In October 2010, RMA Research of Sioux Falls released a poll stating that Scott Heidepriem was within six percentage points of Dennis Daugaard in the gubernatorial race. Heidepriem was not.

Yesterday, RMA Research released a poll stating that Corinna Robinson is nineteen percentage points behind Rep. Kristi Noem (43% to 24%) in the race for South Dakota's lone House seat. RMA also contends that if you tell the right stories and ask the right questions, you can get likely voters to favor Robinson over Noem by eight points (44% to 36%).

Pay close attention, Robinson rooters: these optimistic numbers don't say Robinson is winning; they say she can win, if she can get people to know her (only 17% of the 302 telephoned respondents said they are familiar with Robinson) and dim Noem's horsey-girl image with facts about her rotten record. Here's how RMA drove that Robinson shift:

  • Give voters biographies of both candidates. 82% of respondents found Robinson's résumé makes her an appealing candidate. 61% said the same of Noem's CV.
  • Talk about Noem's votes. RMA told voters Rep. Noem voted "to shut down the government in 2013, ...[voted] no on a farm bill and...  [voted] to cut Social Security and Medicare by 25%." 57% said those issues made them less likely to vote to re-elect our Congresswoman.

Like the hopeful Heidepriem poll in 2010, RMA's finding doesn't tell Robinson is ahead; it tells her what she could do to get ahead. Follow Whirlwind Weiland around the state, tell everyone she meets about her own service in the military and Rep. Noem's lack of achievement in Congress, and land some big donors to put that message in every newspaper, on every radio station, and in every commercial break on the Big News at 6.


Kevin Woster meets Democratic House candidate Corinna Robinson and comes away impressed. He still thinks Robinson will lose to money and image machine Rep. Kristi Noem, but contrary to the extremely selective hearing at Dakota War College, Woster says more pro Robinson than con.

When Woster says Robinson is likely to starve for campaign funds and lose the race by something under 20 percentage points, he's not condemning her qualities as a candidate; he's simply offering the same realistic pessimism that would face any Democrat seeking to win back South Dakota's House seat. South Dakota Democrats could run Jesus against Noem, and the commentariat would call him an underdog while the commentariat shouted "Nancy, Harry, Obama!"

Woster also misunderestimates Robinson. In 2012, Rep. Noem beat Democrat Matt Varilek by 15 percentage points. There is no attack that Woster foresees on Robinson that Noem didn't dish on Varilek. Team Kristi falsely assailed Matt with the whole "not a real South Dakotan" schtick; they'll do the same to Corinna, just as loudly. Varilek hurt himself with the base with his misstep on marriage equality; if Robinson can avoid that error (and you will avoid that error, right, Corinna), Robinson brings more Dems to support her and narrows the vote gap between herself and Noem.

I've been wrong about South Dakota's ability to recognize Kristi Noem's self-serving fecklessness before, but since beating Varilek, Noem has done nothing to earn more support from voters. She spent most of the last two years failing to deliver a farm bill. She helped shut down  Mount Rushmore. Even on the main issue Pat Powers bubbles into a headline from Woster's critique, Robinson's stated desire to live in Washington, D.C., Robinson can make a strong case that she simply wants to do the job better than Noem has been doing it flying home all the time to Tweet pictures of herself at ball games.

Robinson is still an underdog, and as the loyal opposition, I wouldn't have it any other way. But she is no more of an underdog than Varilek in 2012 or any other South Dakota Democrat in the hunt today. Go, fight, win, Corinna! (And tell Tom Katus to forward me that campaign press release on your commitment to marriage equality....)


EB-5 promoter Ali Jahangiri is doing damage control in South Dakota. Mr. Jahangiri defended the EB-5 visa investment program in an interview with SDPB's Steve Zwemke Tuesday. The Aberdeen American News gave him inches in Friday's paper to rebut U.S. Senator Charles Grassley's and S.D. Rep. Stace Nelson's accusations that EB-5 imperils national security to grant favors to rich immigrants.

