Ah, high school debate, that joyous season when ninth graders stand and deliver more public debates in one weekend than Mike Rounds will during the entire general election season.

Looking at contemporary public political discourse through my high school debate judging paradigm is generally a bad idea, since it insults high school debate. But let's imagine South Dakota's Democrats and Republicans are high school debaters and see who won this week.

When I judge a high school debate, I take notes called a flow. First the Affirmative team speaks and puts points on the flow to prove some point. Then the Negative team speaks to put responses on the flow. Usually, after two speeches by decent debaters, my flow looks like this:
Sample FlowAff lays out arguments, and Neg responds to each one, point by point. Even if Point III is bogus, Neg takes a moment to explain why Point III is bogus before moving on to IV, V, etc. (And Neg does this in eight minutes or less—smart kids!) That's good clash (and good fun!).

South Dakota Democrats are on Affirmative, arguing that Mike Rounds is corrupt andunfit for U.S. Senate. This week, Democrats put a lot of arguments on the flow. And how did Team Rounds and the SDGOP—the Negative team—respond?Bollen-Rounds corruption flow Clash? What clash?

Against seven well-evidenced Aff points that show Mike Rounds rewarding the corrupt double-dealing and deceit of state employee Joop Bollen, Neg launches two ad hominem attacks at the bottom of the flow, tacks one diversionary non-response to one point, and leaves the rest of the flow blank. Mike Rounds, Dick Wadhams, and the rest of the GOP team have not challenged...

  1. the existence of Joop Bollen's contract with himself;
  2. the illegal conflict of interest created by such a contract;
  3. Bollen's violation of Board of Regents policy;
  4. Bollen's concealment of his unauthorized legal pleading on behalf of the state;
  5. Bollen's subjection of the state to legal liability;
  6. Kathy Tyler's specific math or her general charge that Bollen diverted money from state coffers;
  7. Rounds's rewarding of this rogue state employee with a no-bid contract.

In a high school debate round, I can just glance at the flow, see all that white space in Neg's column, and know that Aff is winning the debate. The SDGOP's inability to come up with direct responses to these questions about Mike Rounds's management of economic development shows they weren't ready for this corruption to be exposed and don't know how to spin pretty black-and-white evidence that Mike Rounds should not be our next Senator.

Of course, Republicans have more than eight minutes to respond. But every day they leave the flow blank is a day when Democrats can shout "Drop! Pull!", and tell voters to draw the arrows and vote Aff. Keep piling on, Dems!


While the GOP leadership treats Joop Bollen with kid gloves, accepting without complaint his refusal to testify in person before the Government Operations and Audit Committee, I am reminded of a somewhat testier Legislative committee that responded to balky witnesses with somewhat more intensity.

In December 2011, Rep. Stace Nelson and five other Republican legislators complained that the GOP House leadership was violating ethics rules. Leadership threw together an ad hoc committee, chaired by Sen. Joni Cutler, that declined to exercise subpoena powers or take testimony under oath. Dissatisfied with that lack of rigor, complainant Reps. Nelson, Lance Russell, and Lora Hubbel decided the hearing was not worth attending.

Chairwoman Cutler implored Rep. Russell to play nicely and said his attending the hearing in person would be much better than discussing the matter in writing:

There are both procedural and legal reasons for addressing those issues in this manner. My hope is that you would refrain from drawing conclusions about what you think I intend to do in the hearing as you risk inaccuracy in so doing. That is one of the huge drawbacks in trying to assess this through email and letters and why it is preferable, in fairness to everyone, to handle all of this in an open meeting and on the record with witnesses personally present.

We really need your cooperation and presence so that we can have the type of dialog that will help us work toward a proper resolution. We would be happy to meet into the evening if that would help you come to Pierre [Senator Joni Cutler, letter to Rep. Lance Russell, 2012.01.02].

When the hearing convened the next day and certain legislators remained absent Chairwoman Cutler got out the stick:

Emphasizing the seriousness of the hearing, Cutler reviewed statutes outlining the consequences of a legislator neglecting or refusing to testify when summoned. The penalties include a Class 2 misdemeanor, the forfeiture of public office and disqualification of running for public office again in the state.

It was the chairwoman’s review that prompted Rep. Lora Hubbel, R-Sioux Falls, one of the three missing legislators, to hop into her car and make the 225-mile drive to Pierre.

“They said we had to or we are breaking the law. If they want to beat me up there, I will let them beat me up,” Hubbel said while getting into her car to leave [Megan Luther, "Legislative Probe Hears Conflicting Testimony," that Sioux Falls paper, 2012.01.04].

Cutler's January 2 letter to Rep. Russell doesn't appear to be a subpoena; she's simply inviting him to come speak in person to the committee. But when Rep. Russell refused to attend in person, she broke out statute:

SDCL 2-6-5: Disobedience of legislative summons as misdemeanor. Any person who is summoned to attend as a witness before either house of the Legislature or any committee thereof authorized to summon or subpoena witnesses, and who refuses or neglects without lawful excuse to attend pursuant to the summons or subpoena, is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.

SDCL 2-6-6: Refusal to testify or produce evidence before Legislature as misdemeanor. Any person who, being present before either house of the Legislature or any committee thereof authorized to summon witnesses, willfully refuses to be sworn or affirmed, or to answer any material and proper question, or to produce upon reasonable notice any material or proper books, papers, or documents in his possession or under his control, is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.

SDCL 2-6-7: Forfeiture of office by legislator in violation--Disqualification from public office. The conviction of a member of the Legislature of any crime defined in § 2-6-5 or 2-6-6 involves as a consequence, in addition to the punishment prescribed therein, a forfeiture of his office and disqualifies him from ever thereafter holding any public office under this state.

Chairwoman Cutler wielded this statutory threat on an ad hoc committee, in the absence of any formal summons.

Fast forward to today. Senator Larry Tidemann chairs the Government Operations and Audit Committee, which is specifically empowered by SDCL 2-6-4 to summon witnesses in its thorough examination of every state department's management and expenditures. He asks former state employee Joop Bollen to testify before the committee. Bollen refuses, with no apparent lawful excuse, and Tidemann shrugs.

The moral of the story: make millions of dollars while promoting a prominent Republican's pet project, and the Legislature will go easy on you. Question the Republican leadership, and the Legislature will discover its teeth and its statutory authority to bite.


Darrell Solberg of Sioux Falls aptly summarizes the legacy of former Governor, now Senate candidate, