Bob Mercer does us the favor of pointing out the individuals nominated to dig up good candidates to run Dakota State University. The folks recruited from outside the Regental system demonstrate the South Dakota view that the primary purpose of DSU and higher education in general is jobs and economic development:

  • Julie Gross, executive director, Lake Area Improvement Corporation
  • Michael Halverson, VP Information Security Administration, Citibank
  • Miles Beacom, President/CEO, Premier Bankcard

The latter two also reinforce DSU's rich history of being torn away from its liberal arts mission and converted by Bill Janklow into a training school for the usury industry.

This search committee does at least nod toward my friends in Beadle Hall, including digital arts and design major Jared Mills a a student member of the search committee. The last time the Regents empaneled a team to search for a new DSU president, in 2012, they included no representatives of the liberal arts. Of course, the Regents also pulled the plug on that search committee a week after its naming and elevated David Borofsky from interim leader to president, which seems to have worked out poorly for pretty much everyone.

Borofsky has yet to update his LinkedIn résumé. Borofsky's previous employer, for-profit Westwood College in Denver, still faces a lawsuit from the Illinois attorney general over deceptive marketing practices. The college he ran before that, Bates Technical College in Tacoma, settled a lawsuit with graduates dissatisfied with the salability of their degrees for a half million dollars. No word yet on whether Borofsky's brief reign has drawn DSU into any litigation.

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I must have missed the Pierre press release on this one....

Forbes this month issued its ranking of the Best States for Business for 2014:

Rank State Business Costs Rank Labor Supply Rank Regulatory Environment Rank Economic Climate Rank Growth Prospects Rank Quality of Life Rank Population
1 Utah 5 4 9 6 10 16 2,923,000
2 North Dakota 9 9 18 4 2 24 733,200
3 North Carolina 4 7 2 24 9 31 9,901,400
4 Virginia 24 2 1 12 33 5 8,292,700
5 Colorado 35 1 13 8 4 9 5,307,800
6 Texas 13 11 16 1 1 33 26,654,300
7 Nebraska 8 22 9 2 46 14 1,873,500
8 Washington 20 6 30 17 6 29 7,002,500
9 Minnesota 33 18 22 7 23 2 5,439,200
10 Oklahoma 7 31 14 5 15 41 3,865,900
11 Delaware 2 8 26 31 27 36 930,000
12 Iowa 11 39 11 9 42 12 3,099,200
13 Massachusetts 49 3 33 11 16 1 6,719,000
14 South Dakota 1 16 31 10 45 30 848,500
15 Indiana 10 45 3 28 31 15 6,585,000
16 Georgia 27 21 4 38 13 38 10,019,900
17 New York 45 30 20 3 17 10 19,688,400
18 Oregon 12 12 39 32 8 35 3,946,100
19 Florida 38 10 15 36 7 32 19,708,200
20 Maryland 41 5 36 16 32 8 5,947,300

Four of six adjoining states outrank South Dakota, whose Republican leaders portray South Dakota as a business haven.

Forbes ranks South Dakota #1 for low business costs (including labor, energy, and taxes), compared to Minnesota, whose 33 in that category is its lowest ranking in Forbes's six metrics. Forbes says it weights business costs most heavily, but Minnesota turns the tables on South Dakota in four other categories, most notably quality of life, where South Dakota ranks 30th while Minnesota ranks #2.

Further showing that you get what you pay for is the split between South Dakota and Massachusetts. That den of East Coast liberal sin offers the second-highest business costs among the states, but it offers the top quality of life. Massachusetts also offers better prospects for growth, ranking 16th compared to South Dakota's 45th.

We were 17th on the Forbes list in 2010 and 2011. We jumped to 12th in 2012, then peaked at 11th in 2013. Minnesota jumped from 20th in 2012 to 8th in 2013. Minnesota beat South Dakota in 2010 and 2011.

18 comments

Gun Nut Shelley Gidding is throwing an NRA fundraiser in Sioux Falls next week. No, really, she calls herself a Gun Nut.

A Girl and a Gun Women's Shooting League holds a launch party Thursday, October 9, 6–9 p.m., at Prairie Berry in Sioux Falls. Yes, Prairie Berry, because what goes better with firearms than alcohol? The launch party will include a raffle, proceeds of which go not to the club but to the NRA Women's Network... which doesn't seem to need much in the way of donations, since, like the entire "A Girl and a Gun" national organization, it is sponsored by Smith & Wesson.