Jahangiri asserts that EB-5 investors get no preferential treatment in immigration, but he cannot get around the fact that people who can plunk $500,000 into a South Dakota dairy, turkey plant, or casino get to bring their families to America sooner than the foreigners who might want to do the actual work at those enterprises. As one of the experts on says, "The EB-5 program is one of the fastest ways to receive your green card." Less wealthy immigrants may wait for years to get their legal status.

Jahangiri tells SDPB that we can't measure the societal gains of EB-5 immigrant investment in pure dollars. Ah, yes, the intangibles! That's usually what we turn to when the numbers don't add up. Canada is finding the numbers for rich immigrant favoritism don't add up: as I reported two weeks ago, Canada is ending its version of EB-5 (which inspired ours) because, on straight economic analysis, it doesn't pay off.

It is worth noting that Jahangiri makes money promoting EB-5. From California, he runs and EB-5 Investors Magazine, which churn out a relentless stream of pro-EB-5 articles. He and his media team won the 2013 EB-5 Media Service Award from Brian Su's EB-5 promotion blog. Jahangiri organizes and promotes EB-5 conferences to connect entrepreneurs, investors, and lawmakers.

Reaching for connections, I note that Jahangiri is a founder of Gen Next Inc., and exclusive pro-business club that charges invited members $10,000 to join. Among the luminaries to whom Gen Next has treated its high rollers to private parties is South Dakota's Congresswoman Kristi Noem. Whether Jahangiri and friends discussed EB-5 with Noem over Laguna Beach cocktails in 2011 is unknown.

Related Reading: Jahangiri's current current magazine edition, with articles posted online on Thursday, includes an article advising regional centers on securities compliance. EB-5 attorney Elizabeth Krukova makes clear something we discussed here in December, that the investment opportunities peddled by South Dakota's regional center and other EB-5 organizations are indeed securities and need to comply with SEC rules.


John Tsitrian upbraided Rep. Kristi Noem last weekend for ignoring reality and voting for against this month's no-drama debt-ceiling increase. Tsitrian's Rapid City neighbor Corinna Robinson, who happens to be running for Rep. Noem's job, must be reading:

Doesn’t Representative Noem recall the devastation that resulted from her last vote to shut down the government? The last time she caved to the extremists and the government was shut down, hundreds of South Dakota cattle ranchers faced a life and death situation because of the October blizzard. When they called their government agencies that would otherwise have been able to help them, they received voicemails saying the government was shut down. So instead of being there for them, Noem sided with the anti-American government extremists and her personal and political interests. Our ranchers received little help from Noem. I will never let that happen when I am representing the good citizens of South Dakota [Corinna Robinson, press release, 2014.02.19].

Let's hope the newly Jarding-powered Camp Corinna continues to press Rep. Noem on her record and holds her accountable for failing to serve South Dakota's best interests.


Hard-core conservatives call Speaker Boehner's cooperation with Democrats in passing a no-drama, no-strings increase of the debt ceiling "complete capitulation." Rapid City blogger John Tsitrian calls it a pragmatic recognition of the best way to cut deficits:

...increase revenues, people. In this case that translates into keeping an economy thriving and growing so that businesses and individuals have continually growing incomes from which continually growing taxes can be received. How on earth is the business sector of our economy supposed to thrive when it constantly fears talks of budget stalemates, government shutdowns, and U.S. Treasury defaults as a backdrop for their day-to-day spending and investment decisions? These showdowns cost money, and money is just what the federal government needs in order whack away at its deficits [John Tsitrian, "Sez Reality: 'I Bite!' Sez Kristi Noem: 'Ouch!'" The Constant Commoner, 2014.02.15].

Tsitrian offers biting words for Rep. Kristi Noem, who once again voted for economic chaos over fiscal responsibility. Tsitrian's descriptors of Rep. Noem include...

  • cognitively disconnected
  • ridiculous
  • right-wing anarchist
  • stupid
  • immature
  • selling us out
  • failure

...and that's in just one blog post.

The Powers commentariat would label such language Noem Derangement Syndrome. I'd label it an honest assessment of Noem's job performance from a disappointed Republican businessman.


