Republican candidate for Senate Marion Michael Rounds skipped a public forum in Fort Pierre last week. The South Dakota Indian Business Alliance invited all U.S. Senate candidates to speak at its fall policy meeting. Democrat Rick Weiland had the temerity to join arch-Republican Stace Nelson on stage, and they went toe-to-toe on economic development policy, with Weiland encouraging more government attention to problems in Indian country and Nelson countering that the tribes enjoyed their cultural zenith prior to the intrusion of government in their lives.

Annette Bosworth was there, too, instead of putting in hours back at her clinic so she could make payroll on time for a change.

But Mike Rounds? Nope. That makes four debates he's skipped this November. With scandal bubbling over his own profligate distribution of state funds to the failing Northern Beef Packers slaughterhouse and the misappropriation (theft may not be too strong a word) of at least $550,000 of those funds by his pals at NBP and SDRC, appearing at an event focusing on economic development perhaps hit too close to home. But this event was already literally close to home, in Fort Pierre, where Mike keeps house in his state subsidized and federally subsidized flood plain.

Larry Rhoden didn't make it, either. Maybe Rounds and Rhoden will make time to visit their Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota consituents elsewhere. But if attendees of the SDIBA meeting conclude that two out of four Republicans don't have time to talk policy with Indians, could we blame them?