Gidding has had this project in the works since last spring, after attending the national conference of the "A Girl and a Gun Women's Shooting League (also sponsored by Smith & Wesson).

Shelley and her husband Caleb write a lot about guns on Gun Nuts Media, their shooting sports news site... also sponsored by Smith & Wesson.

Hang on, I'm having trouble telling the difference between this shooting league launch and a Pampered Chef sales meeting.

But hey! Have some wine, and help Smith & Wesson sell more product.

 

 

2 comments

Hey, you know that contract Mike Rounds let Joop Bollen sign with himself? No big deal—it's just a misdemeanor:

Officer's interest in public contract as misdemeanor. No public officer who is authorized to sell or lease any property, or make any contract in the officer's official capacity may become voluntarily interested individually in any sale, lease, or contract, directly or indirectly with such entity. A violation of this section is a Class 2 misdemeanor unless the act is exempted by law [South Dakota Codified Law 3-16-7].

Bollen's immediate superiors, Northern State University president James Smith and then-Board of Regents director Tad Perry, say they had no idea Bollen owned (Bollen was) the company to which he outsourced the functions of his state office. But the Rounds Administration knew of Bollen's ownership full well when it approved Bollen's privatization of the state's EB-5 visa investment program.

Try out your smell tester: suppose your local mayor bought a garbage truck and signed a contract giving his new garbage company the city's trash business. Suppose your school business manager formed a painting business and hired herself to paint the high school cafeteria. Suppose Mike Rounds had signed a contract with his own insurance company putting state employees' life insurance under his personal management. There'd be more than a partisan uproar. The press and everyone else would freak out. Employees of the state lottery get fired for doing such a thing. Public employees just don't use their public power to place money in their private pockets.

But that's what Joop Bollen did. Even if it's just a misdemeanor, Bollen broke state conflict-of-interest law, just as he broke Board of Regents policies and may have broken state banking laws. Bollen operated South Dakota's EB-5 program with obvious disregard for lots of rules...

...and Mike Rounds kept rewarding him with contracts and opportunities for cash. Mike Rounds keeps rewarding him with political cover. Why?

27 comments

Senator Larry Tidemann chided Rep. Susan Wismer yesterday for only talking about the bad side of the EB-5 scandal. In that spirit, I am happy to point out that, contrary to the examples of Chairman Tidemann and Governor Daugaard, some Pierre pols keep their eyes, their ears, and their hearts open.

Rep. kathy Tyler (D-4/Big Stone City) writes that immigration is actually good for South Dakota business:

Dairies and other work intensive ag businesses rely heavily on foreign workers. I received a letter from a local farmer during the past year. I learned a lot from it and will quote directly from it:

“We began employing foreign workers through the H-2A visa program in 2011. We had experienced increased difficulty in hiring capable local employees. We made the decision to try the H-2A program as a last resort before being forced to liquidate…….due to lack of labor…The program has provided excellent employees…" [Rep. Kathy Tyler, "Immigration of Children," Kathy's Corner, 2014.07.27].

Rep. Tyler then turns to the Latin American children currently entering our country under a Bush Administration anti-trafficking policy and asks where our hearts and minds are:

These children are fleeing for their lives. I cannot imagine a situation where sending my child away would mean that he or she might live. Let’s be thankful that we don’t need to make that choice. The issue is not settled, and looking at the way things go in Washington, it probably won’t be for a while. I think it’s time to open our hearts and our minds a bit. Remember, they are children [Tyler, 2014.07.27].

We could use more voices of calm, practical decency like Kathy Tyler's in Pierre.

p.s.: If we invited more immigrant children to our fair state, maybe Stickney and Corsica wouldn't have to consolidate.

14 comments

Now that Chad Haber is finally talking to the media about his purported desire to be attorney general, he's confirming what I've known would happen: get Chad talking, and he'll sink his own life raft without any help from me.

The aspiring Libertarian nominee spoke with Rick Knobe on KSOO's Viewpoint University last week. Haber is angling for the South Dakota Libertarian Party's nod with one main promise: money. He told Knobe that his entrepreneurial skills guarantee that he can raise campaign money, and he promised that every Libertarian candidate "will be propped up" with radio and TV ads, implying that Haber plans to bankroll the entire SDLP ticket.

