The "Super PAC to End Super PACs" Jumps into South Dakota's Senate Race

Larry Lessig's anti-corruption group will spend $1 million to boost a red state Democrat in a wild race.

Mayday.us, the crowd-funded Super PAC launched by Larry Lessig to back "anti-corruption," and pro-campaign finance reform candidates is beginning a $1 million ad buy in South Dakota's heretofore sleepy Senate race. It's on behalf of Rick Weiland, the Democratic candidate and two-time loser of statewide races who, up until now, has been considered an afterthought. Here's the ad, which will start appearing on airwaves today:

Some background: South Dakota is where this cycle's big Republican dreams were first dreamed. Senator Tim Johnson, a Democrat who suffered a stroke in 2006, won an easy re-election two years later but soon broadcast that his third term would be his last. The squabbling over what followed–Johnson’s son passing on the race, and former Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin balking at the potential for a primary challenge–pitted former Senator Tom Daschle against Sen. Harry Reid. Daschle encouraged Weiland to run, and Reid raged that this hubris had cost the party an electable candidate.

So, why would Mayday walk onto the field? The PAC points to a new Public Policy Polling survey that shows Republican Mike Rounds, a former governor who easily won two terms, slipping to 35 percent support against Weiland's 28 percent. Weiland's favorables have surpassed those of Rounds; in a four-way race with former Senator Larry Pressler and conservative Gordon Howie, PPP suggested that Weiland had the most potential to surge.

The reason for the turnaround is a scandal that has lit up South Dakota while remaining fairly obscure outside of it. For much of 2014, Rounds has been dogged by questions about the years-long abuse of the state's EB-5 immigration visa program, during which the state allegedly sold visas to wealthy foreigners who never got their papers. The projects funded by their fees: Failed, dead, kaput.

That suggests to Mayday that the issue can completely alter the race. South Dakota has been on nobody's radar—the visa scandal is practically Pynchonian in its weirdness and complexity—and neither Weiland nor Rounds has a million dollars to spend. The arrival of that much money, to be joined by up to $1 million more from Mayday allies like Every Voice Action, could alter the race in a state that gave the Obama-Biden ticket just 40 percent of the vote two years ago.

Hey, that's better than the Democrats did in Kansas.

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