KELO-TV's Perry Groten points out that Annette Bosworth's recent legal defense fundraising pitch is delusional. But might her fundraising letters also violate federal campaign finance law?

Bosworth has sent letters to supporters from her Senate campaign asking them to help raise $400,000 for her legal defense fund. Bosworth has already paid over $62,000 from her Senate campaign fund to lawyers working on her defense in the petition perjury trial she faces in May. Bosworth apparently views her perjury trial as a permissible use of campaign funds, which it likely is under the Federal Election Commission's "irrespective" test, since the trial arises directly from campaign activities.

So the perjury trial is a campaign activity. Cool. But neither the $400K pitch nor her courtroom-packing pitch identify themselves as being paid for by the Annette Bosworth for Senate campaign. They contain none of the disclamatory language required by the Federal Election Commission. And if Bosworth doesn't report those donations on her FEC campaign finance reports, she's in serious trouble.

So keep in mind, those of you getting Bosworth's letters and thinking about writing a check: your donations to the "legal defense fund" may really be donations to the campaign and should be a matter of public record with the Federal Election Commission.

p.s.: $400,000 for this one perjury trial? Bosworth has a tendency to inflate costs in her fundraising letters. $400K seems pretty steep for a trial in which the only defensible avenue counsel has is to admit guilt and beg for mercy. But not to worry: if the KELO comment section is any indication ("complete fruitcake... crooked... mentally ill..."), Bosworth's Facebook Likers have disappeared, right along with her fundraising potential.

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A bill inspired by this blog's reporting has received unanimous approval from both chambers of the South Dakota Legislature. Senate Bill 18 makes conducting a fake raffle a crime prosecutable under South Dakota's deceptive trade practices statute. In five votes—Senate Commerce and Energy, full Senate, House Judiciary, full House, and Senate again to concur in amendment—not one voice rose in opposition to this bill, because every sane person recognizes that selling tickets for a raffle, then not holding the raffle and not refunding ticketholders ought to be a crime.

Such a crime is apparently rare in South Dakota. In testimony to Senate Commerce and Energy and House Judiciary, Attorney General Marty Jackley said that since 2009, the Division of Consumer Protection has fielded 25 complaints about raffles. Seven of those complaints came from three raffles that cheated no one but erred on technicalities:

  1. Backyard Motorcycles LLC sold tickets for a raffle to benefit Children's Miracle Network, but SDCL 22-25-25 does not allow for-profit entities to conduct raffles.
  2. Full Throttle Saloon sold tickets for a raffle in violation of the same for-profit-entity restriction and failed to register its raffle with the Secretary of State.
  3. Black Hills Youth Football did not register and sold tickets outside of its jurisdiction.

AG Jackley said all three of those errant rafflers have refunded ticketholders, are refunding, or are working with the AG's office to make things right.

The remaining eighteen complaints all come from the same raffle: Preventive Health Strategies' fake raffle of land in Moody County, promoted in late 2012 and 2013 by U.S. Senate-candidacy-bound Annette Bosworth and her husband Chad Haber. PHS sold raffle tickets for $1,000 apiece but never held a drawing, never awarded the prize (AG Jackley confirmed the Moody County land has not changed hands) and never offered refunds. Five months after this blog broke the story of this fake raffle in November 2013, and after Bosworth and Haber attempted to cover their scam by publicly framing former employees, the Attorney General managed to shake five $1000 refunds out of PHS.

However, in his testimony to the Legislature, AG Jackley said the remaining thirteen complaints against PHS remain unresolved. The Attorney General used the present perfect progressive, saying his people "have been trying to work with the owners," suggesting that the AG's effort to get Bosworth to cough up the $13,000 they swindled from the remaining complaining ticketholders is not over.

According to Attorney General Jackley, Senate Bill 18 will not be retroactive. The PHS raffle scam will not be subject to prosecution under SB 18. However, AG Jackley told Senate Commerce and Energy chairman Sen. R. Blake Curd (R-12/Sioux Falls) that his office could still bring theft charges if it can prove that PHS had fraudulent intent never to conduct its Moody County raffle.

House Judiciary added an amendment at the request of the Attorney General and State Treasurer Rich Sattgast to remove the 30-day refund requirement and bring Senate Bill 18 in line with the state's other unclaimed property statutes. That amendment allows the AG to pursue bogus raffle claims, place retrieved funds in the unclaimed property fund, and let the Treasurer handle distributing refunds. The Senate thus had to take up SB 18 again today to concur with that amendment. With today's unanimous vote, the Bosworth-Haber raffle scam bill now heads for the Governor's desk.

