Joe Lowe has one more day to campaign unchallenged before Sue Wismer shoves the last tax return from her Britton desk and launches her campaign juggernaut campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. How's Lowe spending that precious time? Traveling to Pierre and beating up Governor Dennis Daugaard for his "unconscionable" refusal to expand Medicaid:

Lowe said that if he is elected, expanding the program to cover those who are making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level would be his first priority.

“We are not going to leave 48,000 South Dakotans out in the cold,” he said.

Lowe also called Daugaard’s reason for not expanding Medicaid – that he doesn’t trust the federal government’s ability to pay for the expansion – a “weak, mean-spirited excuse” [David Rookhuyzen, "Gubernatorial Candidate Critical of Daugaard while Campaigning in Pierre," Pierre Capital Journal, 2014.04.15].

...on teacher pay:

“I saw three administrations; I haven’t seen them make education a priority,” Lowe said [Rookhuyzen, 2014.04.15].

...on EB-5:

Lowe said the program didn’t have the necessary oversight and regulation and that an independent investigation needs to be done.

“It’s bad business at best,” he said [Rookhuyzen, 2014.04.15].

...and on economic development:

Lowe said the state needs to focus on developing the workforce it already has, instead of trying to recruit from out of state. He also frequently referred to his time as mayor of Mission Viejo, Calif., a city of nearly 100,000, which he said still has a AAA bond rating.

“Now our governor is still trying to get the state a AAA bond rating, but with some of the fumbles he’s been making lately, I don’t know if he’ll get there,” Lowe said [Rookhuyzen, 2014.04.15].

Lowe also told the Hughes and Stanley County Democrats that he doesn't support legalizing pot or building the Keystone XL pipeline, showing a commitment to opposing unhealthy addictions.

Sue Wismer likely won't disagree much with Lowe's main points here. Wismer and Lowe have a shared mission of pointing out the myriad ways in which 40 years of one-party autocracy have hindered progress and good governance in South Dakota. The question now, as the primary race begins in earnest will be which of them can better achieve that mission.


Black Hills blogger Bob Ellis bleats that Governor Dennis Daugaard has betrayed the Republican Party by criticizing Senator Phil Jensen (R-33/Rapid City). To support this claim, Ellis points to a letter to the editor in which Glenn T. Freeman of Kadoka accused the Governor of issuing a "pro-gay rant" in the March 20 Rapid City Journal.

Whoa—if anyone in South Dakota is making a "pro-gay rant," I want to hear it!

Roll the tape, and let's review what Governor Daugaard said in response to Senator Jenson's controversial statement in defense of the Ku Klux Klan against government civil rights enforcement. First, here's the statement Senator Jensen made:

Jensen goes so far as to say that businesses should have the right to deny service based on a customer's race or religion – whether that's right or wrong, he says, can be fairly addressed by the free market, not the government.

"If someone was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and they were running a little bakery for instance, the majority of us would find it detestable that they refuse to serve blacks, and guess what? In a matter of weeks or so that business would shut down because no one is going to patronize them," he said [Daniel Simmons-Ritchie, "Phil Jensen: South Dakota's Most Conservative Lawmaker?"Rapid City Journal, 2014.03.16].

...and here's the Governor's response, four days later:

Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard on Wednesday distanced himself from Jensen in a statement released to the media.

“I found his comments to be completely out of line with South Dakota values," he said. "I don’t agree with him and I haven’t talked to anyone who does” [Daniel Simmons-Ritchie, "Governor Distances Himself from State Senator's Ku Klux Klan Remark," Rapid City Journal, 2014.03.20].

And here's Glenn T. Freeman's interpretation of the Governor's text:

Daugaard's anti-business, liberal, pro-gay position clearly shows Republican insiders shift to the left. Our political party has deserted many of the faithful.

Daugaard is unique. I cannot recall any previous governor who has so brutally used the bully pulpit of South Dakota's highest office to seek political destruction of elected fellow Republicans [Glenn T. Freeman, letter to the editor, Rapid City Journal, 2014.03.28].

Hmm... the context and the headline make clear that the Governor was addressing Senator Jensen's KKK remark. Only the most extreme gay panic can lead Freeman and Ellis to interpret the Governor's response to Jensen's buffoonery as a "brutal" "pro-gay rant." I'd better not invite Freeman and Ellis over for hot dogs; they'll probably cry rape!

As I've noted with disdain before, Governor Daugaard's criticism of Senator Jensen feels more like a political safety dance than any flowering commitment to civil rights for homosexuals. The Governor offered no commentary on Senator Jensen's holy anti-gay crusade during the Legislative session; only after legislators went home did he hazard even muted criticism of the session's headline-grabbing but abortive homophobia.

Glenn T. Freeman and Bob Ellis are hearing things. Governor Dennis Daugaard has never issued a "pro-gay rant". His criticism of Senator Phil Jensen is far from "brutal"... and not being brutal in response to Jensen's retrograde politics betrays principles more important than the planks in the Republican platform.


