Campaign Finance FAQs

Click here to view South Dakota's Campaign Finance Laws

Click on the question to see the answer.

1. Who files campaign finance documents with the secretary of state?

The following FILE with the Secretary of State's office:
  • Statewide Ballot Question Committees
  • Statewide Candidate Committees
  • Statewide Political Action Committees (PACs)
  • Statewide Political Parties
  • Legislative Committees
  • County Political Parties
  • Auxiliary Political Parties

2. Who files campaign finance documents with the counties, municipalities and school districts?

The following file in the office where the nominating petition or ballot question petition was filed:
  • County
    • Candidates, Ballot Question Committees and Political Action Committees*
  • Municipal
    • Candidates*, Ballot Question Committees and Political Action Committees*
  • School
    • Board Candidates, Ballot Question Committees and Political Action Committees*
*(South Dakota Campaign Finance laws were not written specifically for local jurisdictions. The committee types noted above, with an asterisk, are not explicitly listed in statute but could apply depending on the jurisdiction’s ordinances. See NOTE below)

NOTE: Local governments are not required to follow Campaign Finance laws except those listed under SDCL 12-27-39: Application of campaign finance requirements. The provisions of this chapter apply to:
  • Statewide offices
  • Legislative offices
  • Statewide ballot questions
  • County offices and ballot questions in counties with population greater than ten thousand according to the most recent Federal census.
  • Ballot questions in first class municipalities.
  • School district offices and ballot questions in school districts with more than two thousand average daily membership.
  • Any municipal or school district election covered by this chapter shall conform to the contribution limits applicable to legislative offices.
  • This chapter does not apply to the unified judicial system, nor does this chapter apply to any township or special purpose district office or ballot questions or elections for municipal offices.
    • County, city and school candidates and ballot question committees, contact the office where you filed your nominating petition or ballot question petition to see what is required to be filed in that jurisdiction.
    • Please note, the governing body of any county, township, municipality, school district, or special purpose district not otherwise covered by this chapter may adopt an ordinance or resolution to make the provisions of this chapter, with or without amendments, applicable to township, school district, or special purpose district elections.

3. When should a committee form or organize?

(SDCL 12-27-2 thru 12-27-6)
  • Every political committee must be registered not later than fifteen days after the date upon which the committee made contributions, received contributions, or paid expenses in excess of five hundred dollars unless such activity falls within thirty days of any statewide election in which case the statement of organization shall be filed within forty-eight hours.
  • Any candidate for public office shall organize a candidate campaign committee not later than fifteen days after becoming a candidate (file nominating petitions) and shall file a statement of organization.
  • The candidate or treasurer of a political committee shall file an updated statement of organization not later than fifteen days after any change in the information contained on the most recently filed statement of organization.

4. What is a political committee?

(SDCL 12-27-1)

"Political committee," any candidate campaign committee, political action committee, political party, or ballot question committee.

5. What if I file campaign finance documents with the FEC, IRS or another state?

  • All political committees that file campaign finance disclosures with another state, the Federal Election Commission or report contributions and expenses to the Internal Revenue Service are not required to file with the SD Secretary of State.
  • If a political committee treasurer is required to file a report with the secretary of state, the report may only include contributions and expenditures related to this state.

6. What are the treasurer duties and responsibilities?

(SDCL 12-27-29)

All responsibility for campaign financial records rests with the TREASURER of the political committee who is required by law to maintain and preserve detailed and accurate records of the following:
  • Each contribution and donated good or service contribution received by the political committee;
  • In the case of a ballot question committee, the information required for any contribution from an entity as described in SDCL 12-27-19;
  • Each loan received or made by the political committee;
  • Each refund, rebate, interest, or other income received by the political committee;
  • All receipts, invoices, bills, canceled checks, or other proofs of payment, with an explanation of each, for each expenditure;
  • The name and address of any financial institution where an account or depository for the political committee is maintained including the account number.
The responsibility for filing campaign finance disclosure statements is squarely on the shoulders of the treasurer of any political committee. If you are the treasurer of a political committee you are strongly urged to become familiar with your duties and the filing deadlines. There are civil and criminal penalties for violations of campaign finance statutes. In addition to any other penalty or relief provided under SDCL 12-27, the secretary of state may impose a civil penalty for the failure to timely file any statement, amendment, or correction required to be filed by this chapter. The civil penalty is two hundred dollars ($200) for each violation. If any violation is made by a county political party or auxiliary organization, the civil penalty is fifty dollars ($50) for each violation. Additional penalties not to exceed $250 could be assessed per SDCL 12-27-29.4. Any civil penalty collected pursuant to this section shall be deposited into the state general fund. The treasurer is required to maintain and preserve the records for a period of seven years or three years past the date of filing the termination statement for the election for which the contribution or expenditure was made, whichever is earlier. A violation of these duties is a Class 2 misdemeanor. Any subsequent offense within a calendar year is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

A treasurer that fails to timely file reports or pay penalties could cause a candidate to not be certified for office. (SDCL 12-27-29.3)

7. Can the candidate serve as the chair and treasurer?

Yes, the candidate may choose to be their own chair and treasurer. If a candidate chooses someone else to be their treasurer, they are still responsible for each monetary fine and penalty imposed on the committee.