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Annette Bosworth's profitable exploitation of Base Connect and the campaign finance system appears to be petering out. The fake GOP 2014 Senate candidate's year-end FEC report shows net contributions of $4,309.87... which is still pretty good money for an unfocused, inefficient, criminal campaign that ended eight months ago. But it's a big drop from the $217K her direct mailers solicited in Q3, her first full quarter after her June loss, not to mention the $800K she pulled in Q2 and $77K in Q1.

People (all from outside South Dakota, mostly retirees) actually sent the Bosworth "campaign" $11,434.87 during the last three months of the year. However, during the same period, nine donors wised up and asked for their money back. Bosworth reimbursed $7,125 in contributions, 62% of her quarterly take.

Bosworth is also back to spending more than she makes. Her year-end report shows net expenditures of $44,341.14 in Q4

  • $17,500 settled her debt to Colorado-based campaign manager Patrick Davis.
  • $5,934.94 paid her Colorado lawyers.
  • $7,287.50 paid off Sioux Falls lawyer Jeff Beck, the first lawyer to handle her pending perjury case.
  • $5,000 went to Rapid City lawyer Robert Van Norman in October, to top off the $50,000 he received to be her third perjury-trial lawyer. He just got her trial delayed again until May; if she's going to keep him, she's going to need to amp up those campaign contributions... or stop pulling stunts like playing "Doctor of the Day" at the Legislature, see some paying patients, and tell hubby Chad Haber to get a job.
  • $7,200.96 went to Robert Watkins and Company, her Florida-based campaign treasurer.
  • $500 disappeared into "Petty Cash," which may be code for "Annette's daily Starbucks."

The year-end report indicates that Bosworth resolved (i.e., got out of paying) $7,933 to Davis, $20,750 to advertiser SSC Strategies, and $2,000 to campaign staffer Ethan Crisp. The campaign still lists a disputed debt of $33,000 to Sioux Falls attorney Joel Arends. Bosworth has $13,301.34 cash on hand.

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I'm not sure what sector of the electorate Gordon Howie thinks he's targeting by investing so much of his blog energy in blowing smoke for Annette Bosworth. Continually stumping for an admitted lawbreaker and fake conservative who showed no ability to build a viable campaign in South Dakota serves neither Howie's objective of building an effective opposition voting bloc nor the higher aims of justice. Neither will defending Bosworth with errors of fact and law.

In his latest excuse for Bosworth's petition circulation felonies, the re-energized conservative blogger Howie repeats the charge that the Attorney General's prosecution of Bosworth is unfair given all the other alleged violations of petition rules that go unpunished or lightly punished:

Many petitions circulators have violated this “oath” by not “personally witnessing” every signature. In South Dakota, just a few years ago, six Republicans were found guilty in a case that involved as many as 1,400 signatures. Their penalty… a $200.00 fine. Now, for an alleged violation involving 37 signatures, Annette Bosworth is facing 24 years in prison, thousands of dollars in fines and the loss of her license to practice medicine. Seem fair to you?? [Gordon Howie, "Is Your Legislator Guilty?" The Right Side, 2015.01.22]

Howie refers to a ballot probe in 2004 that found six Republican get-out-the-vote operatives, including future state legislator Todd Schlekeway, notarized absentee voter applications without personally witnessing the applicants' signatures. Note that Schlekeway et al. were not circulating petitions; they were soliciting absentee voting applications, thus invoking charges under different law. As I explained in July, Schlekeway's violation of his notary seal was a misdemeanor. He pled guilty and received a misdemeanor penalty.

In the Schlekeway case as in the Bosworth case, the Attorneys General (Long then, Jackley now) have acted to uphold the letter and spirit of the law while protecting voters from disenfranchisement. If Howie wants to invoke the Schlekeway precedent, then the fair outcome would be that Bosworth would plead guilty to her felony and receive her felony penalty.

Trying to fabricate a defense for Bosworth out of thin air and grade-school excuses, Howie accuses a majority of South Dakota legislators of committing the same crime and challenges them to deny it:

Actually, the practice of “not personally witnessing” petition signatures is widespread, but rarely challenged. Certainly not to the level of felony charges.

Here is the question for every Legislator in South Dakota, both past and present:

Will you swear that you personally witnessed every single signature on every petition you have circulated?

There are, no doubt, some who can respond in the positive. They will be in the minority.

Howie made this same baseless and cowardly charge for the same Boz-crush purpose at the beginning of the month. His charge is logically, legally, and factually wrong because...

