Yesterday was the deadline for South Dakota candidates to submit their pre-general campaign finance reports to the Secretary of State. Governor Dennis Daugaard and his running mate Lt. Gov. Matt Michels both have their reports in; so do Democrat Rep. Susan Wismer and Independent Mike Myers. (Myers's running mate Lora Hubbel has also reported, but her filing shows no money in or out.) Here are the totals that have flowed in an out of the gubernatorial campaigns over the last four months:

Raised Spent Cash on Hand
Dennis Daugaard (R) $702,918.35 $878,672.73 $1,460,323.18
Matt Michels (R) $70,616.26 $46,165.02 $24,951.24
Susan Wismer (D) $207,852.50 $238,716.93 $18,391.64
Mike Myers (I) $325.00 $3,688.10 $156.07

Note that Myers has contributed a few thousand out of his own pocket to his own campaign. The Raised numbers here reflect the dollar votes of confidence from others.

As one would expect, Team Daugaard is moneywise untouchable. Daugaard and Michels have $1.5 million on hand to paint every Interstate billboard with Dennis's checked shirt and Matt's manly mustache... or, more likely, to shore up fellow Republicans. Since June, Daugaard's campaign has poured over $143,000 into other GOP campaigns, including $100K to the South Dakota Republican Party, $10K for Shantel Krebs's Secretary of State campaign, and $18.5K for Republican Legislative candidates. (He also gave $250 to the Colton Volunteer Fire Department... perhaps to help put out the fire around Mike Rounds's EB-5 barn?) Michels has greased the state GOP with another $40K, plus a grand for Rounds for Senate.

The Wismer campaign, by contrast, has not been able to spread any such largesse to other Democratic candidates. Before building love with folks down-ticket, Wismer will need to pay off her dad: the $18K Wismer has on hand is less than the $25K loan Maurice Jones loaned the campaign. Dems, better turn on the spigot now to get Wismer out of debt and make that last get-out-the-vote push!

As for Myers... well, I hate to make this comparison, but financially speaking, in the last four months, this blog has outperformed the Myers campaign in numbers of dollars and donors. (Thank you, dear readers, for ringing that tip jar!) In other words, if fundraising means anything, this blog could mount a more effective statewide campaign than the Independent gubernatorial candidate.

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To make your raisin bran soggier, here is the East River Concerned Citizens postcard attacking Rep. Kathy Tyler:

East River Concerned Citizens attack postcard (front), October 2014

(click to embiggen!)

East River Concerned Citizens attack postcard (back), October 2014

(click to embiggen!)

ERCC PAC boss Spencer Cody continues the lie he began last March of calling Rep. Tyler a liar for daring to disagree with him on policy. Cody's own card is filled with lies:

  • Rep. Tyler actually voted for 2014's HB 1162 both times it came before the full House during the 2014 session. HB 1162 became law. The amendment for which Tyler voted on the House floor still said sex-selective abortions are wrong and against state policy.
  • 2014's HB 1180 did not require neutrality of "Pregnancy Health Centers." HB 1180 excluded organizations that provide adoption and/or abortion services from offering the state-mandated counseling. Pregnancy health centers are not neutral: state law empowers them to actively discourage abortion.
  • 2013's HB 1237 did not fix a loophole. Pre-1237, South Dakota's oppressive 72-hour waiting period was consistent for every woman seeking an abortion. HB 1237 created an exception forcing women to wait even longer if the waiting period included a weekend. The bill was a blatant ploy to punish women even further for seeking an abortion by maximizing the economic impact of having to take off work from regular shifts to seek this constitutionally protected medical procedure.

Given all these votes on the record, Rep. Kathy Tyler would appear to be perfectly "candid" and "up front" about her positions. Cody is implying that Rep. Tyler is a liar when she clearly is not... and when his own propaganda falls far from candor.

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In small ball, I notice that Spencer Cody has submitted a revised Statement of Organization for his attack PAC East River Concerned Citizens. I noticed this week that he failed to include the city in the physical address of his PAC, making it hard for interested citizens and journalists to contact his PAC and ask why they are spreading exaggerations and insults about Rep. Kathy Tyler (D-4/Big Stone City).

East River Concerned Citizens PAC, original incomplete statement of organization, 2014.09.14

East River Concerned Citizens PAC, original incomplete statement of organization, 2014.09.14

Quick like a bunny, Cody penciled "Hoven, SD 57450" into his address:

East River Concerned Citizens PAC, amended but still incomplete statement of organization, 2014.10.23

East River Concerned Citizens PAC, amended but still incomplete statement of organization, 2014.10.23

But Cody still left off the full address for his PAC's bank. The PAC's web address also leads nowhere, showing the East River PAC has twice filed an incomplete and evasive campaign report.