If a candidate is not the treasurer of the candidate’s campaign committee, the penalty of a candidate being decertified, pursuant to this chapter, remains. Notwithstanding any other provisions of law, a candidate is jointly and severally responsible with the treasurer of the candidate’s campaign committee for each monetary fine and penalty imposed by this chapter. (SDCL 12-27-29.5)

8. What information does my bank need from me?

When a committee opens a campaign account, a bank may request various things. Political committees do not have to provide any banking information to our office nor do we require any in order for a committee to form. What the bank requires is between the committee and the bank.

9. What financial records need to be maintained?

(SDCL 12-27-29)

Candidates and committees must keep accurate records of all receipts and expenditures. While a separate campaign bank account for a candidate is not required, it does simplify record keeping and is encouraged.

The treasurer shall maintain and preserve the records for a period of seven years or three years past the date of filing the termination statement for the election for which the contribution or expenditure was made, whichever is earlier. A violation of this section is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

10. What is the campaign finance reporting system (CFRS)?

The Secretary of State’s Office has developed a Campaign Finance Reporting System that allows committees to file reports online. Through this user friendly filing system, committees may access their reports, make changes to their committee information and view other committee reports.

Anyone may use the system to search reports filed with the Secretary of State’s office.

The Campaign Finance Reporting System may be accessed at

11. What are South Dakota campaign finance contribution limits?

(SDCL 12-27)

Click here to view the South Dakota Campaign Finance Contribution Limits

12. What needs to be reported and when?

(SDCL 12-27-24)

Click here to view South Dakota Campaign Finance Reporting Deadlines
  • Aggregate contributions received from individuals of more than $100.00 in a calendar year shall be itemized and include name, mailing address and amount of contribution.
  • Contributions received from individuals of $100.00 or less must be reported but need not be itemized.
  • All contributions of any amount from Federal, out-of-State or South Dakota political action committees (PAC's) must be itemized.
  • All contributions from any entity must be itemized.
  • All contributions of any amount from any political committee must be itemized.
  • Any donated good or service contribution shall contain the same information as for any monetary contribution, and shall also include a description of the donated good or service contribution.
  • Expenditures may be categorized by expense type. Miscellaneous category prohibited.
  • Any refunds, rebates, interest, sale of property, or other receipts not previously identified during the reporting period.
  • All contributions from a committee to another candidate or committee must be itemized.
  • Entities costs for establishing and administering a political action committee.
  • Each loan repayment shall be reported in the same manner as expenditure.
  • Each loan received shall be reported in the same manner as a contribution.

13. What is the financial disclosure report?

(SDCL 12-27-22 thru 12-27-28)

The campaign finance disclosure report is the most visible part of the disclosure process. This is the document that contains the information most utilized by the public. The disclosure report provides the public with information on contributions received and expenditures made by the political committee during the calendar year up to the cutoff date of the reporting period.

(See paper forms - Campaign Finance Disclosure Report) (File this online!)

14. What is an entity?

(SDCL 12-27-1)

"Entity," any organized or unorganized association, business corporation, limited liability company, nonprofit corporation, limited liability partnership, limited liability limited partnership, limited partnership, partnership, cooperative, trust except for a trust account representing or containing only a contributor's personal funds, a business trust, association, club, labor union, or collective bargaining organization; any local, state, or national organization to which a labor organization pays membership or per capita fees, based upon its affiliation and membership; any trade or professional association that receives its funds from membership dues or service fees, whether organized inside or outside the state; any other entity of any kind, except a natural person that is, has been, or could be recognized by law; or any group of persons acting in concert that is not defined as a political committee in this chapter except, an entity is not a candidate, a public office holder, or a political committee.

15. What can candidate campaign funds be used for?

12-27-50. Limitation on uses for contributions received by candidate campaign committee
Contributions received by a candidate campaign committee may only be used for:
  1. A purpose related to a candidate’s campaign;
  2. Expenses incident to being a public official or former public official; or
  3. Donations to any other candidate, political committee, or nonprofit charitable organization.

