The South Dakota Republican Party predicates its formal call for President Barack Obama's impeachment on allegations that the President is "by passing [sic] Congress" and "usurping his authority". (One does not usurp one's own authority, but as usual with South Dakota Republicans, we have to skip what they say and listen to what they mean.)

Fellow blogger Michael Larson goes to town on those words and Governor Dennis Daugaard's record and predicts that South Dakota Republicans will soon call for the impeachment of their own Legislature-bypassing, authority-usurping governor:

Three times in 2012, Daugaard waived the law to allow the transportation of over-width livestock feed on our roads.  In 2013 he lifted the rules over propane haulers.  In 2012 he also issued an executive order to expand his economic council.  In 2011 he created a task force to lure trust companies to South Dakota by helping them hide money. In 2011 he also created a task force to form a Department of Tourism.  In 2014 he signed an executive order to release of some state financial information.  Most recently he has done another executive order in the face of GOP animosity asking his Bureau of Finance and Management to speculate the economic forecast an additional two years in the future [Michael Larson, "The SD GOP Will Be Impeaching Daugaard Soon," Taking a Left Turn in South Dakota, 2014.07.13].

Larson says Daugaard's executive orders are of far less concern than his much greater blunders on Northern Beef PackersManpower Inc., and education. But when Republicans' own logic leads to the impeachment of their own governor, it's clear their message doesn't make sense for South Dakota.

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I expected more from Dick Wadhams. But the slumping Rove wannabe who returned to the scene of his star-making 2004 crime to work for Mike Rounds made nary a ping on our political radar until last week, when the South Dakota Republican Party announced that Wadhams was leaving Team Rounds to consult for the state party on all of its candidates' campaigns.

If Wadhams did anything to earn the $3,500 a month that Rounds was paying him, we didn't hear about it. Rounds marched easily to primary victory amid four opponents who could not muster the money or organization necessary to beat the frontrunner. Mr. Kallis sees Wadhams's services as equally "superfluous" to good GOP fortunes across the ticket in November and puzzles over the SDGOP's motives in transferring Wadhams to their wing:

Are the Republicans so flush with cash that they feel the need to spend some just for the sake of spending? Perhaps Wadhams is demanding a sinecure because he believes he was not properly rewarded in 2004 and the Republicans are obliging him. Neither rationale, however, seems to be one a fiscally conservative party would consider.

Perhaps party leaders are worried about some scandal coming to the fore, but Rounds, the person most likely to be harmed by known imbroglios, is in a four-way race and doesn't need to worry about capturing 50%. Is this an effort to marginalize the party's right wing? Wadhams history with the tea party is complicated to say the least [Leo Kallis, "Wadhams Hire Prompts Curiosity," The Displaced Plainsman, 2014.06.30].

I have no firm answers to Kallis's questions, just some possible scenarios that we can test for plausibility:

  1. Rounds and Wadhams thought victory in 2014 would be more difficult. They braced for full-on war through November. But outside conservative threats never materialized. Rounds scaled back his fundraising goals, cruised over his primary opponents unscathed, and realized, with some embarrassment, that he really didn't need Wadhams's services. Not wanting to lose his résumé rebuilder, Wadhams asked if he could expand his portfolio in South Dakota instead of having to swing into job hunt mode nationwide. The SDGOP obliged.
  2. Rounds and Wadhams had a dust-up. That 55% primary vote total was less than he thought he was entitled to; he wanted 81% like Daugaard got. Rounds came out of both debates kicking in chairs and knocking down tables because he felt Wadhams didn't prep him and his glass jaw for even the few punches his opponents landed. (Dammit, Dick! I wanted a coronation, not a campaign!) Tired of Rounds's entitlement whining, Wadhams asked for an out, and the SDGOP, trying to prevent any fallout that would make Mike grumpier, obliged.
  3. It's all mind games: Rounds and Wadhams orchestrated this move to say to Rick Weiland, Larry Pressler, and Gordon Howie, "You guys are so insignificant, we're paring down the campaign staff." As a bonus mind game, Wadhams gets to make Dems across the ticket, and maybe even some local candidates thinking about jumping in to replace Democratic placeholders in legislative races, nervous: The state GOP has Dick Wadhams to sic on me in our measly Legislative race? No way am I getting into that! And the games cost the SDGOP nothing, because Rounds continues to pay Wadhams's salary via campaign finance transfers from Rounds for Senate to the SDGOP.
  4. We heard nothing because Wadhams has got nothing left. Rounds realized this early on, but the need to produce nothing but happy headlines and maybe a contract clause kept him from pulling the trigger. Then Rob or Justin or somebody came up with the idea of transferring Wadhams to party HQ to get the deadweight off their ship.

