Public records filed over the holiday weekend show that an out-of-state political action committee has now spent about $240,000 to oppose Shantel Krebs in South Dakota’s Republican U.S. House primary election.
That amount, which has been spent in just the past two weeks, is more than half of what Krebs’ own campaign committee has reported spending on her entire campaign since last year.
The out-of-state PAC is Citizens for a Strong America Inc., which has reported raising $3.48 million this election cycle and is registered to an address in Charlotte, N.C. The PAC’s biggest donor, with $650,000 contributed, is Nelson Peltz, who is CEO and founding partner of the Trian Partners investment management firm in New York.
Because Citizens for a Strong America Inc. is a so-called super PAC, it can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on independent expenditures, so long as it does not coordinate with the candidates it supports or opposes.
As reported by the Rapid City Journal on Sunday, Citizens for a Strong America Inc. and several other PACs have ties to a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit called No Labels. Those PACs, which have collectively raised about $9 million from a few dozen wealthy donors, have been active in a handful of Democratic and Republican U.S. House primaries around the nation this election cycle.
The goal of No Labels, according to an interview granted by one of its leaders to The Hill newspaper in March, is to oppose political extremism and support candidates who are committed to problem-solving. No Labels also hopes to help re-elect and elect members of the House Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group of U.S. representatives that was inspired by No Labels.
The attacks on Krebs could therefore be interpreted as an endorsement of the more mainstream of her two opponents, Dusty Johnson.
Krebs, during her campaign, has touted support from controversial figures including Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state known in part for his support of a so-called Muslim registry; and Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, known for a long history of inflammatory comments that recently included criticism of a teenage survivor of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting.
Neither Citizens for a Strong America Inc. nor No Labels has responded to multiple interview requests from the Journal since last week.
Krebs issued the following written statement Tuesday to the Rapid City Journal.
"Dusty and his never-trump DC allies are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to mislead and lie about my record of delivering results for the people of South Dakota,” the statement said, in part.
Johnson, in an interview with the Journal last week, acknowledged meeting with No Labels officials during a trip to Washington, D.C., more than six months ago while he was conducting numerous meetings with various groups about his campaign. He has not coordinated with No Labels or Citizens for a Strong America Inc., he said, and did not know of the existence of the PAC until it began campaigning against Krebs.
The campaign by Citizens for a Strong America Inc. against Krebs began May 17 with direct mail that cost $37,235.25 to print and send, according to the PAC’s reports to the Federal Election Commission.
The spending continued with $26,077.31 worth of additional direct mail that was sent May 21; a third round of direct mail worth $38,735.25 that was distributed Friday; and a pair of expenses for unspecified media disseminated Saturday — a $119,074 expense for “placed media” and a $20,000 expense for “media production cost.”
The PAC’s total spending against Krebs, according to public reports filed through Tuesday afternoon, is $241,121.81.
By comparison, Krebs’ own campaign committee had reported spending $409,471.19 through May 16 on her behalf since the committee was formed in March 2017.
Some postcards sent by Citizens for a Strong America Inc. and obtained by the Journal have portrayed Krebs as a sinister-looking “Big Brother” because of her past willingness to consider using tracking devices to tax motorists by the mile. Another postcard has portrayed Krebs as “A Royal Pain for Taxpayers,” based on several votes she cast during her past service in the South Dakota Legislature.
Krebs is currently South Dakota’s secretary of state. In Tuesday’s election, she is running for the Republican nomination for U.S. House against state Sen. Neal Tapio and also against Dusty Johnson, who was formerly a public utilities commissioner and was chief of staff to Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
The House seat will be open because U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., is running for governor.