Republicans most likely went looking for a constitutional excuse to can Kathy Tyler because of her outspoken criticism of the EB-5 scandal brought to us by the Rounds-Daugaard regime. But Republicans probably also don't like the former Milbank legislator's criticism of the current administration's only noteworthy education initiative, the Build Dakota Scholarship for vo-tech students:

Why should we as a state fund a student’s entire post-secondary education so that he or she can get a job for a private company? Yes, there is the three year, stay in South Dakota caveat, but is it a state’s job to train workers for private companies? I don’t think so. We don’t pay to train state employees and we certainly don’t offer scholarship programs to them. And I won’t even start on the teacher shortage [Kathy Tyler, "Build Dakota Scholarship," Kathy's Corner, 2015.01.05].

Tyler raises a good question for our legislators to debate: is this subsidy for workforce training really within the proper role of state government. The Build Dakota Scholarship serves to support the low-wage system that is the root cause of the workforce problem. It targets education that does not offer the highest chances for full-time employment. As Tyler suggests, it seems a bit drop-in-the-buckety compared to other pressing education and workforce needs in the state.

Tyler also catches a whiff of partisan selectivity in Republican support for this scholarship plan:

The Build Dakota Scholarship applies to certain programs at certain technical institutions. These programs train students in high-need workforce areas. There will be 300 full ride scholarships for five years and then 50 per year. The full ride scholarship is open to resident and non-resident students. I have to smile at that. Last year, I sponsored a bill to allow out-of-state students who attend South Dakota high schools to be eligible for the $1000 per year Opportunity Scholarship given to top high school seniors. It didn’t pass. It must have been the letter behind my name [Tyler, 2015.01.15].

Tyler refers to her 2014 House Bill 1078. This partial scholarship would have had to have recruited several hundred high-achieving non-resident students to cost as much as the full-ride Build Dakota Scholarship. Tyler pushed her bill through three votes before the full Senate finally killed it. Every vote against the bill was Republican.

Reaching for my lemonade squeezer, I notice that, in this blog post written before session started, Tyler noted that she would have to stay mum on political issues once she took her position as a state employee. The good side, then, of Speaker Wink kicking Tyler out of the House Dems' caucus secretary job is that we can hear more of her observations and analysis on Legislative matters like the Build Dakota Scholarship. Keep speaking up, Kathy!

39 comments

Mr. Mercer notes that Speaker Wink's constitutional conflict-of-interest excuse for firing Democratic House caucus secretary Kathy Tyler lies in the same topic bubble as House Bill 1023, which may be the only action the South Dakota Legislature takes in response to the EB-5 scandal. I gladly take up the comparison.

HB 1023 outlaws what EB-5 czar Joop Bollen did in 2008 and 2009:

  • The state paid Bollen to manage it's EB-5 visa investment program.
  • In January 2008, Bollen created a private company to do the work that the state was paying him to do.
  • In summer and fall 2009, Bollen negotiated a contract between the state and his private company.
  • On December 21, 2009, Bollen quit his state job.
  • On December 22, 2009, the state formally approved the contract Bollen had negotiated to pay his private company to continue running EB-5, allowing Bollen to claim profits that otherwise would have gone to the state.

Actually, state law already makes illegal what Bollen did in 2008, creating a private company to profit from his ongoing state job. HB 1023 simply extends that prohibition on a conflict of interest to one year after leaving the state's official payroll.

Joop Bollen far more directly and intentionally violated state law in 2009 than Kathy Tyler and the Democrats did. Kathy Tyler voted for a general appropriations bill last year that funds the ongoing position of House caucus Secretary, a job Tyler had no intention of seeking when she voted for the budget last March, since she intended to return to Pierre as a legislator from District 4. Voting for the general appropriation for the Legislature was not an effort to stitch a golden parachute for herself.

Republicans immediately fire Tyler for her debatable infraction. Republicans take no action to reclaim the funds Bollen illegally funneled into his own bank account with his violation of existing statute; they only consider a meager amendment of statute and stay mum on the crimes that arose under their own administration.

