Disguised Donations (Guest Post Bruce Danielson)

Do you remember the 1968 Bee Gees song I started a joke or are we hearing John Fogarty singing Deja Vu (All Over Again)?  Here we go again. Aren’t we getting rid of a habitual storyteller who ran an administration based on what they could get by with? As someone who is not involved with either campaign, I have some questions to ask.

In 2010, a City Attorney and Director of Finance were hired to bend every rule possible to accomplish the questionably legal or at the very least the unethical making it seem ethical. Starting with a couple of 2014 Board of Ethics meetings I started asking questions about the abuse of “white lies” happening in city government.

SouthDacola wrote about and then I asked a question on Tuesday night about the legality of six children with no outside source of income “giving” $1,000 to a mayoral candidate. It reminds me of a mayor we have, who said his wife (who had no outside source of income) was investing in a TIF based private development he helped arrange. It was “legal” but was it ethical?

Does anyone else scratch their head when we have a candidate saying it’s OK to take seemingly unethical donations as long as it accomplishes an immediate goal?  If we are looking for a new start in Sioux Falls, why does this sound like something My Man Mike would say?

The state financing laws are weak and we know it. Why should we citizens allow it to be acceptable? Did our City Clerk actually talk to an attorney to understand this law? Here is the state law on Disguised Donations:

12-27-12. Disguised contributions prohibited–Misdemeanor. No person or entity may make a contribution in the name of another person or entity, make a contribution disguised as a gift, make a contribution in a fictitious name, make a contribution on behalf of another person or entity, or knowingly permit another to use that person’s or entity’s name to make a contribution. No candidate may knowingly accept a contribution disguised as a gift. A violation of this section is a Class 2 misdemeanor. A subsequent offense within a calendar year is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

According to our City Clerk’s office we have a technicality to deal with and not a moral one. The donor signed checks then giving the checks with someone else’s names in the memo field making it legal? Wow, where’s John Mitchell, Maurice Stans and Richard Nixon when we need them? Oh that’s right, Watergate happened. I know something about it, I was in Washington back then seeing the results of shady donations. I had to hand carry donation checks back to the naïve citizens who in good faith wrote these kind of checks. If it was questionably legal, it went back, no matter how bad we needed the money.

A friend and I talked about this problem for today’s city politicians and it came down to this common phrase today’s Christians proclaim:

What Would Jesus Do? WWJD is printed on trinkets of all types as a reminder to guide a person to do the right thing.

A campaign spending report from mayoral candidate Paul TenHaken shows contributions from a single donor of $7000. The annual limit for an individual is $1000. How did they do it? By saying 5 of the super donor’s minor children contributed a $1000 each. Then on top of that the donor’s business threw in $1000 to the slush fund.

This campaign is becoming an all or nothing effort to take over the government of Sioux Falls. Our city government is legally justifying a wealthy donor’s contribution to make it happen but it leaves the question: is it morally right? I may have been a political nerd at 12 and interested at 6 but six year old kids need to invest their $1000 in a good mutual fund for college. There is a reason no one is allowed to vote until they are 18 and contributions never used to be allowed in their names until they could vote.

How many six year old kids have $1,000 sitting around to give their favorite politician instead of buying an Xbox?

The current mayor has often gotten himself in trouble when he has done things that are barely legal but certainly not moral. The list is long but the Denny siding rip-off of taxpayers certainly tops the list. Was it a Million bucks or $1,000,000? Was it new money or did we just take it out of the savings account then slip it into the checking account for a cool headline?

The actions of a candidate during the campaign are indicative of how they will behave when they get elected. We do not need a Mayor who will do the legal thing but not the moral action. We’ve had enough of that in Sioux Falls.

The candidate needs to follow his or her self-proclaimed following of Christ and do the moral thing: send the money back. Campaigns have P.R. spin machines to make it look “right” so do the right thing. Tell the rich donor thank you but that’s not how we do things in Sioux Falls.



#1 "Very Stable Genius" on 04.20.18 at 5:53 pm

“Vote for a man who takes money from kids….. At least it’s not candy……”

“Rich Kids for ThuneHaken!”

“Our children are our future and their money is our means..”

“When I said I was the candidate of the Millennials…. I meant of all ages!…..”

“Too young to vote, but never too young to contribute”

“Brats for BatHaken!”

“Save your Sunday school money for Paul!” (St. Paul?)

“If you want more pools, parks, and ball diamonds, then you must contribute too!”

“Save your pennies for Paul!”

“Help Paul with your piggy bank!”

“To heck with College, give it to Paul!”

“ToysRUS is closed, so why do you need your allowance?”

“Who needs toys, when you can buy an actual tool?” (What?…..(Ouch…..))

“Barron has a $ 1000 for me, why not you?”

“My honor student gave Paul a $1000, what about your kid?”

But seriously, if ThuneHaken is elected on May 1st, then this “Child Contributiongate” is the first of many “Mulligans” to come, I am afraid….

#2 Matthew Paulson on 04.20.18 at 6:37 pm

What was the total of in-kind gifts that the Loetscher campaign got? I bet it was much more Tran $7,000 from one individual.

#3 Bruce on 04.20.18 at 6:51 pm

Matthew, as I stated I’m not part of either campaign. I am asking questions. If Jolene is doing anything like this we haven’t found it. If we find something then we’ll ask the appropriate questions.

As of right now there is a serious lapse in judgement concerning this issue by Paul’s campaign.

Right now it appears to be 5, Class 2 Misdemeanor counts of Disguised Donations.

#4 Warren Phear on 04.20.18 at 7:48 pm

Why don’t you define in-kind gifts Matt? You can’t, or won’t, because it is, in ten hakens words, a NOTHIN burger.

#5 Matthew Paulson on 04.20.18 at 8:15 pm

“Jolene Loetscher reported raising just more than $21,000. But she’s also leveraged a broadcasting background—and her husband’s—for another $45,000 worth of in-kind contributions. ”


#6 "Very Stable Genius" on 04.20.18 at 9:28 pm


Develop your question for me, what are you driving?

#7 Matthew Paulson on 04.20.18 at 10:52 pm

Why is it okay for Loetscher to receive $45,000 in in-kind gifts from one individual and yet it’s somehow wrong for Paul to get $7,000 in gifts from one family?

#8 J on 04.21.18 at 9:23 am

Matthew – Per the most recent finance reports released (March), Loetscher has received about $78,000 of in-kind contributions from her husband. Totally legal, but it kind of puts a whole in her claim that she got the most votes with the least money. Technically true, but the $78,000 she received in donated services is something the other candidates have had to pay for. If you include the in kind contributions, Jolene’s $/vote is about the same as Paul’s.

#9 Warren Phear on 04.21.18 at 10:34 am

In-kind contributions are services to a campaign by one of its members, valued in monetary terms. Video taping, editing, and spreading the word through social media fall under the guise of an in kind service that did not involve the exchange of actual dollars. Matthew, what you are doing here right now can be termed an in kind service for tenhaken. In kind services are not second or first class misdemeanors. Disquised donations are.

What Bruce provides to the public can also be described as an in kind service. Problem is, a six year old does not cut him a $1,000 check.

#10 Bruce on 04.21.18 at 2:39 pm

Warren Phear, I’d be glad to accept the $1,000 check as long as the bank cashes it, no strings attached. I wonder if this is true of the 7 checks we’re discussing?