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Are Heartland CPD’s Contributions to Sioux Falls Event Center Campaign Legal?

Let's piece this together:

  1. Heartland Consumer Power District is a public corporation and political subdivision of the state of South Dakota (SDCL 49-35-3).
  2. Political subdivisions of the state "may not expend or permit the expenditure of public funds for the purpose of influencing the nomination or election of any candidate, or for the petitioning of a ballot question on the ballot or the adoption or defeat of any ballot question" (SDCL 12-27-20).
  3. Heartland Consumer Power District is spending money on a political campaign to promote the adoption of a ballot question.

The main question: are Heartland Consumer Power District's dollars public dollars? A consumer power district can't levy taxes; its money comes solely from the sale of electricity (at wholesale rates). A consumer power district can "expend its money and use its assets and property to promote the district in any manner as the board of directors may determine" (SDCL 49-37-1), but surely one statute can't authorize a direct violation of another.

SDCL 49-35-2 defines the purpose of a consumer power district as "supplying electric energy and encouraging and extending the use thereof within or without the State of South Dakota." The Build It Now campaign is using electric energy to promote the ballot question, so by that count, Heartland appears to be acting within its statutory mandate. But that statute raises a subsidiary question: Should we really have a law on the books creating a political entity that encourages the use of more energy? Don't we have a greater public interest in using less energy? Perhaps we need to overhaul state law to turn our consumer power districts into conserver power districts.

One Comment

  1. Michael Black 2011.10.08

    I suggest you file the complaint with the SD Attorney General's Office and then let them decide. Get all of your friends to do the same.

    Will that leave you satisfied?

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