Following the Republican be-rilement over Senator Tim Johnson's vote to confirm rejected Obama assistant AG nominee Debo Adegbile, I served up a question about whether hiring a lawyer who represents scum should have any impact on our assessment of the candidates seeking to replace Johnson.

Today I ask how Republicans feel if a candidate himself represents scum.

Last fall, Scott Krantz of Sioux City pled guilty to possessing and transporting child pornography (note to perverts: if you have to have child porn, don't move it! you'll save yourself an extra charge). He tried to contend that the court should let him walk around free pending sentencing because he'd served in the military. The U.S. Eighth Circuit said no, military service is not an "exceptional reason" to excuse bad guys from jail.

Helping Krantz make this unsuccessful argument: soldier, lawyer,and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jason Ravnsborg.

A nice Republican candidate spends his work day trying to keep a child porn user out of jail—frankly, I don't get too bent out of shape over that, because Ravnsborg's a lawyer, and he has an important if at times unpleasant job to do. Everyone deserves legal counsel, even scum.

But I don't have to vote in the GOP primary. Republicans do. And Republicans shouted an awful lot about how it was unacceptable for our current U.S. Senator to even vote for a decent lawyer who has defended a disreputable individual. Can they now vote for a decent Republican who has himself represented a disreputable individual?

Or does Ravnsborg get a pass because he, unlike Tim Johnson and Debo Adegbile, is a soldier?


Canadian/Chinese uranium predator Powertech/Azarga can't stand a little criticism. Earlier this month, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a license to Powertech for its proposed in-situ uranium mining project in the southern Black Hills. The Rapid City Journal called the NRC's issuance a "rush to judgment," given that Powertech still faces two regulatory hearings in South Dakota before it can start despoiling the sacred Paha Sapa.

Powertech VP Richard Blubaugh took offense to the Journal's criticism and complained to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission:

From: Richard Blubaugh []
Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 10:53 AM
To: Burrows, Ronald; Lancaster, Thomas; Yilma, Haimanot
Subject: Informing Public of Process

Ron, Tom and Haimanot,

Please see editorial from Rapid City Journal below. Will NRC respond in order to correct the misunderstanding presented to the public regarding the licensing process? I will follow up with telephone call later today.

Richard Blubaugh

NRC's Thomas Lancaster forwarded Blubaugh this message from the NRC's Office of Public Affairs telling Blubaugh to chill out:

From: McIntyre, David
Sent: Thursday, April 17, 2014 8:54 AM
To: Lancaster, Thomas
Subject: RE: Informing Public of Process

Tom -

The Office of Public Affairs does not recommend responding to the Rapid City Journal’s editorial, “NRC’s Rush to Judgment.” The editorial did not mischaracterize our process or regulations, which direct the staff to issue a license once the necessary safety and environmental reviews are complete, even if an adjudicatory hearing is still underway. The editorial disagrees with that process, which is their opinion.


You can read the complete e-mail exchange in this PDF copy.

It's bad enough Powertech and its foreign investors are using big money to spread their pro-industry propaganda in South Dakota. It's worse that they try to get the government to intervene in the media on their behalf. Thankfully, in this case, the government declined, and Powertech must do its own dirty work.


Mike Myers made the ballot on time, but not his press conference. The now-official Independent gubernatorial candidate was supposed to spend an hour with Republican gubernatorial candidate Lora Hubbel telling the press about corruption in South Dakota. He arrived nearly an hour late.

I can't tell if it's bad reporting (couldn't be! Betsy Jibben is an alumna of high school debate and South Dakota State!), but from KDLT's synopsis, I get the impression we missed another chance to focus South Dakotans' attention on specific problems that our next governor needs to solve.

Hubbel and Myers mentioned South Dakota's well-known F for corruption in state government. Myers said hospitals should pay their taxes. KDLT said Myers agreed with Hubbel that we should repeal the Affordable Care Act. Hubbel said the U.S. should just trade with Israel instead of China (China's GDP: $9.2 trillion; Israel's GDP: $291 billion.)

Then Hubbel advocated nullifcation by sheriffs:

"I want to make sure you have a Governor that says no way to Federal Government. You're not crossing over this line. You're not messing with our state and you're not messing with us here," said Republican Candidate, Lora Hubbel.

Hubbel says she wants to start a volunteer sheriff's organization that will keep the federal government out.

"Your local sheriff is the best protection against the federal government," said Hubbel [Betsy Jibben, "Two Candidates Talk SD Corruptions," KDLT, 2014.04.23].

Oh, goody. Hubbel is talking about something like the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, which confuses the judiciary and executive branches and reads the oath sheriffs swear to protect the Constitution as authorization for local badge-and-gun tyranny. You want corruption? I think a local sheriff saying the Constitution says what he says it says is a viable definition.