Indulge me in some fiction:

One of my former French students e-mailed me yesterday to tell me she finally finished her group Food Board project. Students had to work together to combine pictures, maps, and charts showing where and how their favorite French foods are made, annual sales of those foods, customs associated with those foods. It was big, it was complicated, and it was all in French.

It was also due October 1, 2012.

My former student is a nice girl, but she's a bit self-absorbed. She doesn't pay much attention to deadlines. She doesn't go to all of her team meetings, and when she does, she often goofs around on her phone. She has trouble working with others: even as the Food Board project dragged on past its due date, she kept holding up progress by making suggestions that turned off most of the other students in the group. She kept trying to add content to the Food Board that was simply false. When she did happen upon a good idea, she was unable to get her teammates to act on it. She kept promising she'd get the project done, but she kept failing.

But now, a year and a third late, she thinks her Food Board is a wonderful accomplishment. She's going to travel all over town to tout her leadership in getting the Food Board done. She wants me to grade it right away and give her an A.

So tell me, dear readers, what grade would you give to this student?


Brookings residents looking for a warm cup of coffee on a cold South Dakota morning already know to stop by Cottonwood Bistro, but this particular snowy Thursday brought something extra to Brookings' morning routine with a visit from Corinna Robinson.

Robinson is the Democrat running to claim the seat that our current U.S. Representative, Republican Kristi Noem, all too often leaves vacant of both her physical presence and of any sort of accomplishment or influence on behalf of South Dakotans. Robinson, a retired Army veteran and lifelong public servant, used the public event to explain how her experience would translate to governing in Washington and to build momentum for a campaign against a well-known incumbent who's better at getting her face on Fox News than at getting legislation on the docket.

Brookings residents enjoying their morning cup of joe [no, not THAT Morning Joe] also get to enjoy interacting with Corinna Robinson, Democratic candidate for U.S. Representative from South Dakota. Photo courtesy of Brookings County Democrats Chairperson [and my former journalism professor] Mary Perpich, whose camera phone is at least one notch better than mine!

Brookings residents enjoying their morning cup of joe also get to enjoy interacting with Corinna Robinson, Democratic candidate for US Representative from South Dakota. [Photo courtesy of Brookings County Democrats Chairperson Mary Perpich, whose camera phone is at least one notch better than mine!]

"I'm racing to catch up for lost time," Robinson told the crowd of a couple dozen people gathered to hear her speak at the local coffee shop. That characterization of her campaign subtly acknowledges the time gaps between the first  October rumblings about Robinson's candidacy, an announced-but-delayed Veterans Day kickoff, and this week's more official statewide roll-out. But it also says that she's ready for some hard work to get around the state and make her case to South Dakota voters.

Over the weekend, this very blog called on Robinson to make that case by "opening fire on Noem's fecklessness," and Robinson's campaigning this week shows the beginnings of exactly that kind of fire. Take this from her Monday press release:

"It is time to bring Kristi Noem home. For almost four years now, South Dakota has effectively not had a voice in the U.S. House. Instead, Kristi Noem regularly and almost exclusively puts her own political interests ahead of the interests of all South Dakotans," the Rapid City native Robinson said [Corinna for SD, press release, 2014.01.27]

Or take her brief presentation to this morning's political kaffeeklatsch. Robinson works to preempt the crowing we all know we'll be hearing out of the Noem camp if the Farm Bill really, truly, finally does pass:

"[The Farm Bill is] nowhere near as comprehensive as when Dole. and McGovern got it passed. ... I know Kristi is going to try to take a lot of credit for getting that [Farm Bill] passed. The question still remains: why did it expire in the first place?" [Corinna Robinson, campaign speech, Brookings, SD, 2014.01.30]

In addition to criticizing the partisanship that seems the most obvious point of blame for Congressional inaction (she cites the government shutdown last fall as the "pivot point" for deciding to leave the military and seek election to public office), Robinson implies that a possible answer to why the Farm Bill expired is the failure of House committees and committee members to show up and do their job (hmm ... that criticism sounds familiar).

