Larry Rhoden, the running mate of governor candidate Kristi Noem, violated campaign finance law by organizing his fundraising committee too late, according to the state’s top election official.
South Dakota Codified Law 12-27-3 says a candidate “shall file a statement of organization for a candidate campaign committee with the secretary of state not later than fifteen days after becoming a candidate.”
Rhoden’s violation of the law was first alleged Thursday by the campaign of Noem’s opponent, Billie Sutton, in a news release. Secretary of State Shantel Krebs, who oversees South Dakota’s elections, subsequently confirmed to the Rapid City Journal that Rhoden had violated the law by filing his statement of organization late.
Krebs said her office sent Rhoden a letter June 25, which was the day the office received certification of Rhoden’s candidacy from the South Dakota Republican Party (he had been nominated at the party’s state convention two days earlier). The letter informed Rhoden of his responsibility to file a financial interest statement and a statement of organization with 15 days of his certification.
The 15-day deadline fell on July 10, according to another state law that governs such factors as when and whether to count weekends and holidays when computing a filing deadline.
Rhoden filed his financial interest statement — which is a disclosure of a candidate’s major sources of income — on July 9. But he did not file a statement of organization for his fundraising committee until Wednesday.
The Journal contacted Rhoden, a state representative from Union Center, by phone and asked why he was late in filing his statement of organization. He said, “We did do the filing.” The Journal then asked again why he filed late, and Rhoden asked to call back later. After nearly two hours passed without a return call, the Journal tried unsuccessfully to reach Rhoden again.
Eventually, attorney Matt McCaulley, a former legislator from Sioux Falls, emailed the Journal. McCaulley identified himself as counsel for the Rhoden for Lieutenant Governor campaign and asked what the Journal wanted to know. The Journal asked why Rhoden was late filing his statement of organization, and McCaulley responded with a written statement that did not directly address the question but said in part that a separate Rhoden campaign committee, Larry Rhoden for South Dakota, was established more than five years ago and has been active since that time.
But the statements of organization for that committee say it was organized for Rhoden’s legislative campaigns, not for his lieutenant governor campaign. McCaulley did not immediately respond to follow-up questions from the Journal.
A violation of the 15-day deadline to file a statement of organization is a Class 2 misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Krebs said her office has no authority to file a criminal complaint, but she said a citizen or the state’s attorney of Hughes County — which is home to the capital city of Pierre — could do so.
Hughes County State’s Attorney Roxanne Hammond said she generally does not file complaints herself without an investigation by law enforcement. She said any citizen could file a complaint with a law enforcement agency such as the Pierre Police Department or Hughes County Sheriff’s Office, which could then investigate and send a report for her consideration.
Noem is the Republican nominee for governor, and Sutton is the Democratic nominee. They will be on the Nov. 6 general election ballot along with the Libertarian nominee for governor, Kurt Evans.