by Steven Ertelt
October 10, 2007
Pierre, SD (LifeNews.com) — South Dakota officials are asking the state Supreme Court to reverse a decision by a judge who ruled that pro-life state Rep. Roger Hunt shouldn’t have to identify who gave his corporation a large gift he transferred to the pro-life group seeking to uphold the state’s abortion ban. The $750,000 donation came under question for being sent to a company Hunt set up and then going to a pro-life group.
State voters rejected the ban last November though polls showed they would have supported an abortion ban with rape and incest exceptions.
Hunt, a Republican, is under fire for the donations he made from a business called Promising Future Inc. that he set up before the elections.
PFI received three donations of $250,000 each and he, in turn, made contributions to Vote Yes for Life, the organization that supported the abortion ban on the ballot.
Now, South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long and Secretary of State Chris Nelson, both Republicans, want the state’s high court to overturn the ruling.
Nelson told AP the case warrants a review by the state Supreme Court, adding that the appeal also could lead to an interpretation of whether the state has the constitutional right to require financial reporting by committees involved in ballot measures.
He said the court needs to decide the issue now because other campaign committees might challenge the state’s constitutional authority to require campaign finance reporting.
"I think it’s important to understand this case is not about abortion" or "some vendetta against Roger Hunt," Nelson told AP. "It’s about campaign finance."
Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Caldwell ruled that Hunt’s corporation Promising Future Inc. is not a “ballot question committee" and therefore isn’t legally obligated to release the name of a contributor in the way a ballot committee would.
“Even if PFI was formed with the motive of protecting the identity of the unnamed shareholder who wished to donate to VoteYesForLife, that does not mean that its conduct violated SDCL ch 12-25," Judge Caldwell wrote, according to the Argus Leader newspaper.
Hunt said he followed state campaign finance laws and questioned whether a corporation should be defined as a ballot question committee.
"A corporation basically, in many cases in our state laws and case law, is held to be one person," he told the Associated Press previously.
Hunt has previously said the money for the donations came from an anonymous donor who he has not identified. He says the donor is worried about possible backlash given the inordinate amount of vandalism that occurred when abortion advocates trashed hundreds of signs from the pro-life campaign.
State voters rejected the abortion ban, which would prohibit all abortions except those necessary to save the life of the mother, on a 56-44 percentage margin.
Leslee Unruh, leader of the Vote Yes for Life group that promoted the abortion ban, doesn’t plan to give up.