It's not just Mike Rounds who shouts "Obama!" to get votes. The South Dakota Republican Party is fanning anti-Obama sentiment in the District 16 Senate race to protect Senator Dan Lederman from strong Democratic challenger Ann Tornberg.

The desperate measure of trying to nationalize a state legislative contest may not be working. Tornberg is posting endorsements from registered Republicans:

I serve on the Jefferson City Council. I believe in local control and as far as possible, for those in Pierre to leave local decisions to local city officials. I was disappointed in Dan Lederman when he sponsored Senate Bill 75 which prevents local governments from regulating certain dog breeds like pit bulls. Jefferson and North Sioux City had local ordinances which banned certain dog breeds. What really bothered me was that when I spoke to Sen. Lederman, he said he wasn’t even aware that we had these laws in Jefferson. I’d like to think that my Senator would at least know what the local laws are in the communities he represents. I’m a registered Republican, and I’ll be supporting Ann Tornberg. I sincerely believe she’ll listen to us, and will advocate for local control.

—Tony Roark-Jefferson [Ann Tornberg for District 16 South Dakota State Senate, Facebook post, 2014.10.30]

Unlike Pat Powers, when I use the plural in my headlines, I mean it. Here's Republican for Tornberg #2:

I look at the candidate and vote for who I believe will be best for District 16 and South Dakota. I will vote for Ann Tornberg for the District 16 Senate race.

—Dennis Melstad, Dakota Dunes, Registered Republican [Ann Tornberg for District 16 South Dakota State Senate, Facebook post, 2014.10.27]

Tornberg draws an endorsement from another of Lederman's Dakota Dunes neighbors:

After talking to Ann several times during the 2013 Legislative Session as a legislative assistant and many times during this campaign season as she travels the District, I'm thoroughly convinced she has an in-depth understanding of the issues facing our District and the State. She approaches all issues the same way - from understanding the facts and fundamentals of an issue to reaching out to those affected by it - she is methodical in her approach. I look forward to working with her in the future.

—Jeff Dooley, Dakota Dunes Resident [Ann Tornberg for District 16 South Dakota State Senate, Facebook post, 2014.10.28]

While the SDGOP and Lederman fret about our President, Lederman's neighbors, Republicans included, are voting more on the candidates' engagement in District 16 and their knowledge of local District 16 issues. "Blame Obama!" has its limits, and Dan Lederman may be about to bump into those limits against Ann Tornberg.

5 comments

Elm Springs rancher Pat Trask boils the case against Mike Rounds into one simple message: Mike Rounds puts big money over the interests of South Dakota.

"I voted for Reagan, Bush, Thune -- but I can't vote for Mike Rounds," says Trask, with all the calm force of a Badlands heat wave.

Even objective reporter David Montgomery has to admit this ad from Mayday PAC is not just "effective" but "quietly devastating." Sure, outside money paid to put the ad on TV, but the words come straight from a South Dakota Republican, a man with a pick-up truck with South Dakota plates and horses grazing along the Cheyenne River, saying the words South Dakota needs to hear: Mike Rounds doesn't deserve your vote.

p.s.: The Displaced Plainsman is throwing in the towel for all Democrats, including Weiland. But Mayday PAC and I ain't heard no fat lady! Share this video, and Get Out The Vote!

46 comments

Having trouble getting through to state offices lately? It could be because the South Dakota Republican Party is sending out robocalls to remind our civil servants of who butters their bread.

...calling on behalf of the South Dakota Republican Party, South Dakota cannot afford to send a friend of Barack Obama to Washington. The only way to avoid sending a friend of Obama to Washington is by voting Republican. By not electing a Republican, South Dakota will be supporting Obamacare, a friend of Barack Obama, a Washington insider, and a bigger government. The Republicans have a chance to take back the Senate, and South Dakotans play a vital role. Please remember to vote Republican on November 4. This call is paid for by the South Dakota Republican Party, not authorized by the candidate or candidate's committee, 605-610-8879 [South Dakota Republican Party, robocall, recorded 2014.10.24].

