Heidelberger files lawsuit to overturn ban on out-of-state fundraising

ABERDEEN, S.D. (AP) — A political blogger from Aberdeen is suing in federal court to overturn South Dakota’s ban on out-of-state fundraising for citizens’ initiatives.

Cory Heidelberger and his ballot-question committee, SD Voice, filed the lawsuit on Friday.

The lawsuit calls the ban “a blatantly unconstitutional law that criminalizes lawful political speech and trashes the United States Constitution.”

South Dakota voters approved the ban in November. Experts say the restriction is unlikely to survive legal challenge.

Former House Speaker Mark Mickelson sponsored the initiative, which he said was necessary to preserve the ballot measure process for state residents.

The law is scheduled to take effect July 1. Heidelberger argues that if the ban takes effect, it would unconstitutionally prohibit him and SD Voice from supporting an initiative proposed for the 2020 general election ballot. SD Voice already has received out-of-state money for that petition drive, according to the lawsuit.

“Money is speech, and freedom of speech applies to everyone from every state and in every state,” Heidelberger wrote about the lawsuit on his blog, Dakota Free Press.

Out-of-state donors put more than $10 million into campaigns for or against South Dakota ballot questions during the 2016 election cycle.

The new law prohibits contributions to ballot question committees from nonresidents, out-of-state political committees and entities that haven’t filed with the secretary of state’s office for the preceding four years.

The lawsuit names as defendants Gov. Kristi Noem, state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg and Secretary of State Steve Barnett, who were all elected in November. None has filed a response yet, the Rapid City Journal reported.