“Two South Dakota Senate candidates --one Democrat, one Republican--say former Governor Mike Rounds is trying to buy South Dakota's Senate seat with out-of-state money.”

That is the first sentence of a long media release created by Democrat Rick Weiland and Republican Stace Nelson. Both are running for the U. S Senate.

They held a joint media announcement at 2pm Monday April 7 at the main branch of the Sioux Falls public library. Most of the media, supporters of both candidates , another Senate Candidate and two people who are on the ballot to be Governor were in the room.

Rick Weiland started with comments on the most recent Supreme Court decision and how it hurts democracy, by giving big money even more power.  His solution is a Constitutional Amendment to reverse those decisions   He pledged to introduce such an Amendment as his first official act if he is elected to the Senate this fall.

Stace Nelson was next. His words were much more severe towards his opponent Mike Rounds, accusing him from hiding from the voters. He went on to cast Rounds as  dishonest because of the continuing EB5 federal investigation.  Nelson used the phrase “chrony capitalism” more than once. He also took shots at Rounds lack of conservatism with both federal and state money.

Weiland was attacking the system. Nelson was attacking the candidate with the most money raised and probably a much higher name recognition.  At the end of this commentary are the verbatim words of their joint statement.

When the question and answer time came, reporters tried to pin both candidates down on specific instances of Rounds dishonesty and specific examples of where Rounds sold his vote and voice as Governor to outside interests. No specific examples were provided.

I was hoping for an intelligent discussion on the specific issue of a further loosening of  campaign contributions, approved by the Supreme Court last week.

What I heard was a few sentences on that subject followed by a barrage of attacks, suppositions, innuendo, and guilt by association.   I came close to leaving the room. It felt somewhat like two carnival barkers trying to get my attention.

On my drive back to the station I kept wondering “what was the purpose of this joint event?”

My conclusion is this:  Both candidates know they are a long shot to become Senator.  Republican Stace Nelson does not have the name recognition, nor has he been able to draw much money, in or out of state.  Also, there are several other Republicans in the race, all of them calling themselves Conservative Republicans. He needs to find a way to stand out, get free media, which translates into conversations in coffee and barber shops and beauty salons.

I think Democrat Rick Weiland did it for somewhat the same reasons, although I have to give him credit for at least discussing the broader issue of campaign finance, and possible different ways to dealing with it at the Federal level.

At times the question and answer session went far afield from the original topic. Candidate Nelson tried to turn the tables on one reporter whose questions he didn’t like, by asking him questions, a great deferral technique probably learned when he was an investigator in the military. Here is the wording of their joint statement:

"We don't agree on much of anything.   But we do agree, strongly agree, that what Mike Rounds is trying to do, buy this election, is wrong.

When you try to buy an election the people who gave you the money to buy it want something in return.  If those people are big out-of-state donors, you have handed them South Dakota's Senate seat, and that is exactly what Mike Rounds’ election to the United States Senate would do," Weiland and Nelson said.

"We freely admit," both men said, "that we have and will continue to raise modest sums of out-of-state money, but our campaigns are focused on South Dakota.  We spend 99% of our time and effort here and accept a little outside help to try to stay competitive."

“Mike Rounds is focused more on raising money outside of South Dakota than he is on campaigning inside South Dakota. If you don't think that will affect how he votes in the Senate then you haven't been paying much attention to politics lately," the two men said.

"It's a little bit like the difference between a man who goes into a casino with fifty bucks and comes out having had an enjoyable evening, and a man who goes into a casino with no limit and comes out with a nine million dollar IOU to the Casino.  The guy who lost the fifty bucks owes his wife an explanation.  The guy who owes the Casino nine million has to vote however they tell him to for the next 6 years.  Mike Rounds may not want to admit it.  He may even believe that isn't the way it will turn out.  But you can bet the big money Casino knows exactly how it will turn out, because they've rigged this game before," Weiland and Nelson said.

We are two months away from the Republican Primary.  Stace Nelson has an uphill battle to beat Rounds.  Rick Weiland needs to keep his more liberal Democratic friends interested and excited enough to open their wallets, so he can mount a functioning campaign from June till November.

Today’s event was fascinating  “theater.”  It will be interesting to listen to reaction from the critics, ie, the voters of South Dakota.