Whatever the case, we'll have Dick Wadhams to kick around for another four months. While my urge for blog fodder aches for more, my desire for civil, policy-oriented discourse hopes the remaining four months will be as absent of Wadhams's overt intrusions as the last thirteen.

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While Pat Powers continues to be too distracted by his sponsors' press releases to get around to a real SDGOP convention recap, Ken Santema serves us the full text of South Dakota Republicans' latest statewide embarrassment, the SDGOP's resolution calling for the impeachment of the President:

WHEREAS, The president of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and protect it from all enemies both foreign and domestic,

WHEREAS, The president has violated his oath of office in numerous ways with the latest being the release of five terrorists in exchange for a soldier without consulting Congress as required by law,

WHEREAS, The president of the United States has willfully and wantonly lied to the American people telling them they can keep their insurance company, and they can keep their doctor under Obama Care, prior to an election,

WHEREAS, The president has ordered Federal Agencies to enact rules (laws) that threaten the security of the people of this great nation (EPA regulations) by passing Congress and usurping its authority,

WHEREAS, the president has abused his executive privilege usurping his authority as decided by numerous federal courts,

WHEREAS, The Constitution and Declaration of Independence are very clear on the authority of the President and the Federal Government, and when they violate their oath it is the right, it is the duty of the American people to act,

WHEREAS, America was designed as a Lex Rex (the law is king) rather than a Rex Lex (The King is the law) system of government. It is a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

THEREFORE, be it resolved that the South Dakota Republican Party calls on our U.S. Representatives to initiate impeachment proceedings against the president of the United States [South Dakota Republican Party, resolution, passed at statewide convention, Rapid City, SD, 2014.06.21, reported by Ken Santema, "About the SD GOP Resolution Calling for Obama's Impeachment," SoDakLiberty, 2014.06.23].

Reporter David Montgomery adds value by breaking down the vote on that resolution by county. We find twelve counties whose delegations voted unanimously against the resolution:

Beadle Clark Jerauld McPherson
Bennett Codington Jones Potter
Brule Day McCook Spink

I'd like to believe that counties where even the Republican convention delegates think impeaching President Obama is silly are counties where we will find widespread sanity. But notice that all but one of those counties—Day—picked Mitt Romney over Barack Obama in 2012, and aside from Bennett and Jerauld, those counties gave Romney a double-digit margin.

Perhaps more useful to Democrats (or advocates of sanity and practical policy in general) looking for places to make inroads is this list of the twenty counties that didn't send anyone to the SDGOP convention in Rapid City:

Bon Homme Faulk Hutchinson Sully
Buffalo Grant Hyde Todd
Corson Gregory Kingsbury Tripp
Dewey Hand Marshall Walworth
Douglas Hanson Sanborn Ziebach

Those convention no-shows include six counties that went for Obama in 2012 and 2008—Buffalo, Corson, Dewey, Marshall, Todd, and Ziebach. We Dems probably have those counties covered, but it doesn't hurt to press the advantage.