  1. Howie cannot name a single guilty party.
  2. Howie produces no example of a petition with evidence of a false circulator's oath.
  3. Howie confuses a rhetorical question for logical proof.
  4. Howie shifts the burden of proof from prosecutors (who can slam-dunk meet that burden against Bosworth in court) to the unnamed defendants under his blanket accusation.
  5. Howie forgets that every legislator who circulated a nominating petition has already answered Howie's rhetorical challenge by signing the circulator's oath.

Howie's last resort may be the appeal for mercy. Note his inclusion in the list of consequences for Bosworth the fact that a felony conviction could cause her to lose her medical license.

Commit one felony, get kicked out of your profession? Welcome to my world. State law says South Dakota teachers can lose their teaching licenses for committing any crime involving moral turpitude or drugs. The Professional Teachers Code of Ethics puts my teaching license at risk if I engage in any act the results in a conviction. I suspect other licensed professions have similar rules. Professional status carries special burdens.

If Howie wants to propose revoking all professional licensure requirements in South Dakota and declare that criminal records should bear no weight on allowing people to teach or practice medicine, I invite him to lay out that case. If Howie can produce evidence of petition fraud by other candidates, I invite him to lay out the evidence. So far in his fresh Boz-crush, he has done neither... and even if he does, such arguments and evidence will have no bearing in front of Bosworth's judge next month.

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Hey, Tara! Have you seen Annette Bosworth's letter recruiting her patients to pack the courtroom for her perjury trial in Pierre February 4–6?

If not, Tara, you can view all ten pages here. I'll skip the doctor's recital of the old stories and lies and jump right to her invitation to jihad:

...This is not my fight. It is God's fight....

As I countdown [sic] to my February jury trial, I strive to live out this prayer. The trial for these felony charges begins on February 4th, 5th and 6th in the Hughes County Courthouse in Pierre, SD. Twelve jurors will decide what justice looks like. The recent trajectory of our country didn't just happen. It happened because people stopped showing up to witness.

I humbly ask for you to use your God-gifted-talents. I am praying that the cold courtroom in Pierre will be filled with the warmth from God's people. I am asking for your support in the form of your presence at this trial. If you have witnessed a jury trial, you understand the powerful message supporters send. The power of the presence of supporters in the courtroom strengthens the person on trial, their [sic] family, their [sic] lawyers as well as the citizens serving on the jury. If you have never witnessed a jury trial, come and gain the experience with your own eyes. Help me put purpose to this pain. We will witness to South Dakota and the country that when you trust in the Lord, His people will stand together during times of adversity [Annette Bosworth, letter addressed "Dear Patient," January 2015].

As she did while circulating petitions and in one abortive attempt to lure people to a campaign rally for her husband, Bosworth attempts to recruit help in turning the courtroom into the Jerry Springer Show with food, as well as bus and bed:

Many of God's people have come forth to show their support. Specifically, one supporter wants to help by sponsoring the cost of bus-transportation to get to and from Pierre during the trial. Another supporter offered to help by sponsoring the cost of the hotel rooms in Pierre during the trial. Yet another spsonsor has offered to cover the cost of a daily catered meal for the supporters willing to attend the trial. Pierre, South Dakota in February sounds like a delightful vacation . . . right? We will make it a celebration of support of God's people for those willing to attend.

The strength to stand against an oppressive government only lives on one story at a time. Let us join together as a united voice. If you are interested in attending this celebration, please call the clinic and let us know: 605-371-6899. An email works too: clinic@meaningfulmedicine.org [Bosworth, Jan 2015]

Notice that Bosworth is using the resources of her clinic, which is closely (some would say indistinguishably) tied to her non-profit Preventive Health Strategies, to solicit activism in a public trial related to her activities as a political candidate.

This letter also makes clear that Bosworth has no desire to plea. She wants a trial because she wants an audience. And she's willing to spend (other people's) money to get one.

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Attorney General Marty Jackley's 2015 legislative package has hit the hopper in the form of Senate Bills 11 through 18. Of particular interest to readers of this blog will be Senate Bill 18, AG Jackley's effort to make really, truly illegal the kind of raffle scam perpetrated by Chad Haber and Annette Bosworth in 2012 and 2013 and uncovered by this blog in November 2013.

