The June Republican Primary, and the Convention of States’ assault on South Dakota Democracy

Today’s election may go down as one of the wildest primaries in Republican annals with unprecedented levels of spending at the State Legislative level.

Sure, there were various factions in-state that pushed forward their own candidates. But what came as an utter shock was the level of money that out-of-state groups pumped into the State Legislative process.  But one special interest group in particular dumped massive amounts of cash into the elections, and often on issues that had nothing to do with their issues, but with a goal in mind of ridding themselves of what they viewed as someone unsympathetic to their cause.

As one reader was kind enough to do the legwork, his research noted that the Convention of States made an unprecedented assault on the Republican Primary in order to try to buy their way into a legislature more pliable to their cause.

What did this mailer have to do with the convention of states? Nothing. Except they paid for it. 

After a bit more digging into the funding of these various attacks, based on some filings of “Communications Statements” in South Dakota, and based on the data summarized below and in detail in the attached reports, I think we can safely say that the Convention of States Project, after being unsuccessful in swaying the Legislature in SD (their application failed 10 times in 9 years) through various lobbying efforts and marketing claims about their proposal for having a first-ever Convention process initiated for changing the US Constitution, has now resorted to and invested heavily in the “stick” approach to getting the votes they want to trigger such a convention. Namely, trying to eliminate their opponents politically. Plus they’re not very familiar with South Dakota.

What did this have to do with convention of states? Not a thing, except a dirty attack to try to take out a popular political figure.

  • 5-3-2022 (Mailers opposing Johnson, Duvall, Schoenbeck) $13,600
  • 5-9-2022 (Mailers opposing Johnson, Duvall, Schoenbeck) $22,754
  • 5-18-2022 (Mailers opposing Johnson, Schoenbeck, Duvall, and “Reid” –should be “Reed”) $27,191
  • 5-5-2022 (Radio Ads opposing Johnson, Schoenbeck, Duvall and “Reid”) $40,848
  • 5-6-2022 (Radio Ad production against Johnson, Schoenbeck, Duvall, and “Reid”) $3,225
  • 5-20-2022 (Radio Production and Mailers supporting primary opponents of Johnson, Schoenbeck, Duvall and “Reid”, plus mailers, digital cable ads, polling, and video production to oppose Johnson, Schoenbeck, Duvall, and “Reid”) $121,701.25
  • 5-24-2022 (Digital, TV, Radio, mailers opposing Johnson, Schoenbeck;  Reed just gets attack mailers and Duvall gets attack radio and mailers) Note: $8,516.44 spent on mailers noted for supporting “Matt Windshitl” of SD-36 should indicate an unfamiliarity with South Dakota. There is no Dist. 36, and Windshitl –rather unfortunate name– is from Iowa. Total SD Legislator Spending:  $87,742.79

Grand Total of “Communications” expenditures from Convention of States Political Fund: $317,062.04

That’s about $80,000 each to get rid of four State Senate candidates. And the ads seem to not even mention amending the US Constitution, which is what COS is about.

Add to that the $21,750 in Convention of States South Dakota PAC direct contributions to legislative candidates ($10K of which came from COS Action, and $10K from some guy in Texas) and you have Convention of States pouring in $338,812.04 –Over a third of a Million Dollars!– into a state of about 840K people with one congressional district to change the legislative districts’ representation to changed the US Constitution.

Plus, the reports note that Convention of States Political Fund is headquartered in DC 3 blocks from the US Capitol at 500 New Jersey Ave., NW, Washington, DC

–bypassing Congress? Who is funding “COS Political Fund?” Who designed the postcards? Why do super-wealthy people from out of state want to change the US Constitution. What do they anticipate as a return on their investment?

Note: this does not include the $27,191.42 US Term Limits spent on Postcards trying to influence legislative races to try and get more legislators in SD who would support the USTL application for an Article V Constitutional Convention. USTL is out of Florida.

And the return address to the mailers is at this other fancy office building below in Phoenix 4600 E Washington St, Ste. 300, Phoenix, AZ   (return address  of attack postcards)

But apparently the $1K check Mark Willadsen got for his campaign (and later returned after seeing the attack ads) came from Convention of States South Dakota PAC with a return address of 9365 Counselors Row, Ste. 200, Indianapolis, IN
FYI, Mark Meckler, President, Co-Founder, and CEO of Convention of States Project, claims the organization is headquartered out of his house outside of Austin, TX. However, the address for COSP per the website is the office building below in Houston, TX. And, per IRS 990 forms from 2018-2020 filed by COS Action, Meckler and family brought in over $1.3 M to their household (about 7% of gross receipts) over those 3 years. Average major donation to COS Action for those years was over $81K, comprising 54% of total donations. Obviously not a “Mom and Pop” operation out of one’s living room, basement, or garage. Nor are most donations from what one would call “average-income” Americans.

Perhaps your readers will find some of this information valuable. It seems the whole dispute over whether to have a “Convention of States” AKA Article V Constitutional Convention, has been taken to a whole new level in South Dakota.

We will know by tonight’s results, but in many of the races, the activities of the Convention of States group are not likely to have the effect they’re hoping on the composition of the state legislature.

If anything, I suspect it may have the opposite.

In speaking with several legislators, they had previously looked at the groups’ lobbying efforts not much differently than any other lobbying groups’. But with their somewhat questionable tactics and massive amount of spending, they’ve managed to garner a whole new level of attention from the State Legislature. This next session, I’d look for a couple of things to come about.

First, there are already calls for more disclosure in campaign finance for out-of-state groups pouring money into the state, as a result of this group trying to buy their way to the legislature they wanted.

Second, and more importantly, as a result of their tactics I have the distinct impression that the Convention of States will not find a very friendly legislature this next session.

In fact, I suspect their legislation will be DOA in South Dakota for quite some time to come.

12 thoughts on “The June Republican Primary, and the Convention of States’ assault on South Dakota Democracy”

  1. The Constitution, as written, is fundamentally ignored today by all elected representatives.

    What these Convention of States morons think they are going to change is beyond me.

  2. The more disappointing part of this…no sales tax! I may be wrong but I believe political advertising is exempt from sales tax. If we tax them, let them spend!

  3. How many other SD Republican candidates, e.g., Jim Mehlhaff, returned their checks from COS?

    1. Ann, he’s still gotten the direct benefit of 80k. Returning the check was a really big deal on his part. Give me a flippin break.

      1. I support a Artixle V Convention, but NOT in the manner it was being proposed.

  4. Word is they are already complaining that in some districts people are being given the wrong ballots.
    Did they find themselves in different districts? Did the postcards they received not match their ballots? Do they not recognize the names of the candidates? Or are people actually not being handed the correct ballots? Thoughts?

  5. Given COS’s tactics of late, I returned the small campaign contribution of $100.00 that I received today. District 20 Representative Lance Koth

  6. What did they say that was untrue? Looks to me a lot of it is exposing how people voted with references on the mailers.

    Just because it was out of state does not mean it was wrong.

    1. Unfortunately, some do not like to be held accountable for their votes. Convention of States is not going away, as it is is the largest grassroots organization in America centered on the state legislatures.
      It is funny how Schoenbeck sent “Drain the Swamp” mailers around the state targeting conservatives, and it shown as “purging of the undesirables”. At least COS stood for conservatives and did something. Where were the other organizations?

  7. On one hand, I believe it is impossible to tout Thune’s war chest and how that translates to electoral success while on the other hand lamenting COS’s expenditures.

    I would seem that, given past analysis regarding $$$, COS’s path to victory is to sustain that level of spending through multiple election cycles.

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