As if we haven't had enough fun today, I finally get a copy of the written threat the South Dakota Republican Party issued to local media: stop running an anti-Mike Rounds ad, or we'll sue!

William Taylor, attorney, on behalf of South Dakota Republican Party, letter to South Dakota television stations, 2014.10.08.

William Taylor, attorney, on behalf of South Dakota Republican Party, letter to South Dakota television stations, 2014.10.08. (Click to embiggen!)

We have been contacted by the South Dakota Republican Party about the recent advertisement that your station is running for Every Voice Action. The ad is dated October 2, 2014, and is ironically entitled "Responsibility." In the ad, the narrator states that "Mike Rounds gave his friend a no-bid contract to auction off EB-5 green cards to the highest bidder." This statement is false. The EB-5 program was never an auction, as Argus Leader reporter David Montgomery, who knows something about EB-5, had written. On October 2, he wrote that the reference to an "auction" was "simply not true" and a "core inaccuracy."

Montgomery is right. The ad is false and therefore defamatory. It is made with actual malice, meaning with knowledge that it is false or with a reckless disregard as to whether it is false. Given no evidence that Mike Rounds sold green cards to "the highest bidder," the ad's statement that Rounds was a party to a contract resulting in an auction is false.

This letter constitutes notice that your station is engaged in broadcasting a defamatory statement made with actual malice. If your station does not stop broadcasting the ad within 24 hours of receipt of this letter, we will take legal action to stop the ad, and to hold your station responsible for its broadcast [William Taylor, Woods Fuller Shultz & Smith PC, on behalf of South Dakota Republican Party, letter to South Dakota television stations, 2014.10.08].

Look at the laughably narrow grounds on which the SDGOP argues defamation. Look at the text of EVA's ad, line by line, and think about which ones strike you as the hardest swings at Mike Rounds:

  1. It's the Mike Rounds citizenship-for-sale scheme
  2. and it's getting worse.
  3. Now the Republican Legislature is investigating.
  4. Mike Rounds says [enter mocking high-pitched voice] "EB-5 doesn't sell citizenship."
  5. But Mike Rounds gave his friend
  6. a no-bid contract
  7. to auction off EB-5 green cards to the highest bidder.
  8. That is selling citizenship
  9. and Mike Rounds knows it.
  10. His cronies profit.
  11. Taxpayers have millions in liability.
  12. And Mike Rounds still refuses to take responsibility.

#5 implies Mike Rounds and EB-5 czar Joop Bollen are friends. #6 refers to a bad fiscal practice. #10 and #11 suggest full-tilt malfeasance. #12 is a direct insult. Heck, #4 even makes fun of Rounds's voice. A good lawyer ought to be able to shoot a half dozen defamation ducks in this barrel!

But the SDGOP's legal eagles ignore those targets and focus on auction, the technically inaccurate but least provocative term in the ad aside from the prepositions. The SDGOP filed no defamation suit against Rick Weiland when he ran his "Auction" ad last month. You could even argue that the error makes the EB-5 program sound more honest than it really is.

The Republicans have tried to dismiss Democratic lawyer Patrick Duffy's charge that Rounds committed felony production of false evidence as a "new low", but hey, Duffy at least has Rounds's exact words and specific statute to back him up. Either Craig Lawrence is as bad at hiring lawyers as Rounds is at hiring campaign staff, or the Republicans really don't have any response to the substantive charges of corruption in Mike Rounds's EB-5 program.

The SDGOP threat is moot, of course, because Every Voice Action has released a new ad that hits Rounds even harder... and it doesn't say the word "auction."

Mike and the SDGOP just have to get used to the facts. Rounds oversaw a corrupt program. Rounds is offering a story that keeps sprouting holes. And South Dakotans aren't buying his story.