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SD Judge Rules $750,000 Anti-Choice Campaign Donation Can Remain Anonymous

South Dakota Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Caldwell ruled earlier this week that an anonymous donor who contributed $750,000 to a corporation that in turn made donations to Vote Yes For Life, an anti-abortion group trying to ban abortion in the state, does not have to disclose her or his identity. South Dakota State Representative Roger Hunt (R) established a corporation, Promising Future, in September 2006 to grow support for an extreme abortion ban that would be voted on and resoundingly rejected in November 2006. Promising Futures accepted a donation for $750,000 and then made three contributions of $250,000 to Vote Yes For Life.

South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long (R) challenged the anonymity of the donation, asking a judge to rule on whether Hunt would have to disclose the donor’s identity. While state campaign finance laws have since changed, under the then-law, ballot question committees, which were defined by two or more people fundraising to influence the outcome of a ballot measure, were required to disclose contributors. Judge Caldwell ruled that Promising Futures did not qualify as a ballot question committee. She added that Hunt would not have had to reveal the donor even if the corporation was established for the sole reason of hiding the donor’s identity.

According to Kaiser Daily Women’s Health Policy Report, Secretary of State Chris Nelson (R) was “surprised” by the ruling and says he will consider an appeal.

New state legislation passed this year aims to close any loopholes permitting anonymous donations towards political campaigns. Secretary of State Nelson told the Argus Leader that “If that same scenario played out under the new law, the donor to the corporation would certainly need to be reported.” Rep. Hunt voted in support of the new legislation.

Sources:

Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report 8/15/07; AP 8/14/07; Keloland TV 8/13/07; Argus Leader 8/14/07