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Hunhoff, SDDP Correlate GOP Donors and Corporate Welfare

Rep. Bernie Hunhoff (D-19/Yankton) held a press conference Thursday to spotlight big campaign contributions to South Dakota Republicans. He and the South Dakota Democratic Party found that corporate directors who donate to Republicans get a great return on their investment. Rep. Hunhoff identified $329,968 in contributions from directors of corporations that received $29.5 million in economic development grants from the state.

Wow—that's an 89-to-1 return on investment. Nice work, fellas!

Here's a quick list of some of the biggest givers and takers paying to play in South Dakota:

  • Dakota Turkey Growers
  • Glacial Lakes Energy
  • Horizontal Machining and Manufacturing
  • JH Investments
  • Premier Bankcard (wait a minute: Premier charges customers 79%, and they still need handouts from Pierre to stay afloat?)
  • Sioux Falls Health (another Allen Unruh outfit, enjoying government ledger-support)
  • SODA Partners
  • Tower Systems
  • Vantage Point Solutions

Madison businesses Rosebud Manufacturing and Secure Banking Solutions also make the list. In 2010, SBS chief Kevin Streff gave Dennis Daugaard $300; he received a $100,000 state grant. From 2006 to 2010, Rosebud's Donald Grayson and Brian Kern contributed $6,265 to Russell Olson, Dennis Daugaard, and the state GOP; in 2008, their company received $234,500 from Pierre.

Hunhoff's press release and the full spreadsheet are available online here.

Rep. Hunhoff emphasizes that he isn't against economic development. But he cites the above data as a key reason we should vote no on Referred Law 14, the "Large Project Fund" that would raid the general fund to extend the Governor's ability to hand out such corporate welfare to big political donors.

Hunhoff said that Democrats worked with Republicans on numerous other policies including the expansion of TIFDs, relaxing manufacturer liabilities, preserving tourism funding, road improvements, protecting investments in wind, safeguarding funding for Ellsworth Air Force Base, and developing ethanol in South Dakota.

Now Governor Daugaard wants to expand a budget-busting boondoggle without protections against pay to play and kickbacks, said Hunhoff.

"After identifying hundreds of thousands of dollars in suspicious campaign contributions from corporate welfare recipients, it's easy to see why the public has such low regard for economic development initiatives," says Hunhoff. "We need to restore the public's trust in economic development programs before creating new programs" [Rep. Bernie Hunhoff, press release, October 18, 2012].

No matter how we structure our laws, rich guys and Pierre politicians will find ways to scratch each other's backs. But we don't need to make their backscratching any easier. Follow the money, and Vote No on Referred Law 14!


  1. Steve Sibson 2012.10.22

    Nice research. Now admit that Democrats do the same thing.

  2. Testor15 2012.10.22

    The Dems need to work fast and hard to show how this ties into ALEC model legislation. The pro statement even intimates the link. This is not just an abuse of South Dakota workers, it is an unconstitutional action being taken.
    Pay to Play? Pay to Play to Steal.

  3. Testor15 2012.10.22

    Sibby, if the Dems had the power to do it they would probably try. If they did they should be prosecuted and sent prison. As such, the current officeholders are doing it by now making it 'legal' and in your face. This is a constitutional issue and should be defeated. Any current officeholders involved should be defeated and the rest prosecuted.

  4. larry kurtz 2012.10.22

    Rep. Hunhoff can out all the data that can be amassed; but, until Dems create a movement to stir turnout among the 18-32 demographic going largely unregistered in South Dakota, those who likely self-identify as independent sound just like Sibby.

  5. Steve Sibson 2012.10.22

    "Sibby, if the Dems had the power to do it they would probably try."

    Its called IM15. Dems also support pay to play with wind energy, and so does the SDGOP. The Dems had their chance to end pay to play in 2008 with IM10. They choose not to support it, and the same with the SDGOP.

  6. Dougal 2012.10.22

    Would Democrats do the same if given unfettered control of the State Capitol since 1979? Maybe. Probably. People are greedy.