My source found this message on the voicemail of my source's work phone in a state office. My source says my source's boss has received the same message at work. My source has also received two surveys from the national GOP.

I appreciate the SDGOP's effort to lighten our state employees' day with messages from breathless ladies, though I hope they have a hunky baritone version for the ladies who answer the state phones. But we could read this robocall as one more effort by the Republicans to keep government from getting its work done.

Either way, Republicans, how about we save the robocalls for folks not on the clock?

11 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.

33 comments

The EB-5 scandal is so dangerous to Republicans that the state party is lying to its own voters. An eager reader says the SDGOP is sending out the following letter to registered Republicans:

SDGOP mailer, October 2014

SDGOP mailer, October 2014 (click to embiggen!)

Wow—talk about missing the point! Let's go to the line-by-line (I preserve the SDGOP's underlining and add letters for easier reference):

A. State leaders have vigorously investigated this matter—the Division of Criminal Investigation, the Government Operations and Audit Committee, the Department of Legislative Audit, and two different private accounting firms.

  1. The DCI never interviewed key witness Richard Benda.
  2. GOAC has refused to subpoena key witness Joop Bollen.
  3. GOAC has refused to require Bollen, Mike Rounds, Governor Dennis Daugaard to testify in person under oath where legislators could immediately follow up on responses.
  4. The Department of Legislative Audit did not investigate any of the questionable practices of Bollen and his collaborators in the operation of SDRC Inc., the company he formed to privatize his state job.

B. The only allegations were against Richard Benda—of double dipping on travel reimbursement, and of redirecting a state grant after he had left the state and was working for a private company.

  1. The new revelations that have come out this year about EB-5 have moved well beyond Richard Benda's activities as Governor's Office of Economic Development chief and SDRC Inc. loan monitor.
  2. The primary unanswered allegations are that as Governor, Mike Rounds know about a raft of malfeasance by Joop Bollen and rewarded Bollen with a lucrative no-bid contract.

C. AG Marty Jackley was ready to pursue criminal charges against Benda at the time of his death.

  1. The SDGOP is defaming a dead man.
  2. AG Jackley's release of a draft arrest warrant that was never executed causes pain a family whose pain and desire for privacy AG Jackley has cited as justification for keeping other EB-5-related matters secret.
  3. AG Jackley and Gov. Daugaard both initially denied that Benda had committed any wrongdoing with respect to the $550K Future Fund grant diversion. AG Jackley changed that story in July 2014.

D. The audits of GOED were comprehensive and recommendations for improvement have been adopted.

  1. The GEOD audits did not address the entirety of business practices of SDRC Inc.
  2. The GOED audits did not address Joop Bollen's violation of state conflict-of-interest law.
  3. The GOED audits did not address Joop Bollen's concealment, in violation of state risk management policy, of a lawsuit against the state incurred by his public agency's activities in 2008.
  4. The GOED audits did not address Joop Bollen's illegal and inept representation of the state in a legal pleading in 2008.
  5. The GOED audits did not address Joop Bollen's mismanagement of Northern Beef Packers, which ultimately led to the loss of $167 million dollars of private and state investment in bankruptcy.

E. Democrats are playing politics. They are manufacturing a scandal about EB-5 through innuendo. They have never explained what wrongdoing they suspect.

  1. Rep. Kathy Tyler, attorney Patrick Duffy, this blog, and others have laid out thorough and detailed arguments about lost taxpayer dollars, ethical breaches, and legal violations.

F. Republican leadership been [sic] open and forthright.

  1. Republican leadership on GOAC forthrightly refused to even discuss subpoenaing Joop Bollen.

G. AG Jackley vigorously investigated the matter, at the governor's request. His investigators interviewed dozens of witnesses, including Joop Bollen, and reviewed thousands of documents. As a result of what was found, AG Jackley was prepared to pursue criminal charges against Benda. That didn't happen because of Benda's death.

