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Senate Candidates Address Outside Ads

A candidate for South Dakota’s open US Senate seat says he wants everyone in the race to help prevent outside money from influencing the campaign. Democratic candidate Rick Weiland says the public move would benefit voters, but not everyone in the race agrees with Weiland’s perspective.

Weiland cites a Washington Post article as the reason he thinks all Senate hopefuls should swear off outside advertising right now. The write-up says a conservative organization called Americans for Prosperity, lead by billionaires Charles and David Koch, is opening a new state chapter in South Dakota. Weiland says that’s a problem.

"Their approach to politics is pretty straight-up. If you have a big enough checkbook, you can literally buy yourself a government," Weiland says. "And if they follow their usual pattern here in South Dakota, they could spend literally millions of dollars on this Senate seat."

Weiland says advertising in South Dakota is inexpensive, so money from outside groups could dramatically change the Senate race. Weiland says he won’t "unilaterally disarm" – meaning he’s not going to try warding off outside spending on his own if his competitors embrace the tactic.

Rick Weiland’s opponents say they haven’t received any communication from him on the call against outside money.

Independent candidate Larry Pressler says he has a fraction of the campaign funds Weiland and Republican candidate Mike Rounds hold, but he generally stands against outside money coming into the political race. Pressler says a more targeted fight against outside ads is a legal gray area, because candidates aren’t allowed to communicate with these political organizations.

Independent candidate Gordon Howie says he believes outside money is bad for the campaign, but he’s not going to make a declaration. He says money from outside the state already influences South Dakota politics.

"For me to be presumptive enough to think that, by me just calling for big money to stay away, that they’re going to listen to me, are we kidding ourselves? Big money has a real interest in this South Dakota Senate seat," Howie says.

Howie says candidates can rise above outside influence by taking every opportunity to allow voters to know who they are and where they stand on relevant issues.

Republican candidate Mike Rounds hasn’t yet responded to SDPB’s call regarding his stance on outside money in the US Senate race.