    The real concern is what happens when one party has control for far too long. I think rational people believe 33 years of one-party control is ridiculous. The evidence is in what Bernie discussed in his press conference. Do enough people care to make a dent on the GOP machine in Pierre this year? Do enough Democrats care to fill all 105 legislative races and make a full court press to take back control ... or at least create some balance beyond having only five seats in the State Senate?

    The state effectiveness of Democrats cratered when the Daschle machine started rotting during the 2002 cycle and went up in flames in 2004. The embarrassing choice to avoid running against John Thune in 2010 contributed to Stephanie Herseth Sandlin's defeat, and showed a party in a coma. I think it's a party that grew far too dependent on the federal candidates and is still waiting for a Senate campaign to bail them out. Nothing will change until the Dems' state central committee gets a shot in the arm and takes charge of the party's destiny, irrespective of any considerations to Senate campaigns who run against their state party.

    The upside is 2008 when the Obama/Clinton primary created a massive surge in Democratic registrations and practically zero growth in the GOP column. Yes, that was also a federal race, but it wasn't involved in stepping on the state party and statehouse races. The takeaway from 2008 is people responded to a new message and Democrats can be competitive in South Dakota with the right people and activities to stimulate interest. If Democrats can win one of the three statewide races in 2012 and increase a few seats in the legislature, it may indicate that the slide is ending.

  7. Steve Sibson 2012.10.22

    Dougal, imagine if all the money that is being used to push IM15 was used to support Democratic candidates.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.10.22

    Steve, I can't prove Democrats would do the same thing, because Democrats haven't been in a position to do the same thing since the Kneip administration. Replace Daugaard with a Democrat in 2014, and we'll talk. As Testor says, if Dems do get power and they do act in the same corrupt fashion, we should string them up as well.

    But here's what matters right now on this ballot: this pay-to-play corruption happens. We need to minimize opportunities for such corruption to take place, regardless of who's in power. IM15 creates more opportunities for such corruption; voting No on 15 reduces those opportunities. Let's work together to defeat IM15 and take away one more tool of the crony capitalists, whatever party they may use for their personal gain.

  9. tonyamert 2012.10.22


    The grant received by SBS was competitively awarded, not handed out. I'm familiar with how it was awarded.

    The value of this spreadsheet is questionable. They don't show a statistical bias. To do so, they would need to show that the amount of grants that they cite in this spreadsheet is large when compared to the total number/amount of grants over the time period (12 years). Basically what they have done is cherry pick some grants that appear to support a conclusion. They don't however put it in proper context.

    Their conclusion is that the grant process is corrupt. However, their presented data does not support that conclusion. Their data only says that some people who have received grants contributed donations to the SD republican party.

    Don't mistake my intent here, I'm all for stamping out corruption. However, their data here doesn't show that corruption is a problem at all.

  10. Justin 2012.10.22

    Trust me I know isn't a sufficient argument Tony. Where are these contracts and where are the copies of the other bids on the SD website that is supposed to document such things? If there isn't a reason for hiding them why are they hidden?

  11. G-Man 2012.10.22

    I no longer live in South Dakota, but, when I did I offered my humble opinion that the Democrats in the state need to: "McGovern Up." When faced against what seemed to be unsurmoutable odds in the early 1950's, George got in his car and drove across the state for several years, working hard to build the party. His hard work and diligence paid off. Before I left South Dakota this year, I did not see that in the Democratic Party. In fact, I haven't seen them really try in years. The election of 2010 is a prime example of not trying, but, giving up and we wonder why the Republicans have a super majority?!? If you want to win, you must: "McGovern Up," and take responsibility for your own destiny.

  12. Michael Black 2012.10.22

    What is the correlation coefficient Cory between contributing to the Republican Party and receiving grants?

    Have any Democrats received grants or loans?

  13. G-Man 2012.10.22

    However, great credit to Cory. Instead of sitting on his laurels, like McGovern, Mr. Heidelberger continues to do the hard work others won't do. He has committed himself to providing an informative and open forum, that in my opinion, has been the #1 political blog site for years in South Dakota. Cory has been working hard to get the word out to ensure these referendums are victorious in repealing the Governor's corporate leaning agenda. He has committed himself to keeping the people of South Dakota informed during an era in which most of the media in the state have shirked in their responsibility to present both sides. Cory has done all of this while he fulfills his other responsibilities of teaching and fathering.

