Visualizing U.S. Senate fundraising

People who have followed fundraising totals in South Dakota’s U.S. Senate race know the basic facts: Mike Rounds has raised by far the most, Nelson and Rhoden have raised the least, Weiland has been steady but unimpressive, and Bosworth has raised a lot of money from nationwide donors in unusual circumstances.

But here’s a way to visualize that fundraising at a glance. I used a tool called a heat map, which represents the density of points on a table, to map the cities the five candidates have raised money from. (This isn’t counting unitemized donations.)

Here, for example, is Stace Nelson's fundraising heat map:


(Larger interactive version) You can see Nelson has raised almost all his money in South Dakota, in a series of scattered clumps — not too much money in any one place. He also has a big clump in the Mitchell area, Nelson’s back yard. 

Contrast that with Larry Rhoden's fundraising:


(Larger interactive version) Rhoden has a lot less support in eastern South Dakota, but dominates West River. Rhoden also has a teensy bit more nationwide support, but nothing significant.

Annette Bosworth, on the other hand:


(Larger interactive version) South Dakota is almost barren. Bosworth has raised a lot more money than Rhoden and Nelson, but far less in South Dakota. Instead, Bosworth’s map is dotted with yellow, reflecting a lot of scattered fundraisign around the country, but few real concentrations. She does have a disproportionate amount from Florida and the eastern seaboard, as well as the metro areas Denver and Chicago. All this fits with Bosworth’s direct mail-based approach of targeting conservative donors — often retired — around the country.

Here’s Rick Weiland:


(Larger interactive version) Weiland has a broad national base of support, as well as a fair amount of donations from South Dakota. He’s not as concentrated in a few South Dakota cities as Rhoden and Nelson are, but significant portions of the map are covered with yellow and red. Weiland also has a big cluster in Washington, D.C. — despite his lack of support from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee — and is strong in Boston and San Francisco.

Finally, there’s Mike Rounds:


(Larger interactive version) Rounds has raised a lot more money than anyone, and that’s reflected on the map. He’s collected money from a huge swathe of South Dakota, with a particular concentration in the Sioux Falls area. Rounds has also taken in a lot of money in the nation’s big cities: D.C. (but less prominently than Weiland), Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles.

Jason Ravnsborg and Larry Pressler have yet to report any significant fundraising.

Here’s all the interactive links in one place:

Rounds files nominating petitions

Gov. Mike Rounds became the fourth U.S. Senate candidate to file his nominating petitions this cycle today, according to his campaign.

Rounds filed more than 7,000 signatures, well over the 1,955 signatures a Republican needs to make the ballot for a statewide office.

Republican state Rep. Stace Nelson was the first Senate candidate to fill petitions, followed by Republican state Sen. Larry Rhoden. Both of their petitions have been approved by Secretary of State Jason Gant, as have those of independent candidate Larry Pressler.

Democrat Rick Weiland and Republicans Annette Bosworth and Jason Ravnsborg, among announced candidates, have yet to file their petitions.

Weiland needs 1,221 valid signatures to make the ballot.

Typically candidates turn in a number of extra signatures as a buffer against some signatures being ruled invalid.

Under the radar, Rep. Kristi Noem has also filed her petitions for reelection. Gant approved them on Friday.

Noem’s Democratic opponent, Corinna Robinson, will be filing her petitions today.

Candidates have until next Tuesday, March 25, to turn in their petitions.

Fired-up Rounds sticks with partisan red meat in GOP dinner speech

U.S. Senate candidate Mike Rounds unveiled a high-energy stump speech Tuesday night at the first major political event of this year’s Republican primary.

Rounds, a former governor and one of five candidates seeking the Republican nomination, avoided his prior themes of his experience and pragmatic approach to government. Instead, speaking to his hometown crowd at the Hughes and Stanley County Republican parties’ annual dinner, Rounds nearly yelled at times in his call to “take back our country” with “good, solid South Dakota common sense.”

The other four Republican candidates for U.S. Senate all gave their own speeches at the event, hitting their own themes.

Annette Bosworth, a first-time candidate and the second-youngest in the field, emphasized her outsider status and youth.

"The next generation of Republicans need to be attracted to the table and engaged in the process," Bosworth said. "It’s part of why I run."

Stace Nelson, who says he’s the most conservative candidate running, talked about his support for the South Dakota Republican Party’s platform and made a series of position pledges.

"I will not vote for tax increases," Nelson said. "I will vote to cut government. I will vote to cut spending. I will vote with conservatives to defund Obamacare… I will not vote for judges who do not respect life and marriage, period."

Jason Ravnsborg, a Yankton attorney and Army reservist, was the only speaker to criticize presumptive Democratic nominee Rick Weiland by name. But Ravnsborg also urged practicality, saying Republicans need to have alternatives to big government programs they criticize.