In big ball, Cody has filed his PAC's pre-general campaign finance report. So far, ERCC (yes, pronounce the acronym; it's appropriate) has spent $4,871 on advertising and $766.41 on printing. I assume that's the split between the bullying radio ad and the postcards Cody is sending to attack Rep. Tyler. (Postcards, but no entry for postage? Cody, do you need a campaign finance paperwork class? Or do you just need class?)

That's pretty much ERCC's whole kitty so far. It's donations came from four sources:

  • Harvey Jewett: $1,000
  • Rudy Nef: $1,000
  • Brown for Senate: $1,000
  • Codington County Republican Central Committee: $2,650

Harvey Jewett is the Aberdeen lawyer and Regent who's been implicated in the EB-5 scandal and who would have been in a position to keep the Board of Regents from paying attention to what the EB-5 program was doing on the Northern State University campus through December 2009.

Rudy Nef is chairman of the board at the Valley Queen Cheese factory in Milbank. Valley Queen runs on milk produced by area dairies, many of which were funded with EB-5 visa investment dollars.

Senator Corey Brown (R-23/Gettyburg) has consistently fought Rep. Tyler's effort to get the Legislature's Executive Board to discuss evidence of mismanagement and fraud in the state's EB-5 program. He blocked that discussion last month with the specious claim that the Legislature has no authority to discuss criminal activity. Senator Brown has also personally demeaned Rep. Tyler, insulting her expertise and research on EB-5.

Cody says in his statement of organization that ERCC's mission is "advocating traditional South Dakota values and economic growth." I get the impression the purpose is less the former and more the latter, as three of its four reported donors appear inclined to keep easy money like EB-5 flowing into their friends' pockets than in promoting traditional South Dakota values like honesty, open government, and civility.

16 comments

Here's one sign that Democrat Robin Page may beat Phil Jensen out of his District 33 Senate seat:

Campaign signs, one block west of Pennington County GOP HQ, West Main St., Rapid City, SD, 2014.10.22.

Campaign signs, one block west of Pennington County GOP HQ, West Main St., Rapid City, SD, 2014.10.22.

This photo comes from one block west of Pennington County Republican headquarters on West Main Street in Rapid City. We see the expected Republican signs for Daugaard, Rounds, Krebs, and Gosch. But we see no sign from the GOP incumbent Senator Jensen. Representing District 33 is Democratic challenger Page.

Remember that Senator Jensen drew disdain from his own party last spring for his hangup on social issues and his awkward commenters on racism. Senator Jensen only narrowly survived a primary challenge. Page is now working hard with direct mail and door-knocking to put Jensen out of a part-time job.

This vacant green hosts a couple other non-Republicans amidst the usual conservative suspects. District 34's GOP Rep. Dan Dryden has his sign up, but instead of fellow Republican Jeff Partridge, we find Democratic candidate Steve Stenson advertised. And from District 35, we get the strange mix of Tea-flavored spokesmodel Lynne Hix-DiSanto and Democrat Dave Freytag, with no visible sign from incumbent GOP Rep. Blaine "Chip" Campbell.

One would think every Republican in the neighborhood would want to get his or her name up next to the party leaders on that street and crowd out those pesky Democratic interlopers. But it could be that the Republican sign-minders down the street are sending a message to Jensen in tolerating Page's challenge.

21 comments

The early voting stations for American Indians in South Dakota aren't running too smoothly. Fall River County auditor Sue Ganje set up the Shannon County station in a five-foot-by-ten-foot entryway, making it hard to process all the Indian voters who were coming to exercise their Constitutional rights. Ganje's response (so I hear from someone who's been on the scene): those Indians need to exercise their Constitutional rights more slowly.

Auditor Ganje has also had the sheriff out to the polling station in Pine Ridge twice. Ganje says she received complaints that Indian voting rights group Four Directions, which has fought for years to establish early voting stations on the reservations, was coercing voters. Shannon County Sheriff Jim Daggett thus cruised out to see what the fuss was about. He found no fuss, of course, but take a moment to envision a sheriff summoned by a white county auditor to stand at the door of a polling place in front of American Indian voters. What was that you were saying about voter intimidation, Susan?

Enter the unlikely hero, Secretary of State Jason Gant. Our Secretary of State has fought these early voting stations, but yesterday, he evidently came to their assistance:

Four Directions officials were upset that the early polling place in Pine Ridge was set up in a small entryway. After complaints to Secretary of State Jason Gant, a new, larger polling place was found Thursday.

Bret Healy, a spokesman for Four Directions, complimented Gant for personally investigating and finding a new location.