  14. Rorschach 2012.10.22

    You are right G-Man. All credit to Cory. I don't know how he does all that he does, but I'm glad that he does it.

  15. lora 2012.10.22

    Allen Unruh's corportion "Sioux Falls Health" was established on 03-15-2012...(file # DB056742) Im sure to be a recipient that made sure the "tea party" (of which Allen also controls that name in SD) is favorably behind Daugaard. But was this shell corporation desolved and brought back again? ...because Honhoff's research shows "Sioux Falls Health" was given money BEFORE 03-15-2012....just curious...
    no... I'm VERY curious if Unruh got any money right before he tried to get me to stop accusing Dauggard of pushing ObamaCare in SD. Is that why Unruh would not even look at my reseach proving it? Hope Im wrong here...hope Unruh did not get any money from Daaguard's Large Project fund this year

  16. Jana 2012.10.22

    G-Man, Instead of sitting on his laurels, like McGovern??? What are you talking about?

  17. lora 2012.10.22

    Is that $15,000 to Allen Unruh's Sioux Falls Health LLC? Or is it $1,500,000, or is this a mistake?

  18. G-Man 2012.10.22

    Jana, please reread what I wrote and how I wrote it. Correct me if I'm wrong, but, I believe you are reading it as: "Instead of sitting on his laurels like McGovern, Mr. Heidelberger continues to do the hard work others won't do." If you scroll up and carefully reread what I wrote, you will notice that I placed a comma between "laurels" and "like McGovern," to read: "Instead of sitting on his laurels, like McGovern, Mr. Heidelberger continues to do the hard work others won't do. Meaning can be lost when not read carefully. In other words, if my words were read correctly, I was conveying that neither Mr. McGovern or Mr. Heidelberger sat on their laurels but they both worked hard and NOT hardly worked.

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.10.22

    G, R: thank you for the compliment! I enjoy this work immensely.

    English teacher moment: G, I can see Jana's point. I recognize the separation you are trying to make with the comma (and indeed, "Instead of sitting on his laurels like McGovern" would have expressed exactly the negative sentiment Jana heard), but I can see the room for misinterpretation. The difficulty comes in piling two introductory clauses at the front of the sentence. You want to compound "Instead of sitting on his laurels, Heidelberger continues..." and "Like McGovern, Heidelberger continues. May I suggest this edit: "Instead of sitting on his laurels, Heidelberger continues, as McGovern did, to do..."?

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.10.22

    Of course, some might suggest that my accepting any comparison between my casual blogging from the couch and George McGovern's hard years of campaigning on the road insults McGovern's work as much as Mr. Mercer's post-mortem snark yesterday.

  21. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.10.22

    Tony, I do not misinterpret your intention, and I agree: we need a much more extensive accounting to make any firm conclusions. As the Hunhoff press release notes, it's hard to get the full information on the corporate handouts without more transparency.

    If anyone can update these initial findings with a thorough analysis of donors and recipients from all parties, I'll happily report them. But the basic facts presented here are still worth reporting: we have Republicans and big-business donors alike who say they believe in smaller government and free markets but who happily dole out/accept government dollars that help pick winners in the marketplace.

  22. Douglas Wiken 2012.10.22

    For the first time after missing several such forums before, I went to the Winner Chamber of Commerce forum for candidates in county and District 21.

    The Republican candidates there echoed a chorus of "We all know government can't create jobs." Less than 30 minutes later they were all expressing support for Daugaard's corporate welfare/bribery bill....because it would bring jobs to South Dakota.

    Scott, one of the GOP legislative candidates proudly announced he is pro-life and pro-gun. Seems a bit contradictory to me, but Republicans apparently love to hear that kind of nonsense.

    One of the county GOP candidates for commissioner sounded more or less sane. The rest of them were out to lunch spinning their mental wheels on slippery mythology and zombie economics. The crap they spread has been proven wrong so many times, one might suspect even they would hesitate to keep dumping it out.

  23. Jana 2012.10.22

    Sincerely sorry to misread you G-Man and thanks for clarifying my hurried read. Glad we have a language arts as our host.