  1. Again, the SDGOP is shamelessly using a dead man as its fall guy.
  2. The SDGOP is making unsubstantiated claims about "dozens" of witnesses and "thousands" of documents. If the Republican leadership is committed to being "open and forthright," it will list those dozens of witnesses and thousands of documents.
  3. AG Jackley's "vigorous" investigation did not include questioning Richard Benda.
  4. AG Jackley's "vigorous" investigation did not begin until spring 2013, four years after the attorney general's office learned of illegal activity by Joop Bollen.

H. Gov. Daugaard promptly released the AG's investigation report to the public last fall.

  1. Gov. Daugaard did not release this information until after Richard Benda's unusual death provoked a firestorm of public curiosity and scrutiny.

I. Gov. Rounds has been completely open and forthright as well—with the public and with investigators. Rounds has said that, if he had known about Benda's wrongdoing, he would have fired Benda on the spot.

  1. Documents have shown that several of Rounds's "open and forthright" statements are false.
  2. Rounds took four months to respond to questions about EB-5 from reporter Bob Mercer.

J. Gov. Daugaard ordered three separate reviews, of GOED, by two different accounting firms and by the Department of Legislative Audit, the state legislature's independent auditing office. The audits found no further wrongdoing, and the state implemented ideas to improve processes.

The reports of all three reviews were shared with legislators and the public and are available at http://sdreadytowork.com/Financing-and-Incentives--Public-Records.aspx

  1. New evidence of wrongdoing has surfaced since the February 2014 audits.

K. The State Legislature has held two hearings to discuss the reports and the investigation and to ask questions of state officials.

  1. The committee charged by the Legislature to discuss the reports and investigate EB-5 has left EB-5 off its agenda in two meetings.
  2. The hearings that have addressed EB-5 have been used by Republican leadership to stonewall hard questions about EB-5.

L. Everyone involved—Gov. Rounds, Gov. Daugaard, AG Jackley, and other state officials—have answered every question asked, and provided every document that the law allows.

  1. Answering every question does not mean answering every question fully and truthfully.
  2. State officials have not answered questions about the focus of seven of eight federal subpoenas issued relating to South Dakota's EB-5 program.
  3. State officials have not answered questions about why Joop Bollen was not fired for numerous violations of state policy and law.
  4. State officials have not answered questions about the evidence that led to the conclusion that Richard Benda committed suicide.

M. A federal investigation is also ongoing, and everything that has been found by state officials has been shared with federal investigators.

  1. The SDGOP makes another unsubstantiable and uncreditable assertion. We cannot know if state officials have shared "everything" with federal investigators.

N. EB-5 is a federal immigration program—not a state-run program.

  1. The SDGOP repeats its biggest red herring: while Joop Bollen may have violated USCIS regulations on the EB-5 program, he also appears to have violated numerous state policies and laws that fall entirely within the jurisdiction of state officials.
  2. Mike Rounds has said Bollen was a Board of Regents employee, subject to state oversight.
  3. Bollen testified in Darley v. SDIBI that he answered to the Regents and the Governor's Office of Economic Development.

O. The state's ability to investigate a federal program is very limited—whether it is the Attorney General or a legislative committee. That is why the AG provided everything he found to federal investigators.

EB-5 is a federal program that allows private companies to raise private investment for economic development projects, under federal guidelines.

  1. Medicaid is a federal program, yet the Attorney General's office regularly investigates and prosecutes Medicaid fraud.

P. Like nearly every other state, SD had designated a private company to operate EB-5 in the state—SDRC, Inc. Gov. Daugaard terminated the state contract with SDRC in Fall 2013.

  1. The state operated EB-5 through a state agency, the South Dakota International Business Institute, from 2004 through 2009.
  2. The state obtained and has continuously retained the official USCIS EB-5 "regional center" designation since 2004.
  3. South Dakota's contract with private SDRC Inc. in December 2009 was a no-bid sweetheart deal rewarding malfeasant state employee Joop Bollen, who quit his state job the day before he signed the SDRC Inc. contract.

