City; from Pat Hall, also of Rapid City (who additionally gave $2,000 to the Kenzy PAC); and from the same Justin Johnson of Sioux Falls who gave to the Kenzy PAC, plus some smaller contributions. The Cowboy Caucus PAC then gave $35,855.20 to Sutton’s campaign on Friday.

The Sutton campaign has been critical of Noem for forming a joint fundraising committee to accept donations at a September fundraiser with President Donald Trump in Sioux Falls. That tactic allowed attendees at the Trump event to write checks for up to $23,000, with the money flowing in predetermined amounts to Noem’s campaign, Noem’s federal political action committee, the campaign of Noem’s running mate, and the state Republican Party.

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The Sutton campaign has said the Trump event broke a Noem campaign pledge to reject money from political action committees that were established to circumvent individual contribution limits.

Monday, the Sutton campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment about its own campaign-finance practices. The Noem campaign, which has denied breaking its campaign pledge, issued a statement from campaign manager Justin Brasell re-iterating that the Noem campaign will not take funds from PACs that were established with the intent to circumvent individual contribution limits. The statement also said "nor will Kristi's father-in-law be setting up a PAC to circumvent campaign finance laws."

"In fact," Brasell's statement said, "if elected governor, Kristi has committed to working with the state legislature to close these loopholes."

Noem, a Republican, and Sutton, a Democrat, are in a reportedly tight race for governor, which will be decided in next Tuesday's election. Libertarian Kurt Evans is also on the ballot.

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Contact Seth Tupper at seth.tupper@rapidcityjournal.com

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Enterprise Reporter

Enterprise reporter for the Rapid City Journal and author of "Calvin Coolidge in the Black Hills."