PIERRE — Politicians hoping to win high office down the road have long spread money to other campaigns along the way in the hope of engendering good will. The latest is former Gov. Mike Rounds.
The "Peter Norbeck" political action committee that Rounds, a Republican, founded after leaving office at the end of 2010 might be the single-most important financial force in South Dakota’s 2012 elections.
The Norbeck PAC distributed $120,500 this fall to Republican candidates for the Legislature and the state Public Utilities Commission, as well as some other Republican political committees, according to its pre-general election financial report.
Rounds is exploring a 2014 candidacy for U.S. Senate.
Combined with two Republican committees for senators and representatives, the trio of PACs has spread more than $200,000 to GOP candidates this fall.
The Norbeck PAC is operated by one of his former chiefs of staff, Rob Skjonsberg, and by Jeff Erickson, the now-retired chief for Great Western banks.
"We raised the money in a relatively short period," Skjonsberg said Tuesday, adding there was great support and enthusiasm.
"I suspect the candidates needed this kind of support, especially this year," he said.
For comparison, the South Dakota Education Association’s PAC reported distributing $56,200 this fall to candidates, including $2,200 apiece to 22 Democrats. SDEA often has been the major financial backer of Democratic candidates for the Legislature.
The top Norbeck contributions were larger SDEA’s donations this year and were bigger than has been typical in South Dakota.