8 comments

The Republican majority in the South Dakota Legislature is enjoying its power this week, kicking two Democrats out of Pierre. They've refused to allow the Legislature's Democrats to hire Ann Tornberg as their Senate caucus secretary and Kathy Tyler as their House caucus secretary.

Booting Tornberg is clearly political mischief. Democrats elected her as their party chair last month, so the Republicans are just being mean. The majority leadership has the authority to make or refuse appointments pretty much at its sadistic pleasure.

Booting Tyler is likely a punctuation mark on the vendetta Republicans went on to unseat Tyler from her District 4 House seat last fall after her outspoken resistance to Republican abuses of power like the EB-5 scandal. But instead of just owning this mischief, Republicans are trying to justify their firing as a legal matter. Speaker of the House Dean Wink (R-29/Howes) says he had to fire Tyler because the state constitution says former legislators cannot hold a state job for a year after their terms end.

Well, I'm all about the constitution. Let's review the language in question:

No member of the Legislature shall, during the term for which he was elected, be appointed or elected to any civil office in the state which shall have been created, or the emoluments of which shall have been increased during the term for which he was elected, nor shall any member receive any civil appointment from the Governor, the Governor and senate, or from the Legislature during the term for which he shall have been elected, and all such appointments and all votes given for any such members for any such office or appointment shall be void; nor shall any member of the Legislature during the term for which he shall have been elected, or within one year thereafter, be interested, directly or indirectly, in any contract with the state or any county thereof, authorized by any law passed during the term for which he shall have been elected [South Dakota State Constitution, Article 3, Section 12].

This statute exists to prevent clever legislators from passing a law that would create jobs and perks for themselves. It's a good idea. But read carefully:

  1. Was the office of caucus secretary created during Tyler's term? No.
  2. Was Tyler elected to that office during her term? No: the current legislature, after Tyler left, had to choose her.
  3. Was the contract of the caucus secretary authorized by a law passed during Tyler's term? No... unless the argument is that the caucus secretary's contract is authorized by the FY 2015 General Appropriations Bill passed last year and providing the funds for this year's Legislature.

If Democrats are violating the constitution by hiring Kathy Tyler to a state job, then nuke 'em... just as we should nuke any other former legislators whose organizations or businesses may be engaged in contracts with the state. (Let's all start sorting through contracts involving Russ Olson, Chuck Jones, and any legislative lawyers whose firms do work for the state.) But I'm not convinced the Republicans have constitutional cover for their partisan mischief against Tyler. I am convinced they have no such cover for their partisan mischief against Tornberg.

42 comments

Rep. Kathy Tyler expands on my voting guide theme of electing Democrats to check one-party rule by explaining one of the greatest harms of letting Republicans run the Legislature: the unnecessary damage done to education. Rep. Tyler says that in her first term representing District 4, she has seen South Dakota has the wealth to improve education funding, but Republicans lack the courage to make that investment. She calls on us teachers to change that system:

We have a one party system in our state. That party does not put education as a priority. Candidates claim to be pro education, but their votes don’t show it. Many of their votes are ruled by the party. Quote by a Republican after a very ‘political’ day: “You (the Democrats) can vote the way you want. We can’t always do that.”

You, as educators, have the power to change the state’s priorities—to put education where it belongs. I realize that some may be happy with the status quo—you are close to retirement, you aren’t trying to support a family on your teaching income, you have a second job, you love your job and would work for any wage. But think about the future of education in South Dakota; think about the teacher-less classrooms of the future; think about your children or grandchildren and their quality of education.

You can change the way South Dakota treats education and educators by your vote on Tuesday. Your vote for a new governor and Democrat legislators—a vote to get South Dakota back to a two party system and a vote for legislators who can and will prioritize education–is the start [Rep. Kathy Tyler, "A Letter to South Dakota Educators," Kathy's Corner, 2014.10.30].

Teachers, Indians, women—South Dakota needs all of you. Grab two friends, go vote now, and we can win.

5 comments

Rep. Kathy Tyler (D-4/Big Stone City) isn't taking the deceptive big-money PAC attacks lying down. She shows Democrats that when the negative ads come, you hit right back:

Rep. Kathy Tyler "Poked the Bear" advertisment, 2014.10.28

Rep. Tyler is referring to the big money a new PAC called "East River Concerned Citizens" is pouring into deceptive ads against her. The radio spots and postcards are less interested in accurately portraying her voting record on abortion (she's actually a bit conservative for my taste) and, from what I hear from sources and glean from who's contributing to ERCC, more interested in retaliating against Tyler for challenging the state's corrupt EB-5 economic development practices.