Knobe asked Haber to give examples of his entrepreneurial activities. Following is the lengthy transcript of that exchange:

Rick Knobe: I want to learn a bit more about you. I went back and read some of the news stories and one of the things you list is you're an entrepreneur. Tell me what you've done that qualifies you to be an entrepreneur.

Chad Haber: That's a great question. So, I have owned several companies ranging from trucking to dealerships to manufacturing, and, yeah, it's good. I like doing startups. I like taking a small team that people think you can't do that and then proving them wrong. Annette's campaign was a great example. It was fun to do that, it was basically a startup.

Knobe: So the companies that you started up, how long ago did you do that?

Haber: So, five years ago when Annette's battle with Marty started, and they started throwing around the f-word—fraud—and, you know, when the attorney general makes a claim, the first assumption is that there's something hehind it. And the good thing is, in South Dakota, we are the most corrupt state in the country according to some sites, and Marty Jackley has had a scandal-ridden career. And so in South Dakota, he doesn't need to have an excuse, sometimes he just does it. You look at Brandon Taliaferro, you know, $250,000 to defend himself against trumped-up charges in the Mette rape scandal, the child rape scandal. He was the attorney that pointed out children were being molested, and then Marty tried to prosecute him for pointing out that children were being molested. 250 grand it cost him to defend that. That's economic terrorism. I think I got out about 2013, where I could just see that they were never going to stop attacking her, and every time they would attack—

Knobe: When they say attacking her, you're talking about—

Haber: —Annette—

Knobe: —Your Annette, your wife.

Haber: —and the headlines are always horrible, right? So now she's currently facing 24 years in jail. Not why I'm running. For the record, I love my wife, o.k., but—she's facing 24 years in jail basically because she learned how to raise money. So if you'd have looked at my businesses, you know, I had a lot of people dependent on me, and you don't do things like that for the money, you don't start businesses for the money, you start them because you have a dream and a passion, and so I sold out, and most of that money has now gone into medicines for kids and it's gone into legal defenses, and, you know, yeah, it's gone.

Knobe: So, o.k.—

Haber: So I was very rich. We should have been untouchable.

Knobe: O.K., so, go back, I want to get to—o.k., I understand what you've said about you've started businesses, you've run them, and you were very successful. Give me some names, 'cuz I'm trying to, I want to be able to put some names with some companies you've started that I would say, "Oh yeah, I know that one. Oh yeah, I know that one." Help me.

Haber: So the reason I got out is to protect the companies. By naming the companies now on the air, I'm making them a target.

Knobe: Why would you make them a target? Why would that be a target?

Haber: It's just what's happened. You know, five years of living through this, it's what happens. And so you know as you get to know me, you'll start saying, "Oh, that's that." I am afraid, o.k.? I'm very afraid of Marty and his retaliation... [transcription by CAH; Rick Knobe interviewing Chad Haber, KSOO Radio, 2014.07.24].

Let's unpack.

1. The Entrepreneurship Lie

The only specific example Haber offers of his fundraising skills is the Bosworth for Senate campaign. Haber talks revenue but neglects cost. He spent (and since Haber is claiming Bosworth for Senate as one of his entrepreneurial skills, let's assign him responsibility for spending decisions) more than six times as much per vote as big-money candidate Mike Rounds yet delivered less than a tenth of Rounds's primary-winning vote total. According to the total expenditures reported by Bosworth for Senate to the Federal Election Commission as of June 30, Haber spent $440 for every primary vote his wife got.

"Entrepreneurship" isn't throwing lots of other people's money around; it's producing return on investment. If South Dakota Libertarians are nominating an attorney general candidate based on the ability to deliver return on investment of campaign funds, they should dismiss Haber and nominate Larry Rhoden, who spent $9.39 per vote in the GOP Senate primary. Or nominate Stace Nelson, who spent $10.23 per vote and would bring criminal investigative experience to the office. Or nominate Jason Ravnsborg, who spent $27.38 per primary vote and has a law degree.

(I think I spent $60 on a newspaper ad when I ran for school board in 2011. I got 448 votes.  That's a bit more than 13 cents per vote. I'm an entrepreneur! Vote for me!)