“This was a public official doing the public’s business in a very admirable way,” Healy said [Jonathan Ellis, "Voting Accusations Fly in Reservation Areas," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.10.24].

I find it hard to put Jason Gant and admirable in the same quote, but there they are. The Secretary can't tell the sheriff to stay the heck out of Pine Ridge, but he appears to be doing his job to make voting run as smoothly as possible for all South Dakotans.

Now if he could just straighten out Buffalo County, which has reneged on its promise to open a satellite voting station:

Commissioners last year said they would establish an early voting center in Fort Thompson if they could do so using Help America Vote Act money. Elaine Wulff, Buffalo County’s auditor, said the county has about $20,000 in HAVA [Help America Vote Act] money.

But Wulff said the commissioners didn’t want to use the county’s HAVA funds, but instead wanted to use state HAVA funds. When the state funds weren’t available, the commission decided not to open an early vote center in Fort Thompson.

“We’re really short of funds, and we could not afford it,” Wulff said, adding that it would cost the county about $200 a day.

But Healy said the county was treating its allotment of HAVA money as if it belonged to the county. He also criticized the commission for “changing the benchmark after the fact,” and he said the commissioners were not the type of people he would trust to buy cattle from [Ellis, 2014.10.24].

Buffalo County has HAVA money in its pocket, but it's refusing to use that money for it's intended purpose. Secretary Gant, maybe you need to swing through Fort Thompson on your way back to Pierre.

51 comments

Rick Weiland, Larry Pressler, Mike Rounds, and Gordon Howie "debated" on South Dakota Public Broadcasting last night to prove who ought to be South Dakota's next Senator. Here are the most important observations to come from the debate:

  1. Gordon Howie wins on points. He challenged Mike Rounds directly on EB-5, saying the former governor had brought the scandal upon himself by skipping debates and giving false information. He challenged Rounds to testify under oath on EB-5. Howie blasted Rounds for doubling the state budget and leaving a $127-million structural deficit. And Rounds ignored those points. Ignoring points usually means you lose a debate.
  2. Gordon Howie railed against "corruption" and "crony capitalism," yet he used the public airwaves to plug a private company. He joked that all the campaign ads were crowding out Taco John's commercials. Hmm... is Gordon making a deal for his own Schiefferesque cavalry cash from a conservative businessman and USD grad?
  3. Mike Rounds implied EB-5 is good, because it's a program just like Canada has (well, had: Canada decided the visa investment program doesn't pay off and canceled it this year). By that logic, Rounds should embrace single-payer health insurance.
  4. Weiland felt too restrained, especially at the beginnings of his responses, as if he was overplaying the humble country-boy image. I understand the psychology at play, but gentle aw-shucksery will not defeat the Rounds machine. Weiland did build fire in each of his answers, but beating Rounds requires pushing Rounds off his script and forcing him to answer questions. (Remember: Rounds has proven really bad at answering questions!) Blend Weiland's policy and Howie's relentless attack last night, and you keep Mike Rounds out of the Senate.
  5. Weiland does get points for blowing raspberries at Senator Harry Reid. Weiland said he will not vote for Harry Reid or Republican Senator Mitch McConnell for majority leader, saying both men have led the Senate into dysfunction. He cleverly challenged Rounds to make the same pledge. Rounds muttered about Reid but didn't mention McConnell.
  6. Weiland also gets points for common sense solutions. Weiland advocated Senator Tom Harkin's bill to eliminate the income cap on Social Security tax and get Bill Gates to pay for protecting Social Security. Rounds called that a $100 billion tax hike on "job creators," which is code for reducing the middle class to serfdom under the wealthy elites backing Rounds.
  7. Speaking of Social Security, Pressler rejected Democratic arguments that he wants to raise the retirement age. Pressler said last night he would leave the retirement age where it is.
  8. Weiland pinned the Ryan budget on Rounds, saying Rounds backs the GOP House's intentions to gut Head Start, Pell Grants, and other programs that benefit the middle class. Weiland said Rounds would voucherize Medicare so old folks could take the Ryan coupons to buy insurance at Fischer Rounds. Rounds repeated his feeble dodge that he "admires" Paul Ryan's fiscal efforts but has never said he supports the Ryan budget... which is code for, "You have no idea what I'll do to you in office, and I don't have to tell you."
  9. Weiland also nicely flipped the Rounds argument that an obstructionist Senate is to blame for our woes. Weiland said we could have immigration reform now, with more secure borders, if Speaker Boehner would just take up the bipartisan bill the Senate passed last year 68-32.
  10. Rounds is now fully on board with Republican fear-mongering. Invoking ISIS and Ebola (thank goodness for one-word threats), Rounds repeated "safety and security" as much as he repeated "South Dakota common sense." He also said we should impose a travel ban to stop Ebola "right now."
  11. Pressler continues to look every bit the capable statesman alongside his younger, less experienced counterparts. He recites the same points in every debate—Independent caucus, obsolete bases in Italy, three-point immigration plan—but that's a focused candidate staying on message. And he keeps coming up with new images for his campaign. He's gone from naked rabbit to last night's David up against twelve goliaths (Rounds, Weiland, and PACs), with a slingshot of idealism and friendship (translation: paint your own signs, because Harriet and I can't afford them!). Pressler still talks policy and turns phrases as effectively as anyone else in the campaign.
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Campaign manager Rob Skjonsberg has had an awful time explaining away his boss Mike Rounds's foibles. Now he has to explain his own. The Nation's Lee Fang discovers that Skjonsberg used his position on the state Board of Economic Development to funnel taxpayer dollars to a company he and Rounds have invested in.

