Some of my readers think David Montgomery has sold out to the good-old-boys' network on whom he and his employer depend for access and advertising dollars.

If that were the case, I don't think that Sioux Falls paper would slap this headline on Montgomery's latest EB-5 report:

Rounds knew of Benda conflict in final days of term

This headline comes not from diligent investigative reporting but from Mike Rounds's own mouth. The Republican Senate candidate said in yesterday's live interview with 100 Eyes that he knew Richard Benda, his economic development chief, was going to work for an "investor" in Northern Beef Packers, the stalled economic development project toward which he directed $2.36 million in state grants during the last few weeks of his governorship.

Benda didn't identify which investor he would be working for, and Rounds said he didn't press. Benda went to work for SDRC Inc., a company managing EB-5 foreign investments for projects, including Northern Beef. On Tuesday, Rounds said he now feels Benda "misled" him by not disclosing where he was going.

At the time, though, Rounds didn't ask Benda for more details.

"I said 'Good, I'm glad to hear that he's going to be actively involved in the beef plant,'" Rounds said in a live interview on the Argus Leader's "100 Eyes" online show.

Rounds' focus at the time, he said, was on which of his Cabinet secretaries "should I meet with to find out if they need assistance in finding other opportunities" — not whether they were "leaving government with a conflict of interest," as Argus Leader managing editor Patrick Lalley asked Rounds. Benda already had lined up a job, so Rounds said he focused attention elsewhere [David Montgomery, "Rounds Knew of Benda Conflict in Final Days of Term," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.10.22].

Permit me to paint a managerial scenario, and you tell me whether I'm viewing the situation with hindsight or South Dakota common sense:

  1. I'm an outgoing governor, tying up loose ends in the Capitol.
  2. Among the loose ends are various fiscal and policy decisions to keep one of my marquee legacy projects alive. It's running over two years late and way over budget.
  3. I'm taking a risk writing some pretty big checks to keep the legacy project alive.
  4. I can't afford any bad press dragging this precarious project down.
  5. I find out one of my cabinet members who's been key in saving that project is now going to work for that project.
  6. I say, "Wait a minute, Richard. What exactly are you going to be doing for the project?" I listen closely. If I sense any hedging, I say "Cut the crap" and get the full story.
  7. Whatever answers I get, I think ahead to appearances, if not legal questions, and I say to my cabinet member, "I think it's best that, for these last couple weeks, we put a big brick wall between you and any policy decisions affecting the folks you're going to work for."
  8. I review all of the checks and other papers I've signed over the past few weeks for the project and make sure everything looks kosher.
  9. And above all, I make sure my guy going to work for the project is not the guy who carries the million-dollar state check to that project.

Rounds gets to my step 5, then veers off the road of good management, saying, Rich has a job? Great! Now I can focus on helping all my other pals get golden parachutes.

Rounds said at Dakotafest in August that if he'd known what Benda had been up to with respect to Northern Beef Packers and EB-5, he'd have fired Benda. In yesterday's interview, Rounds said, "Richard Benda did some things in the last couple of weeks (of Rounds' term) that I did not know about, and that I'd like to ask him questions about." But when Benda was right in front of him, and the issues all hot on his plate, Governor Rounds chose not to ask.

And the day Mike Rounds didn't ask Richard Benda those questions at the end of 2010 may have been the day that Mike Rounds lost the election of 2014.

21 comments

I love South Dakota. I love ladies. So why doesn't South Dakota love ladies?

Never mind the syllogistic stretch; check out why 24/7 Wall Street says South Dakota is the seventh-worst state in the Union for women:

Median earnings for women in South Dakota were roughly 75% the earnings of their male counterparts in 2013, one of the lower rates in the country. The lower earnings may be due to the relatively small percentage of women in management occupations. As of 2013, slightly more than 31% of workers in managerial roles were women, well below the national rate of 39.2%. Working women in South Dakota cannot take paid time off to care for sick family members or tend to their own health or pregnancy. Moreover, South Dakota has not begun to implement the expansion of Medicaid benefits allowed under the Affordable Care Act. With women accounting for nearly 55% of all state residents living below the poverty line in 2012, expanding Medicaid benefits would likely improve the living conditions for women [Thomas C. Frohlich, Alexander Kent, and Alexander E.M. Hess, "The 10 Worst States for Women," 24/Wall Street, 2014.10.16].

I love South Dakota. I want to say good things about South Dakota. But candidates like Mike Rounds and Dennis Daugaard are claiming they deserve your vote because they've done good things for South Dakota, when in fact they have only left in place a political and economic system that denies a huge majority of moms (and dads!) the opportunity to leave one parent at home to raise their kids, then hurls those women into an oppressive business regime that excludes them from lucrative positions of power.

Women, you appear to have your doubts about Democratic gubernatorial candidate Susan Wismer. You should harbor even greater doubts about the economic status quo in which the Republicans vest their interests. Check your pocketbooks, and vote accordingly.

11 comments

Mr. Ehrisman wonders why we haven't seen a big Governor Dennis Daugaard endorsement ad for Mike Rounds for Senate.