Robinson also did the stuff of good nuts-and-bolts campaigning, shaking hands, taking questions, circulating her nominating petition (as well as those of fellow Democrats Rick Weiland and Joe Lowe ... how's that for party unity?), and collecting donations by literally passing the hat** (what looked to me like a military-style boonie hat as one more reminder of Robinson's service). She talked about getting out on the road to towns all over the state (how does 311 towns sound, Corinna? You and Rick could be a carpooling, barnstorming dynamic duo!). She also mentioned an impending announcement about a new campaign adviser who's likely to rev up some more interest her run.


A snow-swept SUV is the requisite ride for be-bopping across South Dakota this time of year. Keep safe as you're putting on those campaign miles, Corinna!

Robinson may have some catching up to do, but she seems ready and able to run the race at full speed.

Bonus blog shout-outCorinna says she reads the Madville Times every morning, including at 6:30 a.m. today before her snowy drive through Brookings. Good to know we've got a candidate who recognizes the importance of the blogosphere (even if we offer a little campaign kibbitzing here and there)!

**Clarification 2014.01.30, 23:37 CST DWC gets bent out of joint at my mention of "passing the hat." Rest assured that all the contributions I saw collected in Robinson's military-style chapeau were first placed in a properly attributed "Corinna for SD" envelope. I apologize for not properly documenting each step of the donation process. No need to waste your time investigating campaign finance laws, PP. I'm sure you can put your resources to better use crafting more unnecessarily long and inflammatory-bordering-on-libelous blog post headlines.


Congresswoman Kristi Noem (R-SD) is working to improve on her 2013 legislative output (and perhaps distract from a lackluster performance on the Farm Bill Conference Committee) by shepherding a bill through Congress this year to clarify that people who pay for sex can be charged with human trafficking under existing law.

In her announcement last week claiming the Republican leadership that hasn't listened to her about the needs of farmers and ranchers has listened to her when it comes to this topic, Noem said she's been promised a week in the House dedicated to addressing her bill and others related to human trafficking. That amount of time rivals the week South Dakota Public Broadcasting spent in special reporting on human trafficking in our state earlier this month.

That SDPB coverage is among a lot of attention that the issue of human trafficking has garnered in South Dakota since the Polaris Project ranked our state worst in the U.S. for legal protections against human trafficking and U.S. Attorney for South Dakota Brendan Johnson announced a task force to address this apparent deficiency. Now Noem is both pressing the issue in the halls of Congress and lobbying her colleagues in South Dakota's Statehouse to beef up the local efforts.

Now, I'll clearly state that I agree with John Hult's assessment during this summer's task force announcement-prompted analysis that the efforts of (in that case) Johnson and (now) Noem are reasonable, even admirable, public policy stances aimed at improving how our state and nation protect some of their most vulnerable citizens from subtle, or even outright, predation. But I also agree with Hult's statement that it's fair to consider the motives of agenda-setters.

And in such consideration, I find myself wondering what inspires both our U.S. Attorney and our lone U.S. Representative to be attacking, seemingly independently, the same issue one right after the other.

Could it be that this is the rare issue that calls officials across party affiliation and branches of government to all take notice and action?

Could it be that reports from organizations like the Polaris Project and stories like those told by activists and researchers devoted to stopping this vicious victimization have coalesced into a narrative that's impossible to ignore, or that effectively targeted lobbying by those same groups has gotten through to more than one government official?

Could it be that Noem saw Johnson gain notoriety for tackling the issue and saw an opportunity to gain her own policymaking notoriety, while also taking away Johnson's uncontested claim to the sort of crime-fighting accomplishments that could sound really good to a South Dakota electorate were he to be eying a chance to join or replace Noem in D.C. sometime down the line?

Any of those possibilities seems plausible to me, and any speculation about them should remain secondary to the discussions that Johnson's task force and Noem's legislation seem poised to spark. But just because the political questions are secondary to the policy ones doesn't mean the political questions shouldn't be asked.


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