The no-shows include ten counties—Douglas, Faulk, Gregory, Hand, Hanson, Hutchinson, Hyde, Sully, Tripp, and Walworth—that turned out stronger for Romney and McCain than the statewide averages. Those latter ten aren't Democratic strongholds, but their local party organizations lacked the resources or the enthusiasm to muster delegations for the convention. Might there be an organizing vacuum that clever partisans could exploit?

The no-shows include four counties—Bon Homme, Grant, Kingsbury, and Sanborn—that went against Obama in 2012 and 2008 but only near or below the statewide averages. Bon Homme is split between Districts 19 and 21. District 19 includes Hanson County, home of numerous disaffected Stace Nelson supporters. I'd recommend a little targeted Democratic advertising to push the Legislative race... but District 19 is one place where we fielded no Democratic Legislative candidates. Maybe next time?

Meanwhile, in the District 21 side of Bon Homme, perhaps Democratic Rep. Julie Bartling and her ballot-mate Carrie Ackerman Rice could challenge GOP Rep. Lee Qualm to defend his party's impeachment resolution. Ditto in Grant County, where incumbent Democrat Rep. Kathy Tyler and her ticket-mate Peggy Schuelke could razz Republican challengers Fred Deutsch and John Wiik about impeachment. Delegate Deutsch voted against the resolution, along with his unified Codington County delegation, but every second Deutsch and fellow Republican House candidate John Wiik have to spend explaining their party's silliness is a second they aren't making the case for themselves against reasonable Democrats.

Rep. Peggy Gibson and Democratic Senate contender Darrell Raschke should go over to Democratic House candidate Joan Wollschlager's place in Lake Preston and stir up her neighbors to force District 22 GOP Senator Jim White and Rep. Dick Werner to explain their party's impeachment resolution.

The SDGOP convention impeachment vote is just one small dataset out of the multitude of information Democrats need to use to run smart and win in November. But these numbers provide some small pieces to add to the puzzle.

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The conventional wisdom is that South Dakota Republicans clobber South Dakota Democrats in fundraising. But a look at the Federal Election Commission finance reports suggests room for interpretation in the definition of clobber. Compare the money raised, money spent, and cash on hand for the SDGOP and SDDP each month in the current election cycle (months cited are months of activity, not the months the FEC report was filed):

SD Republican Party Cash Advantage over SD Democratic Party
Month Total Receipts Total Disbursements Cash on Hand
May.14 $38,835 $18,051 $14,666
Apr.14 $5,806 $11,021 ($7,593)
Mar.14 $12,942 $6,718 ($2,378)
Feb.14 $7,020 ($1,468) ($8,604)
Jan.14 $12,549 $11,499 ($17,093)
Dec.13 $2,196 $2,231 ($18,142)
Nov.13 ($13,190) $4,573 ($18,107)
Oct.13 $9,230 $10,182 ($345)
Sep.13 $16,959 $6,650 $607
Aug.13 $20,850 $50,855 ($9,703)
Jul.13 ($1,189) $12,441 $20,303
Jun.13 $115,431 $77,249 $33,932
May.13 ($14,060) ($21,546) ($4,250)
Apr.13 ($19,212) ($11,935) ($11,735)
Mar.13 ($1,261) $8,428 ($4,458)
Feb.13 $10,405 $31,751 $5,230
Jan.13 $48,660 $15,202 $26,575
 Total $251,971 $231,902

Over the last seventeen months, the South Dakota Republican Party has raised $697K and spent $593K, while the South Dakota Democratic Party has raised $445K and spent $361K. The SDGOP thus has posted advantages of 57% and 64% in cash raised and cash spent, respectively. Those are significant advantages, but not the kind that make it impossible for smart campaigners to compete.

But notice that in five out of the last seventeen months, the state Dems have raised more money than the state GOP. Maybe those were months when the GOP shouted, "We're not racing!" but without other knowledge, according to the reports, South Dakota Democrats can raise more money than South Dakota Republicans.