2. The Business Dodge

Haber claims to have started and successfully operated a number of business that made him "very rich." He says he sold them all and now declines to name them for fear that they will become targets.

A review of public corporation records reveals that Chad Haber has indeed incorporated a number of entities. However, not one appears to be operational or to have made any discernible contribution to the economy. I have documented several business entities that Chad Haber has incorporated in Utah and South Dakota, the most prominent of which is 100X, a Utah entity that under Haber's presidency and directorship appears to have engaged in a mortgage-flipping scheme that sent six people to federal prison. Haber's other businesses include the following:

I see no evidence that Chad Haber has ever run a successful startup company. I see no evidence that Chad Haber has ever sold a startup company to anyone else and that said sold company is still in operation. Haber might as well be telling Libertarians that he knocked down trees in the woods where no one could hear them.

3. The Fear Fudge

Haber claims to be acting on "twenty seconds of insane courage," a line that Haber and eHarmony borrow from We Bought a Zoo. Twenty seconds must be all the courage Haber has in him. Pressed by Knobe to name his companies, Haber says he is "very afraid" of Marty Jackley.

What's there to be afraid of? Haber tried to defraud raffle ticket buyers, and the attorney general has yet to file any charges, settling instead for squeezing some refunds out of PHS. The state says Haber's wife broke Medicaid rules, and the attorney general settled for a relatively small financial repayment. AG Jackley has let slip away opportunities to bag Haber and Bosworth on evidence of real business misconduct; his record suggests he is unlikely to aggress any harder on trumped-up charges.

What's there to be afraid of? I bust AG Jackley's chops on a regular basis on this blog. I'm not afraid of him. What's he going to do to me? He can't take away my teaching certificate, which the state just renewed for another five years—ha!

If Haber's startups still exist, and if he sold them, what harm could the attorney general do to Haber through those businesses? If Haber still owns any legitimate businesses, how does not telling the press the names of those businesses prevent a vindictive attorney general from reviewing public business records, finding the names of Haber's businesses, and ordering all manner of audits and investigations? On KSOO last week, Haber wasn't as afraid of Marty Jackley as he was of Rick Knobe and his one simple question: Give me some names. Give us evidence that what you're saying is true.

4. The Courtroom Shield

Recall Haber's odd comment about his flown wealth: "...I was very rich. We should have been untouchable."

Untouchable. When I dream of getting rich (hey, did you ring that tip jar yet? ;-) ), untouchable is not the first adjective that jumps to my mind. It suggests that Haber views wealth as a way to avoid legal prosecution.

And if wealth isn't available, candidacy for public office is:

Knobe: ...this all could be for naught if you can't get on the ballot

Haber: Absolutely, and then I will be targeted. Being on the ballot—

Knobe: Well, no, I don't know if you're going to be—

Haber: —being on the ballot gives you some protection. It does. We saw a very peaceful year when Annette was a candidate for public office. O.K., it was a very peaceful year. Nobody messed with her until April, o.k.? That was the firs peaceful moment of breahting room we've had since—for five years.

Knobe: So are you running then because you think that if you get on the ballot that'll buy you more time for whatever—

Haber: No, no, no—

Knobe: —I want to make sure I understand

Haber: No, So I'm running because South Dakota has some clear problems, some of which I've experienced personally, and this is the most effective way to cause change, to create change [Knobe–Haber interview, 2014.07.24].

Haber slips and tries to recover, but his talk of protection belies his boilerplate. Haber's slip  supports the statement I made when he announced his candidacy three weeks ago: he is running for office to buy himself a few months of immunity from criminal prosecution.

Just like his wife, Chad Haber is his own worst enemy. The more he talks, the more he'll expose his own unfitness for public trust.

40 comments

My friends at PowertechExposed.com are going to have to change their name. Hong Kong-based but British Virgin Islands-incorporated Azarga Resources is finalizing its takeover of the Canadian Powertech, the company that wants conduct in-situ leach mining for uranium in the southern Black Hills. Powertech will take on the new name Azarga Uranium Corp.