"Obamacare, we’re all against it… but we can’t just simply say no. People won’t stand for that," said Ravnsborg, who endorsed Sen. Tom Coburn’s "Patient CARE Act" bill as a replacement.

And Larry Rhoden, a rancher and state legislative leader, said the next senator needs to have both conservative values and the ability to get results.

Strong principles and a backbone “mean little if you don’t possess the leadership skills to bring people together,” Rhoden said.

Tuesday’s event was the first time all five Republican U.S. Senate candidates have appeared at the same event. It also came on the same day that Nelson turned in his nominating petitions — the first candidate to complete that necessary step to gain access to the ballot.

Rounds, who hasn’t appeared on the ballot since his reelection bid in 2006, spent most of his speech blasting the Environmental Protection Agency, generalized government bureaucracy, and tax increases. But he also downplayed the ideological differences between himself and his rivals, most of whom have positioned themselves as a more conservative alternative to Rounds.

"You’re not going to find a whole lot of difference between all of us when it comes to the principles we believe in," Rounds said.

South Dakota Republicans will pick their nominee in the June 3 primary election. Candidates have until March 25 to file nominating petitions to make the ballot.

Panel approves pay hike for lawmakers

Legislator salaries should rise for the first time in 15 years, top legislative leaders said Monday.

Under the proposal, lawmakers’ annual salary would rise from $6,000 per year to $10,000. Newly elected legislators would get the raise next year, while current legislators wouldn’t see any increase in their pay until 2017.

Sen. Craig Tieszen said $6,000 was too low, meaning that only wealthy or retired citizens can spend three months each year in the Legislature.

"Does this Legislature reflect the demographics of your district and of the state?" Tieszen asked his colleagues. "The answer is clearly no."

Others agreed. Sen. Ryan Maher, R-Isabel, called the Legislature “one of the most expensive hobbies I’ve ever had,” and said he spends about $15,000 per year of his own money traveling around his huge rural district in north-central South Dakota.

Sen. Dan Lederman, R-Dakota Dunes, said a pay increase would help “keep a citizen legislature alive.”

"It is a good step for us to try to get the people involved in the process that don’t necessarily have the funds or the time," Lederman said.

The measure now heads to the full Senate after the Senate State Affairs Committee approved it 7-2, with Sen. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center and Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg, voting no.

Bosworth pokes at rival’s fundraising

U.S. Senate candidate Annette Bosworth reportedly had a very good financial quarter (though her actual FEC filing is not yet online), taking in $315,000. That’s less than Mike Rounds, but a lot more than her two rivals: Stace Nelson and Larry Rhoden.

Bosworth knows this. And, this morning, she pointed it out:

Rhoden raises $37K, has $73K on hand

U.S. Senate candidate Larry Rhoden raised $37,740 in the fourth quarter of the year, and has $72,862.15 in the bank.

That’s a step back from Rhoden’s first quarter, when he raised $62,550. His cash on hand is an increase from $55,000 after the first quarter.

Rhoden raised more than his rival Stace Nelson’s $31,040, but far less than frontrunner Mike Rounds’ $516,000 and Annette Bosworth’s reported $315,000.

Rhoden, the dog and the fencing pliers

I’ve had multiple people remark to me about the striking story told by state Sen. Larry Rhoden in yesterday’s article about South Dakota’s proposed bill making animal cruelty a felony. So here’s the full transcript of the remarks, with context.

Before Rhoden told his story about two ranchers living near him, state Rep. Anne Hajek, R-Sioux Falls, was arguing for the bill by talking about how many of the worst human murderers got their start torturing animals:

HAJEK: But they progress, and their violence, then, as they kill things, and they mutilate things, they want to move on to another being. And that generally is people. If we are able to get our arms around that and have some teeth around the law to deal with that if the case presents itself. Hopefully it won’t. But if it does, we right now do not have that mechanism to actually say, this is what the penalty is going to be because you decided to impale cat heads and run around.

As I said, the Colorado shooters, that’s what they did. They then moved on, but they would kill and mutilate animals.

I agree it’s extreme, I agree, and I hope we never see it.

RHODEN: My issue is extreme on the other side of the equation.

HAJEK: And we won’t touch that.

RHODEN: Well, with the current administration, the current people, but times are changing. You have more people that are willing to push the envelope. Now we create a felony — I’ll give you an extreme example on the other side. You know, there’s some characters in my country. A few years back a neighbor came to another neighbor, who was fencing in the ditch with his dog alongside, and he informed him that he lost some sheep the night before and he thought it was his dog that had done it. He said, well, I don’t think it was my dog. And he said, yeah, I really think it was. The rancher walked over and grabbed his dog — called his dog over, and opened his mouth, and there was wool in his teeth. He said, ‘I’ll be damned, you’re right,’ he took his fencing pliers, and killed him — killed the dog.