Q. Today, the state does not actively promote EB-5. The state receives and files reports about existing EB-5 projects, and provides information about the program to those who enquire.

There are numerous successful projects in SD that were funded through EB-5, including Dakota Turkey Growers in Huron, the Deadwood Mountain Grand, and development of wind power.

  1. More red herrings: these facts have nothing to do with wrongdoing by Richard Benda, Joop Bollen, Mike Rounds, or anyone else involved with running the state's EB-5 program

R. South Dakota did not lose millions of dollars of taxpayer money on Northern Beef Packers (NBP).

The total state contribution to the $150 million project was $4.3 million. That entire amount has already been recovered through taxes paid by NBP.

  1. The actual amount of public and private money poured into Northern Beef Packers was $167 million.
  2. $4.3 million does not include the bank franchise taxes lost in the tax break for NBP offshore funder Epoch Star.
  3. $4.3 million does not include the $2.4 million in bank franchise taxes evaded by SDRC Inc.
  4. $4.3 million does not include the uncounted local and county revenues lost when NBP went bankrupt due to state employee/contractor Bollen's mismanagement and put hundreds of Aberdonians out of work.

S. Although the owners of NBP went bankrupt, the plant still exists, and new owners, New Angus, intend to reopen and operate the plant within a year. That means the goal of a beef plant in Aberdeen will be achieved.

  1. Aberdeen heard claims that NBP would open within a year throughout its five-year construction period.
  2. Claims of future solvency bear no weight on present failure.
  3. Claims of future solvency under new management bear no weight on the failure of Bollen, Benda, and Rounds to make NBP work now.

If Republican voters are looking for an excuse to ignore EB-5, this letter from the SDGOP may provide the palliative they need. I mean, hey, it's on paper, so it must be true, right?

But if I were a Democratic leader, I'd feel awful about having to blow smoke like this at my own people to keep them marking the right bubbles on their ballots.

Forward this list of responses to your Republican friends, and encourage them to ask their party leaders for the full and accurate story about EB-5.

44 comments

The Tea Party Express shed credibility this week by throwing a life preserver to failing and only faintly Tea-flavored Republican candidate Mike Rounds. Reasonable Republican John Tsitrian finds that endorsement laughable and incompatible with good government for South Dakota. Arch-conservative Bob Ellis finds it horrible... or should I say whore-able?

...the Tea Party Express, a national Tea Party group, has decided to whore itself out, selling its values and virtue in a quest for a seat at the table of power [Bob Ellis, "Tea Party Express Whores Itself to RINO Establishment," American Clarion, 2014.10.15].

Ellis is incensed (Ellis is always incensed, but this time he's right) that anyone could mistake Mike Rounds for Ted Cruz or Rand Paul or Sarah Palin or whoever represents this amorphous group of do-nothing, tax-nobody anarcho-conservatives:

The guy who kicked the can of a $127 million structural deficit down the road for his successor Dennis Daugaard and the legislature to deal with…is “not something Mike Rounds is going to do”?  Give me a break!

The guy who lacked the guts to sign South Dakota’s first attempt to ban abortion in 2004–and instead vetoed it–is “going to confront the problems”?  Spare me!

The guy who grew the size of state government, who supports government health care schemes, amnesty, Marxist minimum wage increases and a host of other liberal ideas can be relied on for “getting America back on track”? Please!

According to Mike Rounds record–not his lying rhetoric, but his record–he isn’t even a good Republican, much less a good Tea Party candidate [Ellis, 2014.10.15].

Gordon Howie is the only true Tea Partier in the Senate race and the only one besides Lora Hubbel on South Dakota's statewide ballot. Government by Howie, Hubbel, and Ellis evokes terrifying visions of theocratic tyranny. But if you drink that Tea, that's what you dig, and you cannot in good conscience dig Mike Rounds.