Notice also that in eleven out of seventeen months, South Dakota Democrats more often have more cash on hand than South Dakota Republicans. That suggests that, at any given moment, if the two parties felt the need to engage in a sudden ad war, Democrats could match Republicans dollar for dollar in the short term. One might conclude from the cash-on-hand figures that our Democratic party leaders are more fiscally conservative than our Republican leaders. One might also conclude that the Republicans are a bit more willing to spend money to make money.

Assessing the health of the two major parties by campaign finance reports requires looking at the much more complicated picture of giving to candidates and other committees at all levels. Even looking just at the campaign finance reports of the two central parties, I'd be alarmed as party chair to see that my counterpart is outraising me by 57%. But I'd look at that 57% as a hill my party can climb. If we can outraise the GOP in five months, we can do it in six, in seven....

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Pat Powers must have found the South Dakota Republican Convention really boring. After touting his supposedly riveting on-site coverage, Powers couldn't find much more interesting to post live from Rapid City than seemingly random dumps of unlabeled, uninformative photos (proving that Pat's blog doesn't seek to inform but rather stroke egos and curry favor among party insiders) and blather about beverages (though I did find interesting Pat's evidence that the SDGOP convention runs on Food for Votes). Ultimately, things were so slow, Powers decided to bug out early and leave it to the real journalists to report the real news from the convention...

...like the SDGOP's embarrassing resolution calling for the impeachment of the President of the United States. Anti-abortion crusader Allen Unruh proposed the divisive resolution, which passed 191 to 176.

This nonsense is too much even for Rep. Kristi Noem to take:

Noem, who addressed the Republican convention Saturday morning, hours before the resolutions was voted on, doesn't believe impeachment is the "best way" to deal with Obama.

"The congresswoman currently believes the best way for Congress to hold the president accountable is to continue aggressive committee oversight and investigations into the administration's actions like the ongoing VA scandal, the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS, Benghazi, and the recent Taliban prisoner exchange," said Brittany Comins, Noem's spokesperson [David Montgomery, "S.D. Republican Party Calls for Obama Impeachment," Political Smokeout, 2014.06.21].

Oddly, the Republican convention chose not to ride another big conservative hobbyhorse, Common Core paranoia. Offered an opportunity to debate the oft-bashed curriculum standards, the convention instead approved a resolution that doesn't mention Common Core but requires that any multi-state standards and tests be approved by the Legislature... because of course, Republicans like to involve big government in education, as long as it's a government that they control.

(Meanwhile, the only resolution Powers covers live from Rapid City is the resolution recognizing crony capitalist Craig Lawrence for his service as SDGOP chair. Again, stroke, curry.)

Oh yeah, and in the only contested nomination race, South Dakota Republicans picked Senator Shantel Krebs over Deputy Secretary of State Patricia Miller to run for Secretary of State, because even Republicans agree that a lady who sold shoes can run elections better than a lady who works for the current corrupt and incompetent Jason Gant.

p.s.: Bob Mercer thinks Krebs is such a strong pick that South Dakota Democrats won't bother to run someone against her. Dems, please prove Mercer wrong

135 comments

My Republican neighbors like to complain about "activist judges" and President Obama's executive orders.

But when it comes to gay rights, these conservative complainers should take a chill pill. By overturning gay-marriage bans and extending benefits to same-sex couples, judges and the President are saving Republicans' necks:

One Democrat makes a smart point to me this morning: In many ways, executive actions and the courts are saving Republicans from themselves on gay rights. A lot of the work is getting done without them having to lift a finger. They are increasingly going mute on the issue in the face of announcements such as the one promising executive action to end gay workplace discrimination [Greg Sargent, "Another Test for Republicans on Gay Rights," Washington Post: Plum Line, 2014.06.20].

