South Dakota Democratic Party Will Close 2 Offices to Cut Costs, GOP Blames Them for Keeping Same Treasurer

By Venus Upadhayaya, Epoch Times
September 3, 2019 Updated: September 3, 2019

The South Dakota Democratic Party said two of its offices will be closing by next month, citing financial reasons. Meanwhile, the local Republican party has blamed it for keeping the treasurer responsible for signing its financial reports since 2000.

Party Chair Paula Hawks told state party officials in an Aug. 29 statement that the Sioux Falls headquarters and Rapid City field office will close temporarily in order to cut costs, reported KELO.

Draft audit findings for 2015-2016 reveal that the South Dakota Democratic Party received $67,182 in contributions from unregistered organizations which “may have been made with impermissible funds,” and did not disclose $46,097 in debts and obligations, reported the Rapid City Journal. The audit, conducted by the Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) Audit Division, also showed that the state’s Democratic Party understated disbursements by $2.5 million.

An elected Democratic officeholder blamed the party’s previous officials for the current financial situation and told KELO that they should “each kick in a few thousand dollars” to help resolve it.

During an interview with SDPB Radio, Hawk said that the party’s poor financial situation is “unfortunate” for the newly elected party officials, at a time when they are trying to rebuild the party and its presence in the state.

“[We] are brand new in our positions and trying to reset and rebuild the party and build up our presence in South Dakota and help represent the progressives and democrats in South Dakota,” Hawks, who was elected in March, said.

Minnehaha County Democratic Party Chair Nikki Gronli said closing down the two offices is best for the party’s future.

“We’ve been brainstorming on robust fundraising,” Gronli, who was elected in April, told KELO. “It’s been happening this week. It will all be put into action.”

She said she’s doesn’t think that closing down the offices would impact the recruitment of new candidates, adding that there will be announcements coming in the next few months. Gronli also refused to comment on whether the party’s poor financial situation is the result of the actions by the party’s previous officials. “There’s an audit,” she told the CBS-affiliate. “It’s hard to say what happened yet.”

Meanwhile, South Dakota Republican Party Chairman Dan Lederman said the party’s new administration may be new but the treasurer during the 2015-2016 period is still “keeping the books.”

He wrote in a statement on Twitter: “More bad news for South Dakota Dems @SoDakDems as the State party is shutting down their offices and canceling events. Sadly, Chair @paulahawks blames the FEC instead of the party and their Treasurer, who’s still keeping the books.”

He added in a press release that the treasurer for the democratic party has been in charge of the finances since 2000, writing,  “I’m not sure why these issues come as a shock to the Democrat party, as current state Democrat treasurer Bill Nibbelink has been in charge of signing the reports on their financial condition as he has since the year 2000.

“Chairwoman Hawks is doing her best to try to shift the blame for her party’s finances and misreporting to the Federal Elections Commission, but maybe she should have spoken to her own leadership team first,” said Lederman in the Aug. 30 statement.

Meanwhile, the South Dakota GOP took to Twitter Aug. 23., telling the democratic party to “do something” about the audit findings, writing, “South Dakota Democrat Party needs to clean up their act and actually do something about FEC violations!”

SDPB reported that Hawks said that the South Dakota Democratic Party will try to rebuild itself with “transparency, accountability, and integrity.”

Follow Venus on Twitter: @venusupadhayaya