So while Myers runs late and Hubbel worries about FEMA setting up concentration camps (an audience member asked if she knew where FEMA has its two camps in South Dakota, and she dithered in agnosticism instead of smacking down false nutbar rumor), we'll watch Dennis Daugaard cruise to an 85–15 win in the primary.

Nathan Cole-Dai and his dad Jihong tie a red ribbon to a tree on Sixth Street in Brookings to raise public awareness of a Department of Transportation plan to remove trees and boulevards to widen the street. Photo by Phyllis Cole-Dai, April 2014.

Nathan Cole-Dai and his dad Jihong tie a red ribbon to a tree on Sixth Street in Brookings to raise public awareness of a Department of Transportation plan to remove trees and boulevards to widen the street. Photo by Phyllis Cole-Dai, April 2014.

Motorists cruising through Brookings on U.S. 14 will see dozens of stately trees along sylvan Sixth Street ribboned in red. The ribbons protest the state Department of Transportation's plan to widen Sixth Street from Main to Medary and remove as many as 39 nice big trees.

Arboreal advocate Phyllis Cole-Dai is appalled. In an opinion column published in last Saturday's Brookings Register (evidently print edition only), Cole-Dai rightly notes that the leafy appearance of Sixth Street through the historic district makes a verdant oasis along the highway, a welcome break from the open prairie and from the concrete businessplex at the I-29 gateway. She says that instead of widening Sixth Street, Brookings should look at lowering speed limits, re-routing traffic, and promoting bicycle and pedestrian travel to reduce accidents. She also rejects the asphalt-über-alles thinking of the engineers and says Brookings should plant more trees, not fewer.

I agree whole-heartedly. I love trees, but I also love boulevards. The DOT would remove the boulveards and run the outside lanes of Sixth Street right up to the sidewalk. That makes walking along the highway less pleasant and more dangerous. Boulevards also provide a necessary buffer for snow removal. Without boulevards, the city plows throw piles of hard, heavy snow right onto the sidewalks, piles that even some snowblowers can't cut through. As I've seen in other snowy urban settings, a boulevardless highway usually becomes impassable for pedestrians in winter.

Cole-Dai is gathering hundreds of signatures online in the run-up to the Department of Transportation's public meeting on its Sixth Street plan on April 28 (that's next Monday, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Brookings Government Center, in the council chamber). If you're in town, drop by that meeting and tell the DOT to keep Brookings beautiful: keep the trees and the boulevards.


It must be a Larry thing. 

I've been hovering over the Federal Election Commission's website, eager to review the professed finances of South Dakota's U.S. Senate candidates. But so far, the only financials I can look at are among the least exciting.

Independent Larry Pressler mailed his Q1 FEC report April 11, four days before the April 15 deadline. He's still mostly self-funded, loaning his campaign another $29,874. His $9,850 of donations included $525 from his wife Harriet and itemized donations from just eight other individuals, only three of whom live in South Dakota. He burned most of those donations up paying Emmett Reistroffer's Jefferson Adams Consulting $9,133 to gather the signatures for his petition.

Republican Larry Rhoden handed his Q1 report to UPS on April 14. This Larry drew $15,988 in contributions. He still owes himself $4,757 from last quarter, and he sprung for another $90 this quarter for stamps. Rhoden upped his East River itemized donation quotient from 10% in Q4 of 2013 to 75% in Q1 2014, thanks to help from his relatives in Madison and a nice Norwegian from Eden. Rhoden's wife Sandy gave him just $40 (which the campaign immediately paid back), and out-of-staters gave him zip (at least in the itemized list).

I'd love to report on comparable data for the other Senate candidates, but the FEC appears not to have received their reports. On April 22, the FEC published letters to Marion Michael Rounds, Stace Nelson, and Rick Weiland declaring them late on the Q1 filings. The letters give them four business days (i.e., until Monday, April 28!) to file their Q1 reports. Fines could range from $30 to $16,000.

But hey, where's Jason Ravnsborg? He doesn't have any campaign finance numbers up on, but the FEC has not posted a late-filer letter for him. Jeepers, Jason's getting a free pass from all corners this month!


An eager reader directs my attention to an evaluation of the April 12 GOP Senate primary debate by Katie Zerr, the Mobridge journalist who asked questions as a panelist at that event. From her best seat in the house, Zerr said her favorite is...  Jason Ravnsborg!

I left the debate thinking Jason Ravnsborg, a lawyer from Yankton, was the most statesmen-like in his answers, answered the questions as they were asked and actually had solutions rather than party-line rhetoric. He thought about the questions and for the most part, answered what was asked. That didn’t happen often during the more than an hour-long event [Katie Zerr, "No Stars Shining During Senate Debate," Mobridge Tribune, 2014.04.16].

That Jason Ravnsborg, the last-minute entrant with no experience, no political history, and no connections other than maybe pals from the USD good-old-boys' club (not to be underestimated!) could get even that much favorable mention surprises me.