Technically, Powertech is acquiring Azarga. However, as Mark Watson and Adam Hurlburt reported on July 3, the deal looks much more like Azarga taking over Powertech. The structure of the deal is the typical dizzying shuffle of shares, debt, and tricky tax games. Jim Woodward reports that on June 30, Powertech shareholders voted to dilute their own ownership by issuing a big gob of new stocks that will make Australian businessmen Alex Molyneux and Curtis Church, and Singaporean investment firms Blumont Group Ltd. and Pacific Advisers Pte Ltd. the controlling shareholders. Molyneux is a key advisor to Blumont, which owns another British Virgin Islands company called Powerlite Ventures Limited, which holds the note on a loan of up to $26 million to Azarga, which debt Powertech/AUC now takes over via share conversion, which could make Powerlite/Blumont the majority stakeholder...

...which is all more than you may need to know if all you're worried about is stopping Powertech, Azarga, or anyone else from wrecking the Black Hills water supply, but which Powertech's shareholders and Canadian securities regulators might have wanted to know sooner:

When added to the 41 million Powertech/AUC shares already owned by Powerlite following the closing, Powerlite/Blumont could end up with a controlling stake of 51.7%. This possibility was not fully disclosed by Powertech in its May 13 meeting notice and information circular filed with Canadian securities regulators. This document is the primary source of information on the proposed transaction, and it is not clear why this potential change of control was not adequately disclosed [Jim Woodward, "Powertech Shareholders Approve Reverse Takeover by Australian and Singaporean Investors," PowertechExposed.com, 2014.07.20].

Powertech left out other information:

The Powertech information circular also does not discuss a current wide-ranging and unprecedented investigation of Blumont by Singapore’s white-collar police unit and central bank following a 95% drop in Blumont’s stock price in October 2013. Singapore police have requested three and a half years’ of corporate electronic data from the firm, as well as data storage devices belonging to Executive Director James Hong and Executive Chairman Neo Kim Hock in their probe of possible breaches of the Singapore Securities and Futures Act.

Also missing from the Powertech filing is any mention of Alex Molyneux’s role as a consultant and key advisor to Blumont’s board of directors, or his 2013 agreement, rescinded in April, to purchase 135 million shares of Blumont and become its Chairman [Woodward, 2014.07.20].

Rapid City businessman John Tsitrian has raised questions about Powertech/Azarga's exaggerations and omissions in statements to investors and securities regulators. This month's high-financial action makes Tsitrian all the more suspicious of this shaky deal and the shady characters casting their beady eyes on the Black Hills.

Perhaps the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which takes public comment on the Powertech mining permit request August 18 in Hot Springs and holds an evidentiary hearing August 19–21 in Rapid City, should also be suspicious. Neither Powertech nor Azarga has ever received a permit to mine uranium. Molyneux is promoting a different mining technology called ablation. Adam Hurlburt raised the question last November of whether this change in ownership warrants a restart of the entire regulatory process:

It seems there’s a very real possibility the entity that drafted and submitted lengthy environmental reports, technical reports, economic impact reports, permit applications and more to the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; the same entity that signed agreements with numerous private South Dakota landowners; the same entity that conducted several years of extensive research into the economic viability and safety of a proposed 17,800 acre in situ recovery mine set to pull roughly 8.4 million pounds of uranium out of the southern Black Hills over a nine year period; the same entity that’s assured the state of South Dakota and its citizens that it can do this successfully without adverse affects on the environment and its inhabitants may not be the same entity that actually does the mining, should all these permits be granted [Adam Hurlburt, "Who Are We Permitting?" Black Hills Pioneer, 2013.11.05].

Powertech assures us that the new owners will be bound by the same conditions set for Powertech by any previous permits. Woodward reports that a source says NRC staff aren't going to fret over the change in Powertech/Azarga control, even though no one at Azarga has experience with in-situ leach uranium mining.

Azarga appears not to know the specific mining activity for which it's seeking a permit, and its new property Powertech isn't doing a good job of informing investors and regulators of what's coming down the corporate pike. Those are two good reasons to be suspicious of the uranium mining these schemers are trying to bring to the Black Hills.

2 comments

KELO notes Google's claim that the search giant helped generate $55.6 million in economic activity in South Dakota in 2013. According to Google's nationwide economic report, that's the third-lowest amount of Googly economic activity, behind only Alaska and North Dakota.