Certain big-money players have a great stake in South Dakota's endemic corruption (that's the second time this morning I've used that phrase and that link, and for good reason). Democrats like Rep. Kathy Tyler who speak the truth to that power can expect hard negative attacks to take them out. Fortunately, Rep. Tyler is not easily cowed by such attacks. Democrats, follow Kathy's lead. Poke that bear, and don't back down!

46 comments

To make your raisin bran soggier, here is the East River Concerned Citizens postcard attacking Rep. Kathy Tyler:

East River Concerned Citizens attack postcard (front), October 2014

(click to embiggen!)

East River Concerned Citizens attack postcard (back), October 2014

(click to embiggen!)

ERCC PAC boss Spencer Cody continues the lie he began last March of calling Rep. Tyler a liar for daring to disagree with him on policy. Cody's own card is filled with lies:

  • Rep. Tyler actually voted for 2014's HB 1162 both times it came before the full House during the 2014 session. HB 1162 became law. The amendment for which Tyler voted on the House floor still said sex-selective abortions are wrong and against state policy.
  • 2014's HB 1180 did not require neutrality of "Pregnancy Health Centers." HB 1180 excluded organizations that provide adoption and/or abortion services from offering the state-mandated counseling. Pregnancy health centers are not neutral: state law empowers them to actively discourage abortion.
  • 2013's HB 1237 did not fix a loophole. Pre-1237, South Dakota's oppressive 72-hour waiting period was consistent for every woman seeking an abortion. HB 1237 created an exception forcing women to wait even longer if the waiting period included a weekend. The bill was a blatant ploy to punish women even further for seeking an abortion by maximizing the economic impact of having to take off work from regular shifts to seek this constitutionally protected medical procedure.

Given all these votes on the record, Rep. Kathy Tyler would appear to be perfectly "candid" and "up front" about her positions. Cody is implying that Rep. Tyler is a liar when she clearly is not... and when his own propaganda falls far from candor.

52 comments

In small ball, I notice that Spencer Cody has submitted a revised Statement of Organization for his attack PAC East River Concerned Citizens. I noticed this week that he failed to include the city in the physical address of his PAC, making it hard for interested citizens and journalists to contact his PAC and ask why they are spreading exaggerations and insults about Rep. Kathy Tyler (D-4/Big Stone City).

East River Concerned Citizens PAC, original incomplete statement of organization, 2014.09.14

East River Concerned Citizens PAC, original incomplete statement of organization, 2014.09.14

Quick like a bunny, Cody penciled "Hoven, SD 57450" into his address:

East River Concerned Citizens PAC, amended but still incomplete statement of organization, 2014.10.23

East River Concerned Citizens PAC, amended but still incomplete statement of organization, 2014.10.23

But Cody still left off the full address for his PAC's bank. The PAC's web address also leads nowhere, showing the East River PAC has twice filed an incomplete and evasive campaign report.

In big ball, Cody has filed his PAC's pre-general campaign finance report. So far, ERCC (yes, pronounce the acronym; it's appropriate) has spent $4,871 on advertising and $766.41 on printing. I assume that's the split between the bullying radio ad and the postcards Cody is sending to attack Rep. Tyler. (Postcards, but no entry for postage? Cody, do you need a campaign finance paperwork class? Or do you just need class?)

That's pretty much ERCC's whole kitty so far. It's donations came from four sources:

  • Harvey Jewett: $1,000
  • Rudy Nef: $1,000
  • Brown for Senate: $1,000
  • Codington County Republican Central Committee: $2,650

Harvey Jewett is the Aberdeen lawyer and Regent who's been implicated in the EB-5 scandal and who would have been in a position to keep the Board of Regents from paying attention to what the EB-5 program was doing on the Northern State University campus through December 2009.

Rudy Nef is chairman of the board at the Valley Queen Cheese factory in Milbank. Valley Queen runs on milk produced by area dairies, many of which were funded with EB-5 visa investment dollars.