Endorsing Mike Rounds is capitulation. If you really believe the Republican Party is filled with pragmatists, opportunists, and fakers who trade principles for raw power, you don't vote for Mike Rounds just to preserve a Republican majority in the Senate. You vote en masse for Howie. You either win the Senate seat or, if you can't quite beat Weiland or Pressler, you knock the legs out from under the RINO establishment, prove that fakers like Rounds are no longer viable, and set the stage for full-tilt Tea-volution in 2016, when you run Howie for Thune's Senate seat, Bill Napoli for House, and Stacey Victor Nelson for President.

28 comments
SD Senate race as Corn Palace 2014

Corn Palace as political effigy—imagine the possibilities....

South Dakota's U.S. Senate race has turned into the Corn Palace: so weird, so unlikely, folks from out of state just have to come and look.

Today, that funny-looking corn dome off to the right, Gordon Howie, gets some national press. The apocalypse is nigh.

Bloomberg's David Weigel sat down for coffee with the Independent/Republican rebel in the U.S. Senate race and got this juicy morsel: Howie claims Republicans may be offering him carrots to get out of the race:

"There are high level GOP operatives, in and out of the state, who have tried to negotiate me out of this race," Howie told me. "They approached me as recently as last week."

He would not name the operatives; he would only rephrase what they asked him. "There were no hard offers," he said. "The question was more of a what-if: 'Well, what if you dropped out?' And I said, 'You can take these proposals and throw them in the Missouri river'" [David Weigel, "The Other Guy Ruining the GOP's Chances in South Dakota," Bloomberg, 2014.10.14].

Ah, there's no buying our friend Gordon, especially not when he smells his big break-out opportunity just one EB-5 blog post away:

According to Howie, Republicans in and out of office had been whispering that they supported him but didn't want to come out and say so. They would only come out, he suggested, if and when Rounds imploded.

"The ice is very thin, and shaking," he said. "This was Rounds's race to lose, and he's losing it. If he’s contradicted on the EB-5 story, by a document, just one more time, I think the ice breaks under him" [Weigel, 2014.10.14].

Hmm... one more good blog post with one more document showing one more Mike Rounds lie, and Gordon Howie becomes Senator? Do I dare?

15 comments

Suffering a paroxysm of anti-Pressler ranting on his blogging deathbed, Pat Powers launches an attack that epitomizes the rottenness of the South Dakota Republican philosophical core. Powers dings Pressler for a 1987 article advocating "an end to the safety net for South Dakota farmers."

The truth of this claim, like everything Powers blogs, is questionable. The intent of the claim is clear: Larry Pressler hates farmers!

If we look not at Pat's headline but at the actual text Pressler penned for the July 9, 1987, Christian Science Monitor, Pressler was talking about helping farmers escape the "vicious cycle" of subsidies that encourage surplus production, depress prices, and exacerbate environmental problems by driving farmers to plow erodable land. Pressler advocated an international version of our Conservation Reserve Program to help farmers:

In the United States, the National Wheatgrowers Association and several other farm groups have endorsed the concept of an international conservation reserve. Currently, farmers in Japan receive more than half their income from government payments. Farmers worldwide receive their production signals from government programs rather than the market. A reduction in global production of agricultural commodities would bring supply in line with demand, thus increasing market prices. This would allow governments to phase out government subsidies without bankrupting the world's farmers [Larry Pressler, "International Action on Agriculture Is Needed," Christian Science Monitor, 1987.07.09].

Pressler didn't want to end the safety net for South Dakota farmers. He wanted a safer net.

But fully contextual policy discussion be darned, the SDGOP has to make Pressler out to be Satan! The SDGOP chooses to do so by attacking Pressler for suggesting an alternative to a "safety net" that, strung for any less well-heeled bloc of down-home voters and donors, the SDGOP would call socialist government handouts.

And this critique comes from a party that elects a farm welfare queen as its conservative pin-up girl.

Basically, with this farm subsidies ploy, Pat Powers and his Republican friends want voters to turn against Pressler because he isn't liberal enough.

The South Dakota Republican Party has no principles left. Like Annette Bosworth, they'll toss any old word salad together if they think it will win them votes.

13 comments

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