HAJEK: I think that is already addressed, in terms of if the animal is going after livestock.

RHODEN: He wasn’t. But, you read the statute, intentionally, willfully and maliciously inflicted death on the animal. 

HAJEK: I don’t feel really good about what he did. Maybe you do, but I don’t.

RHODEN: It was humane. But that’s my point. The dog was killed instantly. But who interprets that?

STATE VETERINARIAN DUSTIN OEDEKOVEN (a proponent of the animal cruelty law): Humane killing is defined. 

RHODEN: My case was made when Rep. Hajek said, “Oh, I don’t approve of that.”

HAJEK: Do we leave that hole, then, for those cases?

RHODEN: That’s the question. I know what you’re trying to do, and I — it just tears me up because I know full well what we’re trying to do.

STATE SEN. JIM BRADFORD, D-PINE RIDGE: I think too, what Sen. Rhoden is — this guy, if he needed to be charged… he could have got a misdemeanor. But this would not stick a felony on this guy, so he could never run for office, or vote.

Legislative session brings demands, opportunity for Senate candidates

When the South Dakota Legislature resumes on Tuesday, it brings with it new headaches for two of the people vying to be the next senator from South Dakota.

Larry Rhoden, a state senator, and Stace Nelson, a state representative, will spend more than half their time the next nine weeks attending committee hearings, caucus meetings and floor debates. Their Republican rivals Mike Rounds, Annette Bosworth and Jason Ravnsborg will be able to spend that time on the campaign trail in the state’s population centers.

"You’ve got basically eight weeks or so, where they’re more or less tied to a certain place for most of the week, and it’s going to limit their ability to do the kind of things candidates do — meeting with folks… (and) raising money," said Jon Schaff, a political science professor at Northern State University in Aberdeen. "It takes them off the campaign trail for a large amount of time."

And the two men say they don’t expect to skip many, if any, votes for their underdog U.S. Senate campaigns.

"It’s going to be a difficult task," said Nelson. "I’m not looking forward ot the hectic schedule that’s going to be (the legislative) session."

Nelson said skipping votes to campaign wouldn’t “be appropriate,” and Rhoden agreed.

"I feel comfortable in being able to keep the two segregated, and my number one priority when I’m in Pierre is as a state senator," Rhoden said.

There is a potential upside for both candidates, however. With daily attention on the Legislature, both men have a chance to stay in the news without having to buy advertising.

"Depending on how things go, they can generate some free publicity for themselves," Schaff said.

Making sure that publicity is good publicity could be harder. Both will be under a microscope, with every vote and every speech waiting to end up in an attack ad.

"It can be a minefield when you’re in session, because you are under a microscope regardless of running in a statewide race," Rhoden said. "I think that’s magnified (when running for Senate), especially in my position chairing the State Affairs committee."

Nelson will be in the spotlight, too. Though he doesn’t chair any committees, he said he’s looking at 12 different bills, and plans to be outspoken on several major issues, including opposing a proposed repeal of the death penalty.

The key, Schaff said, will be for the two men to be “disciplined” in their actions.

The other three Republican candidates have jobs to occupy some of their time. Bosworth is a Sioux Falls physician with her own clinic. Rounds owns and runs an insurance company, though he says he’ll resign from his position sometime this year. Ravnsborg, an attorney, has said he’s arranging his cases to free up time for campaigning.

The only Democratic candidate, Rick Weiland, resigned his job as CEO of the International Code Council nonprofit in 2012.

Though Nelson and Rhoden have the chance to stay in the spotlight this legislative session, Schaff said it’s probably still a net negative for their Senate campaigns.

"If I was Larry Rhoden or Stace Nelson versus Bosworth, Ravnsborg or Mike Rounds, I think I’d rather be the latter three, all things being equal," Schaff said. "Having that ability to make your own schedule, not being tied down, I think I’d rather be in that position."

More candidates on lobbyist ban (Updated)

On Wednesday, I reported on Larry Rhoden’s proposal to permanently ban ex-members of Congress from becoming paid lobbyists.

That story included reactions from fellow candidates Stace Nelson and Mike Rounds.

Three others, Republican candidate Jason Ravnsborg,probable independent candidate Larry Pressler, and Democrat Rick Weiland, emailed me responses after the story went to press.

(This story has been updated with Weiland’s comments.)

Here’s what they had to say:

Ravnsborg said he supports the lifetime ban, though he said he has “no intentions of ever becoming a lobbyist after serving my country as a senator.”

But Ravnsborg noted that the ban is a “noble idea” but one likely to be “challenged in the courts.”

"Most of these challenges are to bans on lobbyists claiming that to do so would restrict the constitutional right of a person to petition their government as enumerated in the Constitution," he wrote.

Pressler, responding to a question about whether had lobbied, also offered his opinion about the idea. He said he would “generally support Rhoden’s proposal” but would want “to define more clearly who is a lobbyist.”