16. What happens if a contribution exceeds the limitation?

(SDCL 12-27-7, 8, 9, 10)

If a contribution is received that exceeds the contribution limit (or exceeds the limit in the aggregate when combined with other contributions from the individual during the calendar year) the treasurer must return the contribution to the contributor. It is a Class 1 misdemeanor for a political committee or political party to accept a contribution from an individual that exceeds the contribution limit.

17. Are anonymous contributions allowed?

(SDCL 12-27-24 (14), 12-27-11)

No, every contribution must include the name and mailing address of the contributor. If this information is not provided, the treasurer may not deposit the contribution. If any contribution, money, or other thing of value is received from an unknown source the treasurer must donate it to a nonprofit charitable entity.

18. Are fictitious names on contributions allowed?

(SDCL 12-27-12))

No person or entity may make a contribution in the name of another person or entity 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.

19. Are contributions disguised as gifts allowed?

(SDCL 12-27-12)

No person or entity may make a contribution disguised as a gift and no candidate knowingly may accept a contribution disguised as a gift. This simply means that gifts are contributions and fall under the same limitations. It would be unlawful for someone to give a candidate a "personal" gift while intending the gift to be used as a contribution.

20. What is the supplemental report?

(SDCL 12-27-28)

A supplemental report must be filed if any political committee receives a contribution of $500.00 or more within twenty days immediately prior to an election. The supplemental report shall be filed within forty-eight hours of the receipt of the contribution.

(See paper forms - Supplemental Report)

21. What is the communication expenditure?

(SDCL 12-27-16.1)

Who files this statement: Any PERSON or ENTITY that makes a payment or promise of payment totaling more than $100.00, including donated goods or services, for a communication expenditure that concerns a candidate, public office holder, ballot question, or political party. SDCL 12-27-16(a)-(e) outlines what types of communications do not need to be reported on this form. POLITICAL COMMITTEES list Communication Expenditures on their Campaign Finance Disclosure Report.
  • Deadline to file: Within 48 hours of the time that the communication is disseminated, broadcast, or otherwise published.
  • File with: The Secretary of State except local political committees file with their local election official.
  • Disclaimers for communications: follow SDCL 12-27-16(1)(a)-(c)
  • (See paper forms - Communication Expenditures)

22. Are disclaimers needed for political committees?

All political committees must display or clearly speak the statement: "Paid for by (Name of candidate or political committee)"on any printed material or communication. This disclaimer is not required on buttons, balloons, pins, pens, matchbooks, clothing, or similar small items upon which the inclusion of the statement would be impracticable (SDCL 12-27-15).

23. Where can I post my campaign signs?

There is no state law on when and where campaign signs can be posted. It is up to the local jurisdiction to determine the timeframe and locations. You will need to contact each jurisdiction to find out if they have any regulations.

You may also contact the South Dakota Department of Transportation’s right of way office for more information on where signs may be posted (605)-773-3265. The use of right of way is reserved for official highway signage. All signs in the right of way that are not required for traffic control, as authorized by law (SDCL 31-28-14), are prohibited and will be removed. That includes both candidate and ballot-issue signs.

Municipal and county ordinances regulating placement and removal of campaign signs do not have precedence over state jurisdiction and supervision of state highway rights of way.

24. Can public funds be used to influence an election?

(SDCL 12-27-20)

No. The State, an agency of the State, and the governing body of a county, municipality, or other political subdivision of the State may not expend or permit the expenditure of public funds for the purpose of influencing the nomination or election of any candidate, or for the petitioning of a ballot question on the ballot or the adoption or defeat of any ballot question. This section may not be construed to limit the freedom of speech of any officer or employee of the State or such political subdivisions in his or her personal capacity. This section does not prohibit the State, its agencies, or the governing body of any political subdivision of the State from presenting factual information solely for the purpose of educating the voters on a ballot question.

25. Where do federal candidates file and where can I find their information?

Federal candidates (United States House of Representatives and United States Senate) file with the Federal Election Commission. The Federal Election Commission (FEC), 999 E Street NW, Washington, DC 20463, administers the federal laws. The commission has a toll free information line: (800) 424-9530. The web site address is, where you may look at reports that are filed at the FEC within 48 hours after the report has been filed.

26. What is the effect of the Secretary of State’s filing or refusing to file document?

SDCL 12-27-49 The Office of the Secretary of State’s duty to file a document under this chapter is ministerial. If the Office of the Secretary of State files or refuses to file a document, it does not:
  1. Affect the validity or invalidity of the document in whole or part;
  2. Relate to the correctness or incorrectness of information contained in the document; or
  3. Create a presumption that the document is valid or invalid or that information contained in the document is correct or incorrect.