In 2012, Skjonsberg formed Lake Sharpe Investments, which invests in new companies. Mike Rounds had over $50K in Lake Sharpe Investments in early 2013. Lake Sharpe has invested in Novita LLC, a company hoping to build a plant near Brookings to produce oil and livestock feed from ethanol processing by-product. (Remember, Skjonsberg worked for Poet Ethanol.) In September 2013, Novita got a $771K grant from the Board of Economic Development. And Skjonsberg, appointed to the Board of Economic Development by Governor Dennis Daugaard in January 2013, voted for that grant.

Read that back: a guy invests in a company. Guy gets on public board. Guy votes to send public dollars to that company. Guy has a conflict of interest, right?

Conflict of interest. No member of the board or the GOED staff may participate in or vote upon a decision of the board concerning an application in which that member has a direct personal or financial interest. [South Dakota Administrative Rule 68:02:09:13].

Skjonsberg turns Republican relativist and says there's just a perception of a conflict of interest:

I am a member of a LLC. That LLC is subsequently invested in a separate fund. That separate investment fund, twice removed, has their own independent management and they make their own investment decisions. I am not fully versed on the investments, now three times removed, made by this separate fund—but nonetheless I’ve come to understand that the perception of a conflict has arisen. I’ve advised both the commissioner and the board chair that I have taken steps to ensure the perceived conflict is avoided in the future [Rob Skjonsberg, in Lee Fang, "Revealed: A New Ethics Scandal Involving the GOP’s South Dakota Senate Candidate," The Nation, 2014.10.23].

John Tsitrian sees through that relativism and challenges Skjonsberg to explain how voting for that grant and two extensions for Novita's construction delays is anything other than a conflict of interest. But we know Skjonsberg's style from the Rounds Senate campaign: he'll probably just ask to change his answer but still expect never to be held accountable for violating the public trust for his personal benefit.

77 comments

If Senator Tim Johnson was planning to engage in the climax of the campaign to replace him, I thought he would simply match Senator John Thune's pro-Rounds pitch with a warm, fuzzy pro-Weiland ad. This evening, an hour before the televised Senate candidates' debate on SDPB, Senator Johnson surprises us with a broadside fired at Rounds and the South Dakota Republican Party for politicizing Ellsworth Air Force Base and getting their facts wrong:

I know from my own personal experience that the paid political advertisement being run by candidate Mike Rounds claiming that Rick Weiland wants to close Ellsworth Air Force Base is false. I worked directly with Rick Weiland and Senator Tom Daschle for over a decade to defend Ellsworth Air Force Base from closure. Rick handled briefing materials for us and worked tirelessly as state director to defend, not to close, Ellsworth Air Force Base. I wish former Governor Bill Janklow were still with us because he too knew of and benefited from Rick Weiland's work to protect Ellsworth.

I will give Mr. Rounds the benefit of the doubt and assume he was unaware of these facts. But if his campaign continues to air this completely false advertising about Rick Weiland, it will prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that it and Mr. Rounds are more concerned about political gain than about Ellsworth's future.

Anyone who has ever worked to defend Ellsworth knows that politicizing the discussion of that critical base is the surest way to jeopardize its future, and that is what this kind of irresponsible political advertising does [Senator Tim Johnson, quoted in South Dakota Democratic Party press release, 2014.10.23].

Senator Johnson doesn't just point out the factual and moral errors of Team Rounds's charge that a Senator Weiland would throw B-1B bombers in the trashbin. Senator Johnson establishes Weiland's past participation in preserving Ellsworth. Senator Johnson also quite boldly invokes the ghost of Bill Janklow to scare his descendant Republicans from telling any more lies about Weiland's commitment to national defense and local economic development.

Thank you, Senator Johnson, for speaking up!

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