Since his inauguration, I have struggled to like Governor Dennis Daugaard. I would like to believe that, while we have our policy disagreements, he at least represents a reasonably mainstream wing of the Republican party. Alas, the Governor keeps doing and saying things that make me think that South Dakota really is ruled by wingnuts.

Two weeks ago, the Center for Public Integrity released the results of its State Integrity Investigation. That 18-month study based on information gathered by local reporters in each state ranked South Dakota second in the nation for risk of state government corruption.

A constituent and occasional reader wrote to Governor Dennis Daugaard to express concern about the F South Dakota received on this report card. The Governor's office responds with the same rebuttal offered by chief of staff Dusty Johnson in the report itself: South Dakota government has good ethics policies and enforcement, and even if government misbehaves, we have a "free and energetic press" to keep government honest. The letter appeals to "common sense" and poo-poos a state ethics commission as "another layer of bureaucracy," a "board of experts."

Remember, when right-wingers say "experts," they don't mean it as a compliment.

The defense turns hard right in this paragraph:

As you glance over the rankings of the states, you'll see a trend: blue states outscore red states. For example, New Jersey and California are among the top five and the most conservative states—Wyoming, South Dakota, and Georgia—rank as the bottom three. Upon further investigation, I found that though this group labels themselves as "non-partisan," many, like journalists from the Las [sic] Angeles Times and the New York Times, say this group is liberal. In fact, the Center for Public Integrity receives most of its funding from a well-known leftist: George Soros [Kelsey Pritchard, Director of Constituent Services, letter to South Dakota citizen, 2012.03.21].

Ah yes, George Soros, one of Fox News watchers' favorite bogeymen. Harken to the echoes of that evil European-accented laugh. Brand the group as leftist. Crib the Wikipedia note about both the LA and NY Times using the word "liberal" (while failing to note that the cited mentions come from one article from each paper on the same topic from 1996).

Now the reader who submitted this letter is a rather strong right-winger, so it could be that Governor Daugaard's office is simply selling its message to its audience in terms to which it thinks that audience will be most receptive, in this case, Soros-conspiracy fears and red-state-blue-state paranoia.

But I'm dismayed that, in communication with constituents concerned about corruption, the Governor's first impulse is to attack the messenger in terms dear to wingnut hearts rather than focusing on South Dakota's purportedly positive efforts to reduce the risk of government gone wrong. In such rhetorical tactics, the Governor casts himself as much less a uniting moderate and much more a right-wing warrior.