Politico published an excerpt from former Democrat National Party Chairwoman Donna Brazile’s book on the 2016 presidential election.
In the excerpt, Brazile highlights an agreement between the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee that critics say heavily favored Clinton's bid for president.
The South Dakota Republican Party seized on the story, highlighting nearly $2.5 million that flowed from a Clinton fundraising organization, through the state party, and to the DNC.
The Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee entered into two separate joint fundraising agreements, or JFA, in both 2015 and 2016. The DNC and campaigns generally enter into these agreements so that whoever wins a primary election will have a framework in place with the party for tackling the general election.
There’s talk on the national level about the 2015 joint fundraising agreement. Here in the South Dakota, conservatives point to the JFA the state Democratic party entered into with the Clinton camp and the DNC.
According to South Dakota Democratic officials, the state party entered into a JFA with both the Clinton campaign and the DNC in late June.
Nearly $2.5 million dollars flowed from the Hillary Victory Fund to the South Dakota Democratic Party, which then made it’s way to the DNC.
The state Republican Party says the South Dakota Democratic Party laundered that money for the Clinton campaign.
However, what the state Democratic party did was legal. The transfers are documented on the Federal Election Commission’s website. FEC filings state, “all contributions made by permissible sources.”
Dan Lederman is the chair of the state Republican party. He says what the party did was legal, but unethical.
“The actions that they took were done to subvert the system so that they could get around the fundraising limits at the federal level," Lederman says. "Not only did they do it to get around the fundraising limits, but they did it in a way that disenfranchised the supporters of Bernie Sanders.”
The state party waited until after the state primary on June 7th before signing any fundraising agreement was signed with either candidate.
Sanders was still in the race at this time, but Clinton had a comfortable lead in secured delegates at this point.
Sam Parkinson is the executive director for the South Dakota Democratic Party. He was in charge of the party’s finances during the 2016 campaign.
Parkinson says all the transfers of money through the party were post-primary activity.
“It’s something that’s happened presidential cycle after presidential cycle. It’s happened on both sides. It’s not really – I think it’s not a surprise to people that are involved with it, it’s just not something that’s really reported all the time," Parkinson says. "To see something like $2 million go through South Dakota for the Democratic party is a little surprising to people.”
Parkinson says none of the money that made it’s way to the DNC was from state democratic fundraising efforts.
Money from the Hillary Victory Fund started coming into the state Democrat coffers on September 11, with the last transfer of funds out of the state party to the DNC coming around November 18 in 2016.
Parkinson says whenever they’d receive money from the Clinton campaign it went directly to the national party.
“We would receive a check from—we would receive a transfer in a bank account from the Hillary camp that would then be transferred right away to the DNC,” Parkinson says.
The South Dakota Republican party has entered into JFA's over the years.
Lederman says those agreements looked different than what the Democrats did last election.
“We would enter into an agreement with another entity and we would exchange lists or we would help with each other’s activities," Lederman says. "This was no activity. This was straight money being funneled through and put back in to get around the campaign limits.”
Secretary of State Shantel Krebs is the state watchdog on campaign finance matters as they occur in South Dakota. Her office does not oversee these transfers, since this dealt with federal parties and campaigns. However, she says it’s not uncommon for parties to distribute money like this, both in state parties and on the national level.