Republicans deserve no plaudits for standing on the sidelines instead of actively obstructing civil rights, maybe just fewer rotten tomatoes. More praise goes to brave politicians like Independent Larry Pressler, who in the midst of running for Senate in blood-red South Dakota, filed an amicus curiae brief this week in Rosenbrahn v. Daugaard, the lawsuit seeking to overturn South Dakota's same-sex marriage ban:

Pressler Amicus Curiae Rosenbrahn v Daugaard 20140618 p1 Pressler Amicus Curiae Rosenbrahn v Daugaard 20140618 p2

Pressler expressed similar moral and practical sentiments prior to his candidacy. In April 2013, Pressler argued publicly that forbidding gay marriage could cause South Dakota to lose Ellsworth Air Force Base and other economic development opportunities. He consistently defended that position after he declared his Senate candidacy when he opposed the vile gay-discrimination SB 128 floated in the South Dakota Legislature in February 2014. And as we see above, Pressler says that civil marriage is a "fundamental right" and that conservatives ought to be all about protecting civil rights and the equal opportunity they provide for every citizen.

Democrat Rick Weiland has also vocally and fearlessly supported marriage equality throughout his campaign. Weiland and Pressler deserve credit for their active support of civil rights. Their Republican opponents deserve derision for at best ignoring civil rights while the judges and President they deem evil do the work of equality for them.

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I don't usually find much value in anonymous comments. However, one unknown reader responds to Pat Powers's lazy press-release blogging by saving the South Dakota Republican Party Platform Committee a whole lot of work. Here's a nicely distilled version of the SDGOP platform:

PLANK ONE: Keep education funding lowest in the country so our kids will be uneducated Republicans who keep voting for us because they don’t know any better.

PLANK TWO: Make sure babies are born, but then tell them they better pull themselves up by their bootstraps the second they get out of the womb. Personal responsibility, baby. Quit crying already.

PLANK THREE: Keep no-bid contracts. Especially for advertising agencies. They’re the best!

PLANK FOUR: Find more pretty candidates like Kristi. That’s seemed to work well.

PLANK FIVE: Keep lying to people about Obama stealing from Medicare, and while we’re at it keep Mike Rounds’ dad from breaking a hip because us tax payers are funding his health care. Moocher.

PLANK SIX: Obamacare. Keep telling people it sucks but encouraging retirees to check it out if they don’t like the state’s plan.

PLANK SEVEN: Cut education some more. Because why the hell do we need teachers anyway? I don’t have kids in school anymore.

PLANK EIGHT: Keep bringing in that federal dough while saying how bad the federal government is. It’s worked pretty well so far. If we start supporting the federal government they might take that 40 percent of our state budget away.

That should just about do it [anonymous comment, Dakota War College, 2013.06.13].

Republican readers, if that gets you grouchy, well, (1) you have it coming, and (2) I invite you to submit your own satirical renditions of the South Dakota Democratic Party platform.

11 comments

The Tea Party in South Dakota hasn't had much success at the ballot box. In this year's Republican primary, neither Lora Hubbel nor Stace Nelson, the candidates around whom South Dakota's revolution-reënactors most visibly rallied, broke 20% against frontrunners whom they would have us believe are "Republicans in Name Only." The hard right insurgents fielded only a handful of candidates to challenge sitting legislators in the primary, and none of them upset any incumbents. Like the Libertarians with whom they ideologically overlap, South Dakota's Tea Partiers are better described as a carriers of a vague label than organizers of a serious fundraising and vote-getting movement.

Nationally, the folks who adopt that vague label get more press but little more real electoral success. Some observers and hopeful candidates point to David Brat's upset of Eric Cantor as affirmation of Tea Party outrage and ballot-winning power, but the Tea Party as an organization had very little to do with Brat's primary win. Conservative writer Michael Lotfi says national Tea Party groups have given little practical help to candidates like Brat and are jumping on his bandwagon just to pad their pockets:

In fact, all of these groups have been collecting millions in donations, and they have not put a single dime into many winnable races.