Senator Corey Brown (R-23/Gettyburg) has consistently fought Rep. Tyler's effort to get the Legislature's Executive Board to discuss evidence of mismanagement and fraud in the state's EB-5 program. He blocked that discussion last month with the specious claim that the Legislature has no authority to discuss criminal activity. Senator Brown has also personally demeaned Rep. Tyler, insulting her expertise and research on EB-5.

Cody says in his statement of organization that ERCC's mission is "advocating traditional South Dakota values and economic growth." I get the impression the purpose is less the former and more the latter, as three of its four reported donors appear inclined to keep easy money like EB-5 flowing into their friends' pockets than in promoting traditional South Dakota values like honesty, open government, and civility.

17 comments

The Republican spin machine eagerly rebroadcasts an attack ad aired on KMSD Radio against Rep. Kathy Tyler (D-4/Big Stone City). Here's the text:

Being a state legislator has gone to Kathy Tyler's head. A small business man in Rapid City won a lawsuit against a customer that owed him money, but Kathy Tyler called and tried to overrule the judge. Kathy Tyler said she disagreed with the judge. She said she was a legislature [sic] and knew better. I don't know who she thinks she is trying to bully a small businessman. Kathy Tyler is a bully who misused her office. Please do not send Kathy Tyler back to Pierre. Give the little guy a break. Paid for by East River Concerned Citizens [political communication, transcribed from audio posted by Pat Powers, "Kathy Tyler Must Have Made the Wrong Small Businessman in Rapid City Mad," Dakota War College, 2014.10.22].

According to Rep. Tyler, East River Concerned Citizens has spent over $1,000 to broadcast this attack. East River Concerned Citizens is a PAC formed by Spencer Cody, vice president and assistant treasurer of South Dakota Right to Life. Cody attacked Rep. Tyler during the 2014 Legislative session, calling her a liar for opposing an abortion restriction that conservative Reps. Scott Munsterman (R-7/Brookings) and Steve Hickey (R-9/Sioux Falls) voted against.

East River Concerned Citizens is breaking state law. Governor Dennis Daugaard, Attorney General Marty Jackley, and the Republican spin machine eagerly roasted Dan Willard for violating this statute with robocalls against sitting Republican legislators in 2012. SDCL 12-27-16 requires the following of ads like Cody's:

(1) Any person or organization that makes a payment or promise of payment totaling one hundred dollars or more, including an in-kind contribution, for a communication which expressly advocates for or against a candidate, public office holder, ballot question, or political party shall append to or include in each communication a disclaimer that clearly and forthrightly:

  1. Identifies the person or organization making the independent expenditure for that communication;
  2. States the address or website address of the person or organization;
  3. States that the communication is independently funded and not made in consultation with any candidate, political party, or political committee; and
  4. If the independent expenditure is undertaken by an organization not including a candidate, public office holder, political party, or political committee, then the following notation must also be included: "Top Five Contributors" followed by a listing of the names of the five persons making the largest contributions to an organization during the twelve months preceding that communication.

A violation of this subdivision is a Class 1 misdemeanor... [SDCL 12-27-16].

The ad gives the PAC name, but it gives no physical or web address for contacting the organization. The ad does not include the "independently funded and not made in consultation" disclaimer. If I get ambitious and look up their statement of organization filed with the Secretary of State on September 14, 2014, I still can't send the PAC a letter, because Cody omitted the city and state, which is sloppy if not illegal.

Cody asks his Facebook followers for more money to expand his attacks to "the district 8 Senate race, district 26 Senate race, district 33 Senate, district 2 house, district 3 house, district 9 house, and district 15 house." He might want to save his money for a lawyer: surely the Governor and Attorney General will find this violation of campaign finance law just two weeks before an election on a hotly contested district as egregious as they found Dan Willard's robocalls two months before an election in which many of the targeted legislators faced no challengers.

Update 06:20 CDT: Funny that the ad pretends to defend "the little guy." As I understand from sources, "the little guy" appears to be the customer who paid a Rapid City business $1,600 and never received the merchandise he ordered. I'm working on that angle of the story....

38 comments

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