David Montgomery noted with amusement that Governor Dennis Daugaard submitted nominating petitions Tuesday for a re-election campaign that did not yet officially exist. Governor Daugaard will make that campaign official next week Tuesday, flying across the state to kick off his re-election bid. The Governor announces he'll make these three stops.

  • Sioux Falls - Holiday Inn City Centre Palisades room - 9:30am CDT
  • Rapid City - Black Hills Visitor Information Center main room - 1:00pm MDT
  • Pierre - Ramkota Amphitheater II - 5:15pm CDT

Note that Daugaard will be flying back into Pierre just in time to strafe any straggling candidates scrambling to get to the Capitol before Tuesday's 5 p.m. deadline to submit nominating petitions. Incoming!


In the dog-bites-man column, Governor Dennis Daugaard says that Sen. Phil Jensen's defense of KKK-style discrimination is "completely out of line with South Dakota values."

It's not hard to gang up on a Republican Senator who says stupid things that are winning himself and South Dakota universal bad press. Jensen has it coming, and South Dakota has it coming for having a district that would elect him.

But Governor Daugaard hasn't spoken up very strongly about the discrimination Jensen tried to write into law last month. Asked by Mr. Montgomery about the bills Senator Jensen and others sponsored to absurdly disguise anti-GLBT bigotry as civil rights legislation, the Governor swung a softer stick:

"Most of them were solving problems we haven’t seen here," Daugaard said. "More legislation driven by things that are occurring in other places. I guess I don’t see those problems here in South Dakota that the legislation attempted to address."

I asked him about criticism by some that those laws were “mean-spirited” or “hateful.” Daugaard demurred.

"I don’t know that I could characterize the motivations of anybody who introduces legislation," Daugaard said [David Montgomery, "Daugaard on the Anti-Gay Rights Bills," Political Smokeout, 2014.03.19].

Montgomery notes that Lt. Gov. Matt Michels spoke much more strongly against those reprehensible bills while they were bubbling through the Legislature last month:

"There’s no place in our laws for these kind of words," Michels said, adding that he believes most South Dakotans agree. "There’s too much hate in the world and we don’t need it here" [Montgomery, 2014.03.19].

The Governor and other prominent Republicans stayed shamefully silent for too long about three-term legislator Jensen's bigotry. It has taken surging local pressure and the embarrassment of a national media firestorm to shame them into shaming Jensen.

Now let's see that shame turn into real change: Republicans backing any alternative candidate to Jensen in District 33.


The Building South Dakota Fund, the new economic development fund created in closed negotiations and a rush of last-minute Legislative action, had safeguards to ensure that, in tight budget times, education, health care, and pay for state workers would take priority over economic development handouts.

Last week, the Governor got that changed. Governor Dennis Daugaard asked for and got Senate Bill 158, which strikes from SDCL 1-16G-47, the statute enacting the Building South Dakota Fund, this key restriction:

Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, no deposit or transfer to the building South Dakota fund may be made by the commissioner of the Bureau of Finance and Management if the projected ongoing revenues adopted by the Legislature for the prospective fiscal year are insufficient to accommodate:

  1. The statutory increases for state aid to K-12 general education, special education, and the technical institutes;
  2. Projected Title XIX and the Title XXI spending adjusted for increased provider payments, increased utilization, or enrollment growth, and as affected by any reduction in the Federal medical assistance percentage; and
  3. The state employee salary policy increase, commensurate with the K-12 inflationary increase, in addition to funds necessary to meet actuarially projected increases in health insurance costs [excerpt from SDCL 1-16G-47, enacted 2013; clause to be stricken effective July 1, 2014].

That restriction was important to passing the bill last year. House Minority Leader Bernie Hunhoff, who was instrumental in levering the BSDF into something some Democrats (though not all!) could tolerate, disagrees with decoupling BSDF from behind the Ed/Med/Worker car of the budget train:

“Well last year we passed Building South Dakota. It was a good bipartisan effort to expand economic development, recognizing that education is critical, that affordable housing is really a big part of it and that we need more grassroots economic development. And now, just a year later, we’re stripping out or defunding a lot of those really good parts of it by a really complicated mechanism that’ll allow the administration to play budget games. They’re leaving it intact, but they’re just leaving lots of opportunities to spend down reserves,” Hunhoff says [Cassie Bartlett, "Changes to Building South Dakota's Funding Raise Concerns," SDPB Radio, 2014.03.13].

Senate Bill 158 further bolsters the over-prioritization of economic development in South Dakota government. Even if we can't fulfill our obligations to our children, the sick and injured, and the folks who work for the state, Senate Bill 158 ensures that the Governor will still have plenty of money to hand out to well-to-do corporations.