  24. Jana 2012.10.22

    grrrr...language artist! Guess I'll need to do some extra credit work to get my grade up.

  25. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.10.22

    Douglas, please tell me someone at the forum laughed out loud to hear such sport. Some hearty Biden-style ridicule could be the best medicine for the GOP.

    Jana: as I tell my kids, there is no extra credit. We just forge boldly on, reveling in our commas, semicolons, em dashes, and the wonders of word placement. :-)

  26. tonyamert 2012.10.23


    My objection is with this statement you make:

    "He and the South Dakota Democratic Party found that corporate directors who donate to Republicans get a great return on their investment. Rep. Hunhoff identified $329,968 in contributions from directors of corporations that received $29.5 million in economic development grants from the state.

    Wow—that's an 89-to-1 return on investment. Nice work, fellas!"

    The only facts reported here are that some individuals who receive grants/contracts from the State of south Dakota are Republican and contribute to republican campaigns.

    You are implying that there is an existing Quid pro quo agreement where republicans who provide campaign contributions get preferential treatment for grants. The evidence presented here does not support such a conclusion. Evidence that would support that conclusion would be to show that donators to campaign contributions receive an unusually high percentage of the grants/contracts. The information shown here does not show that. It only shows that some people who received grants/contracts contributed to political campaigns.

  27. JoeBoo 2012.10.23

    Tonyamert. I don't know, but in 2010, it was quite amazing how many former high paid government officials were donating big time to D.D. for Government account. Everything in South Dakota is going to be pay-to-play in some aspect just because of size, if you donate for a local candidate it is quite possible you can find some type of state money from the state. But I think if you look at it there are some certain situations where you really begin to wonder. Not all of them, but some of them, and this has been going on for a while just smell funny.

  28. tonyamert 2012.10.24


    Your points are simply coincidence just like the information CAH presented in his OP. If there are obvious games being played here it should be easy to point them out as a systematic bias. Nothing points to that conclusion currently. I'm quite tired of people making unsubstantiated allegations. If you have actual evidence present it. If not, keep the warrant-less accusations to yourself. They simply distract from real and meaningful issues.

  29. Rorschach 2012.10.24

    How do you feel about the contents of Secretary of State Gant's Economic Report published at taxpayer expense, tonyamert? Is that analysis of a higher quality than that of Rep. Hunhoff?

  30. Justin 2012.10.24

    As I've said Tony, as long as the state hides the data proving that low bids win government contracts, circumstancial evidence will and should be considered damning. There is a good way to prove that taxpayer money is going to the low bidder rather than the bidder offering the biggest contribution to GOP campaign funds: publish the data online. It is as simple as that. If there is no reason to obscure it, don't obscure it. As long as the ball is being hidden, it is a reasonable assumption that where there is smoke there is fire.

  31. Justin 2012.10.24

    Btw, I know this article is about grants, not contracts, but you mentioned SBS and I believe there is abuse, corruption and corporate welfare rampant in both processes. If it is off base, prove it. We are not given access to the full data as far as I know and there must be a reason.

  32. Testor15 2012.10.24

    It is not our job as citizens to ferret out corruption but to always ask the holders of our trust they are worthy of the office. Currently the holders of the offices do not allow us to trust.

  33. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.10.24

    Hang on, R: if the best defense I can offer for my blogging ever comes down to, "Well, it's no worse than what Jason Gant does," I deserve to have my blogging license suspended.

    Tony makes a reasonable point: we are short on data to make firm conclusions. The data here show that some Republican donors get big government grants. In South Dakota, that should not be surprising: if I randomly distributed grants, I would find more Republicans receiving grants than Democrats, and I would likely intersect more Republican donors than Democratic donors.

    In the interest of science, we clearly have an obligation to elect a Democratic governor in 2014, keep close track of all donations and economic development grants, and test the hypothesis.

  34. G-Man 2012.10.25

    Cory, point well taken. I guess I could have written it more clearly too.

  35. G-Man 2012.10.25

    Jana, thanks for the apology. I wasn't upset, but, trying to clearify something that I admit was written in a confusing manner.

Comments are closed.