Sounds like U.S. Senate candidate Rick Weiland (D. SD) is pulling a page from Elizabeth Warren (D. MA)/Ed Markey's (D. MA) book in calling for former Governor Mike Rounds (R. SD) to take a People's Pledge on outside group campaign contributions:
The first skirmishes have broken out in the battle for South Dakota’s open seat in the U.S. Senate.
Democratic candidate Rick Weiland, in a letter sent to the campaign of Republican Mike Rounds and media Monday, said his campaign would limit all contributions to $100 if the former two-time governor signed a pledge to do the same.
“Such a sweeping agreement,” the letter says, “would put our state at the forefront of what I believe to be the most important single fight of our time, the fight to get big money out of politics, and thus off the backs of, and out of the pockets of, what is supposed to be the people’s government.”
If Rounds declines, the letter intimates that the Weiland campaign is prepared to show its teeth.
“I … will then seek as much funding as I am able to find, from whomever I am able to persuade to join me in my effort to limit the influence of big money over our United States Congress,” it reads.
Weiland, in an interview Monday, said he’s making a good faith offer.
“I just hope he (Rounds) takes this seriously, because it is a serious proposal,” Weiland said, adding that he believes the public’s low approval rating of Congress stems partly from the perception that big money has too much influence in Washington.
But Weiland said he can’t afford to limit campaign contributions if Rounds will not do the same.
“I can’t unilaterally just disarm here,” Weiland said. “It’s like asking Rounds to a fight and tying both hands behind my back.” - Capital Journal, 6/17/13
And of course, Rounds response wasn't surprising:
But Mike Rounds rejected Weiland’s offer, which came less than a week after Rounds told the Argus Leader of his intention to raise $9 million for his Senate campaign.
Under Rounds’ public fundraising roadmap, about $1.5 million would come from South Dakota and $6 million from people in Washington, D.C., and around the country. The remaining $1.5 million would come through a variety of other sources.
“Our game plan isn’t going to change based on what the opposition suggests,” Rob Skjonsberg, Rounds’ campaign manager, said in an email.
And while Weiland accused Rounds of relying on “outside interests” to fund his campaign, Rounds, the only declared Republican Senate candidate, said he’s raising so much money to protect against outside groups.
“We’ll be prepared to take on all comers and that includes having the resources to correct misinformation that will likely be brought by outside groups,” Skjonsberg wrote. “We’re not going to allow outside groups to distort Mike’s record without recourse. It’s unfortunate, but that necessitates being prepared.”
Several conservative groups have declared their opposition to Rounds and promised to support a “conservative alternative” to him if one emerges in a GOP primary. And Skjonsberg pointed to recent U.S. Senate campaigns in North Dakota and Montana where Democratic-leaning groups spent millions against Republican nominees.
With Rounds expected to raise far more money than Weiland, neither Weiland’s offer nor Rounds’ rejection is surprising, said Jon Schaff, a political science professor at Northern State University.
“When you’re the underdog, this is one of those things you propose, and that the stronger candidate always rejects,” Schaff said. “This is the dance of a national campaign.” - Argus Leader, 6/17/13
Rounds turning down Weiland's offer isn't a surprise but Weiland making the offer was a smart political move. Weiland is the underdog in this race, that's for sure, but by getting Rounds on the record that he refuses to reject outside group cash allows Weiland to paint Rounds as the Super PAC candidate, which Rounds truly is. How else do you think he was able to win his party's nominee for Governor back in 2002?
Rounds might very well owe his political career to the state's loose campaign finance regulations.
He benefited from large PAC contributions as a fledgling gubernatorial candidate in 2002. Rapid City lawmaker and philanthropist Stan Adelstein funneled $60,000 to Rounds' campaign via two contributions from the Building Rapid City PAC, which was almost entirely funded by Adelstein. Of that $60,000, $25,000 came at a critical point late in a three-way primary race when Rounds was gaining momentum but running out of money.
Candidate Rounds also received more than $200,000 in 2002 in two separate contributions from Adelstein's A Better South Dakota PAC. While that PAC was organized by Adelstein, it was funded by a series of $5,000 contributions from several individuals.
Adelstein's fortune hasn't reached the heights of Sanford's, but he has been actively involved in South Dakota politics on both sides of the aisle since taking over the family construction business as a young man in the 1950s.
Rounds won a Cinderella victory in that three-way GOP primary in 2002, and went on to easily win the general election and serve two terms as a popular governor, from 2003 through 2010. - The Center For Public Integrity, 10/24/12
Plus Rounds announcing $9 million dollar goal may not be the smartest political move:
Setting a fundraising goal that may not be met can lead to unnecessary bad news stories for a candidate: Even if Rounds is raising a respectable amount of money, the comment potentially sets him up for "falling short" stories.
In the 2012 Connecticut Senate race, former GOP Rep. Chris Shays publicly stated during the fall of 2011 that his goal was to raise $1 million by the end of the year -- and then raised $400,000. That amount may not have seemed that bad, but in the context of him setting a much higher goal, it looked like failure and earned him numerous stories noting that he fell short of his target. Facing off against the wealthy, self-funding Linda McMahon also didn't help Shays.
Rounds has already come under criticism for poor fundraising performance; after starting strong with a $270,000 haul at the end of last year, he slowed his pace and raised $184,000 during the first quarter. Senate Conservatives Fund and the Club For Growth have both criticized Rounds and been open about their desire to back a different candidate in the race (SCF touted Rounds' total last quarter as "weak" and evidence that he "can be defeated in a primary."
Rounds wants to scare off anyone considering a challenge from the right with the next report -- and he further predicted a haul closing in on $500,000 for the quarter. But he'd have to start doing better than that to get to $9 million. - National Journal, 6/13/13
Rounds believes that the $9 million fundraising mark will help scare away any primary challengers from the right. Congresswoman Kristi Noem (R. SD) passed on the chance to challenge Rounds but I doubt it was Rounds' fundraising goal that made her opt out of this race. She already has to fight to hold onto her seat and right-wing groups weren't sold on Noem. Plus Senator John Thune (R. SD) may have played a hand in getting Noem to stay out of this race out of fear that a nasty primary could cost the GOP this seat. But that's not stopping anyone else from challenging Rounds for the GOP nominee:
Former Gov. Mike Rounds (R) could see a primary challenge in his pursuit of the Republican nomination for Senate in South Dakota from state Sen. Larry Rhoden (R).
Rhoden, according to the Rapid City Journal, is considering running and will make a decision sometime over the next few weeks. He told the paper that while he knows it would be a tough race, it's a significant opportunity.
"I know it would be a tall order, especially going up against someone with the high name ID like Mike Rounds," Rhoden said. "But on the other hand, life presents few opportunities like this."
Rhoden says he has a more conservative record than Rounds and an outsider appeal he believes voters wary of Washington want. - The Hill, 6/17/13
This is why I have been saying don't write off this race just yet. Rounds only appears to be the unbeatable candidate but would he even have the name recognition without the Super PAC funding? Plus he hasn't been able to sell himself to the Tea Party just yet so I'll be interested to see if Rhoden will give him a run for his money. I know Weiland isn't the DSCC's first choice but if Weiland vows to run on a populist campaign centered around Social Security and Medicare, he may have a shot at this race. It's still too early to tell and Rounds' could get lucky but this race is far from a guaranteed thing for the GOP, even if South Dakota is their home turf. If you would like to get involved with Weiland's campaign, you can do so here:
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