Well, Senator John Thune is on the air telling folks to send him Rounds to join him for No Theater:

Be patient: I suspect a Daugaard endorsement ad is in the chute, ready to go after the Thune ad tires the viewers out.

But if the absence of a Daugaard ad for Rounds catches our attention, so should the absence of an ad from Senator Tim Johnson for Rick Weiland. John Tsitrian senses what he calls tepidity from Senator Johnson and other South Dakota elder Democratic statesmen. Tsitrian also links to this milquetoastery from Senator Johnson:

Of course I'm in favor of Rick Weiland, but they're all good candidates and I'll stay away from the politics [Sen. Tim Johnson, in Tessa Thomas, "Senator Stops in Rapid City for His 'Tour of Thanks'," KEVN-TV, 2014.10.20].

Senator Johnson, I appreciate the Lutheran equanimity, but don't give Mike Rounds a grace he doesn't deserve. Now is not the time to call Mike Rounds a "good candidate" or to stay away from politics. You can use this crucial last moment of your political career to make this the last moment of Mike Rounds's political career. You can use you last hurrah  to give South Dakota the great hurrah of a candidate as honest and hard-working as you have been.

Senator Johnson, break out the camera. Leverage your gravitas and pathos. Shoot this ad:

I'm Tim Johnson. You've trusted me to work for you for 35 years. I've worked through challenges to live up to that trust and get things done for South Dakota.

Now I ask you to trust Rick Weiland. He'll pick up right where I'm leaving off, fighting for every one of us in South Dakota.

I will miss serving you. But Barb and I can rest easy with Rick Weiland as our next Senator. Thank you, South Dakota [fantasy ad, hopefully airing October 29, 2014].

Say those words to the camera. Play some "Morning in America" music. Push Weiland over 40%.

36 comments

Republicans are desperate to beat back Rick Weiland's October surge. Alas, the only way the National Republican Senatorial Committee sees fit to do that is through more falsehood:

The two biggest lies in this ad are the claims that (1) Weiland supports cutting $700 billion from Medicare and (2) Keystone XL would create 40,000 jobs.

The claim that the Affordable Care Act cuts $700 billion in Medicare benefits was false before anyone had entered South Dakota's Senate race. The $700 billion claim was false when Mike Rounds made it in May. It's still false.

The claim that Keystone XL will create 40,000 jobs is fuzzy math of Mike Rounds/EB-5 proportions. A couple thousand workers will spend a few months crossing the high plains laying pipe. Some folks in the neighborhood of the work camps will sell more sandwiches. Then the workers and the jobs and the paychecks will go away, and there will be maybe fifty TransCanada workers left to monitor and repair pipe and pump stations.

Republicans have nothing left but falsehood. Voters, don't give your vote to someone who can't tell the truth.

26 comments

At the Dakotafest debate in August, Independent candidate Larry Pressler advanced the thesis that electing Mike Rounds would leave South Dakota with a "wounded Senator." Lincoln County Democrat Ryan Casey takes that thesis a step further, asking if an indictment against Rounds for malfeasance in his EB-5 program would leave South Dakota with no junior Senator:

Article I, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution and the 17th Amendment give states the ability to fill U.S. Senate vacancies due to death, expulsion or resignation. In South Dakota, the governor makes an appointment to fill a vacancy until the next general election.

If Rounds is elected, indicted, and resigns, the governor can appoint his replacement almost immediately, preserving South Dakota's crucial representation in the Senate. If Rounds insists on remaining in office throughout his criminal proceedings, however, constituents will be left to question his effectiveness as a senator and his ability to serve their interests.

Luckily, there is still time on the clock. South Dakota voters can determine the outcome of this election [Ryan Casey, "Would Rounds Indictment Leave South Dakota Without a Senator?" Huffington Post, 2014.10.21].

Rep. Bill Janklow put us in that situation in 2003, not resigning until he was found guilty of manslaughter and not making that resignation effective until his sentencing, a month and a half after conviction.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves: Mike Rounds hasn't caused anyone's death that we know of, and we're still nailing what if any crime Rounds may have committed. (Remember: sloppy management and dishonesty aren't crimes.)

But voters, consider the odds: you have three Senate candidates who are not under any known federal investigation. You have one candidate who is at the center of a scandal under ongoing federal investigation, and that candidate has been spinning flexible and doubtful tales about his involvement in that scandal all year. Rick Weiland, Larry Pressler, and Gordon Howie are more likely to be ready to serve on day one and not require any litigious sabbatical, let alone replacement by the Governor.

Dump Rounds, and focus on your viable Senate candidates.

14 comments

CNN correspondent Dana Bash noted how cordial—heck, downright friendly—Rick Weiland, Larry Pressler, and Gordon Howie are to each other as they compete for the U.S. Senate seat. During breaks in a KSOO radio forum last week, the candidates chatted about poetry, hunting, and the weather.

Another sign of comity in South Dakota politics is this profile of Democratic candidate for state treasurer Denny Pierson written by Libertarian blogger and opposing candidate Ken Santema.