But let's try to un-surprise Ravnsborg's minor traction. Push poll be darned, there are a lot of people who think nine-million-dollar frontrunner Marion Michael Rounds stinks. Zerr makes her distaste for Rounds clear:

Mike Rounds is the only candidate for whom I would not have considered casting my vote. I remember the explosion of government during his administration. I remember the 10 percent across the board cuts Gov. Daugaard had to make to clean up the mess in which Rounds left this state. I remember no money for education, plenty of money when it was one of his pet projects.

During the debate, he dodged questions by repeating the mantra “Republicans need to take back the Senate,” over and over again. I don’t remember any of the three journalists asking who needs to control the Senate.

He artfully dodged the questions using words like “South Dakota common sense in Washington” and “we balance our budget here in South Dakota.”

It was a lot of hot air and little substance [Zerr, 2014.04.16].

Zerr is clearly looking for an alternative to Rounds. She finds Stace Nelson gutsy but perhaps too "rough around the edges" for Congress. She finds Larry Rhoden's expressed loathing for President Obama a dull repeat of the ineffective GOP politics of the last six years. So for the rational observer, that leaves Ravnsborg, who cites Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn a lot, doesn't put stickers on animals, and hasn't raised the ire of the GOP establishment.

I can see the logic of Zerr's Ravnsborg fandom. But the fact that he's getting any positive press, that this latecoming novice is being taken seriously by any reporter, may say as much about the unexpected weakness of the frontrunner and the wheel-spinning of his other challengers as it does about any brilliant campaign strategy by Ravnsborg.


Kudos to Ken Santema for making the drive out to Ipswich for Monday's District 23 GOP House candidates forum. His summary of the candidates' responses to audience questions is a useful guide for voters in the sparse but sprawling north central district.

Of all the instructive policy statements staked out by the candidates, Mr. Powers chooses to focus on the vague partisan snark issued by Democratic Party apostate Dale Hargens. District 23 voters frankly don't care about that. They want to know which of the five candidates can best represent their views on property taxes, education, and social issues.

Santema notes that all five candidates—Hargens of Miller, Michelle Harrison of Mobridge, Gene Toennies of Cresbard, Larry Nielson of Tulare, and incumbent Rep. Justin Cronin of Gettysburg—appear to view economic development as a priority for government. Hargens said his departure from the Democratic Party came because of a "surge to the left" by our party, but I remain fascinated at supposedly free-market Republicans' ongoing surge toward leftist government intervention in the economy.

On education, all five candidates appear to defer the question of education funding to local control... because legislators would hate to be responsible for advocating the tax increases necessary for schools to end South Dakota's humiliation of teachers with the lowest salaries in the nation.

Santema reports some predictable fuss and feathers about Common Core. But someone phrased the Common Core question perfectly, asking the candidates what they thought would happen if there suddenly were no standards in public education. Harrison, Toennies, and Hargens gave the right answer: teachers would go right on teaching, proving there is no need for top-down standards and political reform movements like Common Core and No Child Left Behind.

On gay marriage, Nielson appears to have offered the greatest offense, saying (in Santema's paraphrase) that gay marriage is "nothing but a topic brought forth to expand benefits...." Yeah, because all you non-heterosexuals aren't looking for equality or justice or respect; you just want your partner's pension, and that's just evil. We should get rid of all those greedy spousal benefits for everybody!

On the hopeful side, Harrison said gay marriage and abortion are morality issues and that (reports Santema) "she doesn’t believe the government has the right to choose these issues for people." Hey, Charlie Hoffman! Can you get your neighbors to recognize the true conservatism in that statement?

Alas, Santema notes that all five candidates said they support the Keystone XL pipeline (Hargens on the false assertion that TransCanada's export of tar sands oil to China will promote our energy independence) and that not one addressed the issue of property rights and eminent domain that ought to raise Republican ire over Keystone XL.

Thank you for that report, Ken!


Michael Larson reads NPN's report that the PPACA Medicaid expansion could save 38 to 95 South Dakotans' lives, uses the word deontological, and declares Dennis Daugaard a death panel of one. Brilliant!

The Governor's decision to not expand Medicaid fails basic levels of moral reasoning. On a utilitarian level, the expansion would actually improve South Dakota's economy, improve access to healthcare for thousands, reduce the financial burden on counties, and save lives. On a deontological level, expansion saves lives, and that is a universal action that can and should always be followed. The Governor's arguments about cost were addressed, the Governor's compassion for the state's working poor have been found lacking, and now the Governor's decision has allowed him to play the role of Sarah Palin's death panels in regards to South Dakota's citizens [Michael Larson, "Daugaard's Death Panel of One," Taking a Left Turn in South Dakota, 2014.04.22].

Save money, save lives: expand Medicaid! And if your Governor won't do it, elect Democrats who will.


Recent Comments

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