According to a Washington Post report, the six largest national Tea Party groups have spent more than $37.5 million on the mid-terms so far. However, only $7 million of the spent donations have actually gone directly to candidates. Where did the other $30.5 million go? Well, it goes directly into their family members’ pockets for ‘consulting fees’, giving themselves lucrative benefit packages, paying themselves $272k/year salaries, and even spending $52k in interior decorating fees for one of their fancy Capitol Hill town-homes. How fiscally conservative of them [Michael Lotfi, "Dear Tea Party, On Cantor's Loss—You Didn't Build That," BenSwann.com, 2014.06.11].

Lotfi notes that while super-PACs give about 60% of their money directly to candidates, Tea-flavored Senate Conservatives Fund (you know, the guys who vowed to elect an alternative to Mike Rounds in the SDGOP primary, then ignored the four eager and willing alternatives) and FreedomWorks have spent 40% of their cash on candidates. Lotfi says the Tea Party Patriots, Tea Party Express, and Madison Project have spent 5% or less on candidates.

Failing to invest real money in real campaigns makes it look as if these conservative organizations don't really want to win and effect real policy change. They just want the attention and dollars uniquely available to those who adopt a radical right-wing persona:

If you want money and attention, you could do worse than become a conservative provocateur. Right-wing resentment—stoked by impossible promises and harnessed through donations—built a fortune for Glenn Beck, a political career for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and a burgeoning media empire for the late Andrew Breitbart.

Even if you think these lawmakers and activists are sincere—and I do—it’s hard not to see the whole operation as a perpetual swindle. Take the Affordable Care Act. With the re-election of President Obama, odds of repeal were slim-to-none. But rather than abandon the call for Obamacare repeal, conservative groups—and their allies in Congress—pushed further. Not because they thought it could happen, but because it was lucrative. As Robert Costa described for National Review at the time, “Business has boomed since the push to defund Obamacare caught on. Conservative activists are lighting up social media, donations are pouring in, and e-mail lists are growing” [Jamelle Bouie, "The GOP's Grifter Problem," Slate, 2014.05].

We've seen this faux-right grifterism in South Dakota. Annette Bosworth adopted a fake conservative Christian persona to access campaign donations to subsidize her family. Washington D.C. direct-mail firm Base Connect adopted Bosworth as the latest in its series of electorally doomed but PR-sparkly toys to elicit donations from vulnerable retirees. Bosworth has reported over $1.6 million in campaign contributions so far. Base Connect, its partners, and other entities associated with her direct mail scheme have so far collected over 75% of that money, $1.25 million. Bosworth's amended first-quarter FEC report shows that she is still in dutch to her direct mailers for another $400K.

In other words, every penny so far documented that people sent Bosworth to fight for Tea Party principles really goes to clever marketers sending scary letters about ObamaCare. (The money she'll continue to raise will cover the $320 in Starbucks and $331 in Hy-Vee groceries Annette paid for with the campaign credit card while winning 5.75% of the GOP vote.)

Lotfi says donors should avoid Tea Party profiteers by giving their money to local groups. 95.8% of Bosworth's itemized donors came from out of state. In other words, they didn't know Annette Bosworth, and they weren't watching South Dakota press coverage of her train-wreck campaign. They just believed the scary letters that keep Base Connect in business. They wasted $1.6 million dollars and failed to make a political difference.

The Tea Party in South Dakota and elsewhere could be more successful. Dedicated conservatives could ally with liberals like me and populists like Rick Weiland to wage war against crony capitalism and other real threats to our liberty. They could turn off talk radio and focus on bringing neighbors together to cooperate in real local campaigns on real local issues.

But Tea Party Incorporated can't follow that business model. Conservative grifters like the Tea Party Express, Base Connect, and Annette Bosworth need donors to remain scared and isolated, to cling to their pre-fabricated mottoes, and to write their checks to profit centers with no real plan for positive political change.

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