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South Dakota governor asks for donations to help Trump — but they go into her pocket

The governor can give a maximum of $2,800 to Donald Trump’s campaign under federal law.

By Associated Press - November 10, 2020
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Kristi Noem

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has enthusiastically taken up Donald Trump’s efforts to contest the results of the presidential election, asking for online donations to “help us bring it home for the president,” but it appears the donations are set to flow into her own reelection account.

The Republican governor, a close Trump ally, launched a fundraising campaign soon after the election was called for Democratic nominee Joe Biden on Saturday. The website soliciting donations has “Kristi Noem for Governor” in large letters at the top, but below that, the message is all about Trump, saying that he “needs our support while the far-left Dems declare a victory for Biden before all the votes are counted.” It urges donors to “Please help us bring it home for the president!”

The site allows contributors to check the amount of their donation and includes a box to cover a processing fee “so 100% of my donation goes to Kristi for Governor.”

Noem, who was first elected in 2018 and would be up for reelection in 2022, did not respond to a request for comment on how the money raised would be used. Her campaign committee chairman, Steve Kirby, said he had no comment on how the funds would be used.

It’s unlikely that much, if any, of the money will end up going to Trump, said Paul S. Ryan, the vice president of policy and litigation at Common Cause, a campaign finance watchdog. Ryan, a campaign finance lawyer, pointed out that the governor can give a maximum of $2,800 to Trump’s campaign under federal law. If she wanted more to flow to Trump, she could have directed donors to Trump’s own donation site.

“In all likelihood, she is keeping this money that she is raising,” Ryan said. “If she were actually interested in raising money for Donald Trump’s own legal efforts, she would use a joint-fundraising committee.”

Federal election law makes it difficult for state campaign committees like Noem’s to donate to federal campaigns because it would have to ensure the donations it receives meet federal contribution limits.

Ryan compared Noem’s solicitation to Trump’s current fundraising push. Trump’s solicitation, though billed as raising money for his legal fight, notes that half of contributions will go to pay off general election campaign debt.

“He’s setting the example at the top of the party, at the top of the ticket,” Ryan said. “It doesn’t surprise me to see Noem doing something similar.”

Noem has emerged as a conservative star during Trump’s campaign, with her travels to presidential proving grounds like New Hampshire and Iowa fueling speculation that she is eyeing a 2024 run.

The national attention has helped her fill up a campaign war chest, amassing more donations in the two weeks leading up to Election Day than she did in the first five months of the year. She has raised more than $1 million in contributions to her gubernatorial campaign in the last six months.

The Republican governor has increasingly seized on national hot-button issues. Last week, she furthered Trump’s allegations of widespread voter fraud by tweeting that election systems were “rigged,” even as votes were still being tallied. No evidence of such fraud has yet emerged.

Trump has made an aggressive pitch to donors to help finance lawsuits and encouraged supporters to rally against accepting the results of the election.

Noem has made it clear she will take up Trump’s fight. In a Sunday appearance on ABC News, she said, “When you break the process on which we elect our leaders, you will break America forever. So this isn’t just about this election, this is about every election in the future.”


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