House surprises bill sponsor, rejects higher campaign contribution limits
Rep. Roger Chase, R-Huron, talks with House Republican intern Abbie Schneider on the House floor during the 2023 legislative session at the Capitol in Pierre. (Joshua Haiar/SD Searchlight)
PIERRE – To the surprise of its Republican sponsor, a bill aimed at raising the maximum amount that individuals and entities can contribute to political campaigns in South Dakota has failed to pass in the state’s House of Representatives.
The bill, which was introduced during South Dakota’s 38-day legislative session in Pierre, would have raised two limits. The limit on contributions from a person or entity to a statewide candidate would have risen from $4,000 to $5,000, and the limit on contributions from a person or entity to a legislative or county candidate would have risen from $1,000 to $2,000.
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The bill, backed by Republican leadership, faced opposition from other Republicans.
Rep. Jon Hansen, R-Dell Rapids, argued that such an increase would give too much influence to wealthy donors and special interest groups.
“You know what people really do not like in politics?” Hansen asked fellow members of the House. “Big corporations and big money that comes in and buys influence.”
Rep. Phil Jensen, R-Rapid City, said he voted against the bill because he believes there should be no limit on campaign contributions.
Democrats also opposed the bill. Rep. Oren Lesmeister, D-Parade, rhetorically asked his fellow legislators, “Did anybody in this body not get reelected because they didn’t get enough money?”
Laughter erupted in response.
“Nope. So, I think it’s pretty simple,” Lesmeister said.
But supporters of the measure said the increases are overdue.
Rep. Roger Chase, R-Huron, is the prime sponsor of the bill. He said it’s a common sense adjustment to a limit that hasn’t been adjusted for 22 years, and he was surprised to receive pushback from his Republican colleagues.
“I didn’t think we would have a whole lot of debate on this,” Chase said.
The vote against the bill was 37-31.
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