A quick check of the budget says our Legislature acted like pretty big spenders this year, though just a hair less big than the Governor wanted (decreases in red):

general funds federal funds other funds total
FY 2014 adopted $1,312,583,507 $1,691,241,801 $1,086,806,915 $4,090,632,223
FY 2015 Daugaard proposed $1,390,852,751 $1,692,011,931 $1,183,394,942 $4,266,259,624
FY 2015 adopted $1,388,956,590 $1,686,967,782 $1,183,399,323 $4,259,323,695
2014–2015 change $76,373,083 ($4,274,019) $96,592,408 $168,691,472
  5.8% 0.3% 8.9% 4.1%
Daugaard–Legislature change ($1,896,161) ($5,044,149) $4,381 ($6,935,929)
(0.1%) (0.3%) 0.0% (0.2%)

If I'm reading the budgets correctly, this year's Legislature has approved 4.1% more spending than it approved last year. It countered a 0.3% decrease in federal funding (yay, self-reliance...right?) with a 5.8% increase in general funds and an 8.9% increase in other funds.

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Governor Dennis Daugaard signed Senate Bill 46 into law Friday, finally making animal cruelty a felony in South Dakota. And who are all those evil "greenies from out of state" smiling with him as they impose their nefarious critter-worshipping, farm-killing will on real South Dakotans?

Governor Dennis Daugaard makes animal cruelty a felony in South Dakota, 2014.03.14

Governor Dennis Daugaard makes animal cruelty a felony in South Dakota, 2014.03.14

From left to right:

  1. Jeremiah M. Murphy, SD Stockgrowers Association
  2. Sen. Ernie Otten, R-6/Tea
  3. Mike Traxinger, SD Farmers Union
  4. Rep. Gary Cammack, R-29/Union Center
  5. Sen. Larry Rhoden, R-29/Union Center
  6. Rep. Mary Duvall, R-24/Pierre
  7. Dr. Dustin Oedekoven, SD State Veterinarian
  8. Governor Daugaard
  9. Lorin Pankratz, SD Pork Producers
  10. Brenda Forman, SD Ag Unity;
  11. Rep. Anne Hajek, R-14/Sioux Falls;
  12. Sen. Jason Frerichs, D-1/Wilmot;
  13. Shari Crouch Kosel, SD FACT;
  14. Nathan Sanderson, Policy Advisor – SD Governor’s Office;
  15. Jodie Anderson, SD Cattlemen’s Association.

Gee, those smiles all look pretty genuine to me. I don't see any forced toothiness, struggling to hide the angst of lying or caving to the pressure of the HSUS or trying to figure out how they'll explain themselves to all the unhappy farmers and ranchers who supposedly oppose this bill.

Notice the flip-flop of Senator Rhoden, who tried to raise search-and-seizure alarms about Senate Bill 46 before remembering that he had voted for the Fourth Amendment infringement eight years ago he was complaining about on his 2014 U.S. Senate campaign trail. Senator Rhoden's still a little embarrassed, as demonstrated by his trying to hide behind Rep. Duvall.

Notice the only Democrat in the room celebrating this liberal legislation is Senator Frerichs. Rhoden and the other four legislators crowding around the table are Republicans. I look forward to the Republican spin machine campaigning against these "damned fool" HSUS-cavers... or admitting it was wrong all along to defend South Dakota's previously inadequate animal cruelty laws and to spread lies about the good South Dakotans campaigning for good laws.


South Dakota's governor has exclusive control over the Future Fund, a pool of economic development cash funded by a portion of every South Dakota business's unemployment taxes. Sometimes Governor Dennis Daugaard uses the Future Fund for good (if you think focusing on job skills over Shakespeare is good). Sometimes he uses it for pure corporate welfare.

Now Pierre reporter Joel Ebert suggests that Governor Daugaard may use the Future Fund to reward his campaign donors:

Gov. Dennis Daugaard has received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from affiliates of companies that have been recipients of grants overseen by the governor’s office, an investigation by the Capital Journal has found [Joel Ebert, "Daugaard Receives Donations from Future Fund Recipients," Pierre Capital Journal, 2014.03.13].

Ebert points to three companies—Dakota Resources, Pergroup, and Lawrence and Schiller—that have received Future Fund grants and whose owners or officers have contributed to Daugaard's campaign fund.

See who's gotten Future Fund grants from Governor Daugaard (PDFs):

Sensing Illinois-style politics (you know, Daugaard did go to law school at Northwestern and work in Chicago for three years), Rep. Bernie Hunhoff proposed legislation this session that would have prohibited Future Fund grant recipients or other state contractholders (from contributing to their Pierre patrons' campaign funds. House Bill 1189, Rep. Hunhoff's no-pay-to-play bill, was defeated last month, predictably, along party lines.

Banning political contributions from folks with whom the state does business (in Hunhoff's case, big business: his bill blocked contributions only from folks who got grants or contracts worth more than $25,000 in one year) seems sensible... but it also poses a First Amendment problem. It is arguably unfair to make sacrifice of certain free speech rights (and yes, money is speech) a condition of doing business with the state. I can even imagine a Machiavellian twist to the pay-to-play ban: pass Hunhoff's bill, and a Republican governor could direct some contracts and grants to companies run by key Democratic donors, thus denying Democratic opponents access to those campaign dollars.

The potential for corruption is obvious. Can we find a constitutional way to prevent this corruption... and can we get a Republican Legislature to pass such a measure?

p.s.: In December 2011, Governor Daugaard ladled out two million dollars from the Future Fund to Northern Beef Packers.


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