"Some of the best-paid lobbyists in D.C. are not registered to lobby but they have someone else actually go up to the Hill to lobby—but they have set the meetings up," he wrote. 

After leaving office in 1997, Pressler worked for a D.C. law and lobbying firm, and was registered as a lobbyist, but said he did no lobbying.

"I think the revolving door problem exists in the Pentagon and throughout government," he wrote. "I would support bans or 5-year cooling off periods."

Currently House members have a one-year cooling off period and senators have a two-year delay.

Weiland enthusiastically endorsed the lobbying ban, which he cast as fitting with his populist theme.

"I support Sen. Rhoden’s proposal to ban members of Congress from turning around and becoming lobbyists when they leave Congress," Weiland wrote in an email. "This phenomenon is part and parcel of big money’s stranglehold on our democracy. Former members of Congress are sought out by big money special interests for one reason – access. Their cozy relationships with former colleagues make them incredibly valuable to the billionaires and big corporations that are destroying the middle class."

Weiland also criticized Rounds for opposing the ban, saying it’s “more proof he is in the pocket of big money.”

I’ll update this post if other candidates send me their comments. 

Rhoden wants ban on lobbying by ex-members of Congress

A U.S. Senate candidate called for a permanent ban on lobbying by former members of Congress Wednesday.

The proposal was one component of a multi-part plan to reform Congress offered by state lawmaker Larry Rhoden, a Republican.

Currently, members of Congress can become lobbyists who are paid to promote ideas to their fellow colleagues once they leave office. House members have to wait one year after leaving office before becoming a lobbyist, while senators have to wait two years.

Around half of all senators and nearly as many representatives become lobbyists after retiring from Congress, reporter Mark Leibovich wrote in a recent book. That’s up from just 3 percent of retiring members of Congress becoming lobbyists in 1974.

Rhoden said this reform, and others, would help “create an environment where our nation’s best interests are always our first priority.”

Several of Rhoden’s fellow candidates disagreed with Rhoden’s call for a permanent lobbying ban for ex-members of Congress.

Mike Rounds, the Republican frontrunner, said he didn’t think the permanent ban would have a big positive impact — but said it would affect members of Congress’ “ability to earn a living after they leave Congress.” Depriving former members of Congress of a lucrative post-Congressional career, Rounds said, could make members less likely to leave office.

“I think we can debate the timeframe, on how long you want to restrict them from earning a living (lobbying),” Rounds said. “But in some cases, you don’t want to make it more difficult for them to actually leave office… you’re kind of working against yourself, working against the goal of having turnover.”

Rhoden has endorsed term limits that would limit people to three terms in the House and two in the Senate, and reiterated his call for such an amendment Wednesday. Such a change, however, would require an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which requires approval from two-thirds of both houses of Congress and three-fourths of the states.

Stace Nelson, another GOP candidate for Senate, said Rhoden’s proposal for a lobbying ban “is missing what the problem is.”

“It is not the lobbyists who carry the special interest monies to our elected officials that is the problem, but the legalized bribery and the mass amount of monies given to Congress and candidates who these special interests want to control,” Nelson said in an email.

Several former members of Congress from South Dakota have become lobbyists after leaving office. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin became a lobbyist after her 2010 defeat, as did Tom Daschle after his 2004 loss. John Thune lobbied in between losing the 2002 U.S. Senate race and winning a Senate seat in 2004, and Larry Pressler formed a legal and lobbying firm after his 1996 loss, though Pressler said he did not lobby himself.

Rhoden’s lobbying proposal also would ban the “immediate family” of members of Congress from being registered lobbyists while their relative was in office.

In the Senate, some close relatives are currently forbidden to lobby any member of Congress — though the rule doesn’t cover certain categories, such as sons-in-law. In the House, a lobbyist isn’t allowed to lobby a representative they’re married to. But a representative can be lobbied by a child or parent.

A review by the Washington Post last year found 56 relatives of lawmakers have been paid to lobby Congress since the 2007 reform bill passed.

Rounds, who was skeptical of the ban on ex-members of Congress lobbying, said the spousal ban seemed like a reasonable proposal.

The other two Republican U.S. Senate candidates, Annette Bosworth and Jason Ravnsborg, did not respond to requests to comment Wednesday afternoon.

Rhoden’s reform plan also included requiring all members of Congress to put their investments in blind trusts, a provision denying members of Congress their pay unless they pass a balanced budget, and giving the president a line-item veto — the ability for a president to strike part of a bill without vetoing the entire legislation. The U.S. Supreme Court held that the line-item veto passed in the 1990s was unconstitutional, meaning a constitutional amendment might be needed to create one.

The Republican U.S. Senate primary is June 3, 2014.

(This post has been updated from an earlier version.)

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