Yes, Santema's name appears on the ballot against Pierson. Santema uses his blog to broadcast his opponent's ideas on engaging county officials in helping citizens reclaim unclaimed property, restoring the state's unclaimed property holding period from three to five years, and making more public service announcements to let people know about unclaimed property.

Santema waits for the end to editorialize:

Pierson is an interesting entry into this race. His idea of expanding the Unclaimed Property area of the State Treasurers office to County Treasurers is interesting. I haven’t looked deep enough into to see whether it is a workable idea yet, but I will admit it is something worth discussing. I think the Democrats may have chosen well when putting Pierson on the ballot for State Treasurer [Ken Santema, "Democrat State Treasurer Candidate Denny Pierson Talking about His Top Priority," SoDakLiberty, 2014.10.19].

Find me one other candidate anywhere on the South Dakota's ballot who blogs so generously, civilly, and honestly about his opponent and his opponent's platform. Ken Santema, you are a credit to blogging, to Libertarians, and to South Dakota politics.

12 comments

Over a year ago, the Council for a Livable World endorsed Rick Weiland's Senate campaign. I noted at the time that the anti-nuclear group's endorsement shouldn't concern boosters of Ellsworth Air Force Base, since Ellsworth doesn't pack nukes any more.

Ah, but don't let facts stand in the way of Republican Mike Rounds's campaign tactics. Team Rounds apparently bought a full page of the Rapid City Journal Sunday to say Weiland and the Council for a Livable World would get rid of the B-1B bomber.

Rounds's claim is false:

“A shamefully desperate Mike Rounds has been caught in yet another lie in a pattern that is becoming all too familiar and sad – this time by running an ad in the Rapid City Journal that is not only false but is scurrilous. Their characterization that the Council and Rick Weiland want to “scuttle” the B-1B bomber and shut down Ellsworth Air Force base is completely and blatantly false. And Mike Rounds knows it. In fact lying has become so much a part of Mike Rounds’ DNA that even Pinocchio would be embarrassed,” said Weiland Campaign Manager Kris Swedin.

The Weiland campaign isn’t the only aggrieved party to Rounds’ lie.

Angela Canterbury, Executive Director for the Council had this to say in response to Rounds’ ad, “The ad is simply incorrect. The Council for a Livable World does not advocate closing Ellsworth Air Force Base. Council for a Livable World does not support scuttling the B-1B bomber. The President does not support scuttling the B-1B bomber. The ad is made up out of whole cloth. The B-1B is a 1980’s program that we opposed when it was first initiated—when it had nuclear weapons capability—but that’s ancient history. In 2014, under President Obama, the Air Force began a multi-year technological overhaul and upgrade of its B1-B Lancer long-range bomber fleet, which we do not oppose. Mike Rounds is making this up” [Rick Weiland campaign, press release, 2014.10.20].

Team Rounds issues this response, which deviously avoids defending the original specific claim about the B-1B bomber:

"Obama and CLW are undeniably bad for the Rapid City community, Ellsworth Air Force Base and American strategic defense," Rounds' campaign manager Rob Skjonsberg said in an emailed statement. "They’ve endorsed Rick Weiland — what else is there to say? Rick Weiland and his allies would be a disaster for the Rapid City community" [Seth Tupper, "Ellsworth Dragged into Senate Race," Rapid City Journal, 2014.10.20].

There's just no having a rational debate with Mike Rounds. He appears determined in the last days of his campaign to salvage all the votes he can through any means possible, regardless of the facts.

Get out the truth, Democrats, and get out the vote!

36 comments

I hope more newspaper editorial boards will show the courage that the Mobridge Tribune's Katie Zerr shows in this repudiation of Mike Rounds's fitness for public office. Zerr doesn't say whom we should vote for, but she says quite clearly that the spoiled, deceitful Rounds does not deserve South Dakotans' vote:

Despite what the commercials are telling us, Mike Rounds does not have the same values as most South Dakotans. Listen to what those sound bites are conveying. Think about the dishonesty of the Rounds campaign.

This is the candidate that used information about the ACA robbing $750 million from Medicare in order to frighten seniors despite the fact that the information was false and he knew it. He admitted to that.

This is the candidate that keeps changing his story when pressed about the EB5 Program and his role in it.

It is this candidate who vilified federal stimulus then accepted money earmarked for education and used it to balance the state budget so he could claim he worked with a balanced budget all his years in office.

There are other options besides Mike Rounds [Katie Zerr, "Vote for the Candidate, Not the Political Party," Mobridge Tribune, 2014.10.15].

Democrats, you have a true Democrat on the ballot, Rick Weiland. Republicans, you have two honest men on the ballot who might as well be Republicans—Larry Pressler, the throwback to moderate Reagan Republicanism; and Gordon Howie, the modern Tea Party Republican. Indies, those three men represent a remarkable variety of ideological and policy positions. You can dismiss Mike Rounds from your thinking and still find plenty of options to scratch your Senatorial itch.

44 comments

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