SB 18 sets these rules for raffles and lotteries:

No lottery may continue for longer than eighteen months after the date on which the first ticket is sold. If an organization determines that a drawing cannot be held within eighteen months, the organization shall within thirty days notify all purchasers that the lottery cannot be completed or prize awarded, and that each purchaser is entitled to a full refund of the ticket price upon the submission of a request for refund. If a purchaser fails to contact the organization and request a refund within one hundred eighty days after the notice was given, the organization shall within thirty days remit the unclaimed refund amount to the Office of State Treasurer as unclaimed property [Senate Bill 18, South Dakota Legislature, posted 2015.01.07].

But look out! Senate Bill 18 reveals a Channette Loophole in our consumer protection laws. SB 18 adds violations of the above new rules to the list of deceptive acts or practices. But check out the existing penalty clause of that statute:

Each act in violation of this section under one thousand dollars is a Class 1 misdemeanor. Each act in violation of this statute over one thousand dollars but under one hundred thousand dollars is a Class 6 felony. Each act in violation of this section over one hundred thousand dollars is a Class 5 felony [SDCL 37-24-6].

Chad and Annette sold raffle tickets for $1,000 a pop, then failed to draw for the prize or refund buyers (at least not until public scrutiny and the AG's pressure forced them to hand cash back to a few of their marks). Under the above statute, would that have been a Class 1 misdemeanor or a Class 6 felony?

Update 2015.02.12 17:36 CST: The omission of exactly one thousand dollars from the deceptive trade practices statute came from the Attorney General's office just one year ago in its 2014 Senate Bill 23. In testimony on this year's Bosworth-Haber raffle-scam bill, SB 18, Attorney General Jackley said the dollar figure is aggregate, not per ticket, so selling 18 bogus raffle tickets for $1,000 each in violation of SB 18 would constitute a Class 6 felony.

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Gordon Howie wakes this morning to draft a pardon letter for Annette Bosworth. To excuse the fake Senate candidate and multi-million-dollar fundraiser of 24 counts of felony perjury, Howie does not offer Bosworth any alibi. Instead, he accuses "many"—excuse me, "MANY"—South Dakota politicians of committing the same felony:

Let me tell you that these “serious and deliberate” ”crimes” are COMMONPLACE in South Dakota politics. During the frenzy of political seasons, MANY (and I do mean MANY) South Dakota politicians circulate petitions and sign as circulators when they are not “in the room”. At Lincoln Day dinners across the state, Republicans routinely send their petitions around the room. They do not personally witness each signature, but sign the “oath” that they did. I would venture to say that even our Attorney General may be guilty of this practice. PLEASE, Marty, say it isn’t so… not even ONE? [Gordon Howie, "That Evil Annette Bosworth," The Right Side, 2015.01.05]

Well, at least Gordon got the headline right.

Annette Bosworth broke South Dakota law in order to access the ballot and support her lucrative and exploitative fundraising scheme. The evidence is plain, undisputed, and in fact confirmed by Bosworth herself. Gordon Howie is making a claim without naming names or providing evidence. If Howie wants to expose perjury committed by other candidates, I invite him to do so. And if he can produce evidence of other violations of petition law, I will happily join him in calling for the arrest and prosecution of every one of those felonious candidates.

But not one word he says this morning changes the facts and justification for convicting and punishing Annette Bosworth for her cynical, narcissistic, and, most importantly, documented disregard for the law.

Laxity and corruption in the enforcement of election law does not excuse ongoing laxity and corruption.

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Annette Bosworth may be making a New Year's resolution to get out from under her various debts. Patrick Davis, former manager of Bosworth's Senate campaign (a sham aimed at financial reward, not electoral success), reports that Bosworth agreed to pay him $17,500 to settle her debt to him.

According to one website, Davis's firm, Patrick Davis Consulting, filed suit against Bosworth in El Paso County (Colorado) court in September. Bosworth's third-quarter Federal Election Commission report showed disputing an outstanding balance to Davis' firm of $25,433. The December 11 settlement leaves $7,933 in Bosworth's pocket that could (should?) have been Davis's.

Bosworth 2014 Q3 FEC report, p. 400

Bosworth 2014 Q3 FEC report, p. 400

She may need that nearly $8K to pay off her other debts. The other debt shown on p. 400 of Bosworth's Q3 report, $20,750 to ad maker SSC Strategies, remains unpaid, to the best of my knowledge, and over a year past due. Page 401 of the filing shows Bosworth disputing $2,000 owed to campaign staffer Ethan Crisp. The Q3 report indicated the defeated but still fundraising Bosworth campaign had $53,332.60 cash on hand as of September 30, 2014.

Still pending are court efforts by two former employees to recoup unpaid wages from Bosworth's non-profit Preventive Health Strategies.

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