A low raw-dollar figure is to be expected, since we have the fifth-lowest state population. But compare the per-capita economic impact Google has in our region:

  Google EconActiv (millions) Biz/Orgs using Google Ads population (2013) Google EconActiv per capita
SD $55.6 2,300 844,877 $65.81
MN $1,900.0 24,000 5,420,380 $350.53
IA $147.0 8,900 3,090,416 $47.57
ND $52.7 1,600 723,393 $72.85
MT $64.0 4,000 1,015,165 $63.04
NE $1,400.0 6,000 1,868,516 $749.26
WY $70.2 1,800 582,658 $120.48

Google stirred up $65.81 in economic activity per South Dakotan in 2013. Google thus rang the relative till harder here than in Iowa or Montana. But in Wyoming, Google generated almost twice as much business per person. In Minnesota, there was over five times as much Google economic juice per person, and in Nebraska, over eleven times.

The national per-capita figure for Google economic activity was $353.65. Here's a list of all states (plus DC) with population and Google economic impact per capita:

Rank State population (2013) Google Econ/Activ Google Econ/Activ per capita
1 District of Columbia 646,449 882 $1,392.43
 2 New York 19,651,127 18300 $934.81
3 Massachusetts 6,692,824 5800 $872.80
4 Vermont 626,630 522 $833.93
5 Nebraska 1,868,516 1400 $754.57
6 California 38,332,521 25400 $668.42
7 Illinois 12,882,135 8100 $629.46
8 Utah 2,900,872 1760 $616.49
9 Washington 6,971,406 4200 $609.11
10 Nevada 2,790,136 1280 $464.72
11 Connecticut 3,596,080 1520 $423.19
12 Minnesota 5,420,380 1900 $353.18
13 Colorado 5,268,367 1800 $346.86
14 Florida 19,552,860 6500 $336.43
15 Arizona 6,626,624 2100 $320.55
16 Delaware 925,749 283 $308.60
17 New Jersey 8,899,339 2200 $248.09
18 Georgia 9,992,167 2400 $242.04
19 Pennsylvania 12,773,801 2800 $219.36
20 Maine 1,328,302 286 $215.28
21 Texas 26,448,193 5600 $214.88
 22 Kansas 2,893,957 611 $211.76
23 Virginia 8,260,405 1700 $207.66
24 Maryland 5,928,814 1200 $203.91
25 Oregon 3,930,065 780 $200.01
26 Missouri 6,044,171 1200 $199.19
27 Michigan 9,895,622 1700 $172.02
28 Rhode Island 1,051,511 173 $164.71
29 New Hampshire 1,323,459 206 $155.87
30 Ohio 11,570,808 1800 $155.80
31 Wisconsin 5,742,713 862 $150.58
 32 South Carolina 4,774,839 650 $137.61
 33 Tennessee 6,495,978 815 $126.26
34 Wyoming 582,658 70.2 $121.74
35 Indiana 6,570,902 762 $116.55
36 North Carolina 9,848,060 1100 $112.84
37 Idaho 1,612,136 164 $102.78
38 West Virginia 1,854,304 174 $93.72
39 North Dakota 723,393 52.7 $75.14
40 Arkansas 2,959,373 201 $68.14
41 South Dakota 844,877 55.6 $66.66
42 Montana 1,015,165 64 $63.65
43 Hawaii 1,404,054 82.3 $59.20
44 Kentucky 4,395,295 255 $58.22
45 Oklahoma 3,850,568 199 $52.15
46 Iowa 3,090,416 147 $47.80
47 Alabama 4,833,722 203 $42.14
48 Alaska 735,132 27.3 $37.38
49 Louisiana 4,625,470 170 $36.94
50 New Mexico 2,085,287 75.5 $36.24
 51 Mississippi 2,991,207 60.2 $20.16

Notice that the top ten are an interesting mix of urban centers and rural places, while the bottom ten have are more uniformly large, rural states. If we take Google economic impact as a sign of overall online economic activity, these data suggest that rural states can exploit online tools (not just search, but online ads, YouTube, and analytics) to generate revenue as effectively as urban places like New York and Massachusetts.

These numbers may also suggest something about interstate trade. It is possible that the states with lower Google economic impact per capita have more insular markets, with more businesses relying on local sales and word of mouth. I am really curious, though, what difference has Nebraskans spending so much more time and money on Google tools than we South Dakotans next door.

14 comments

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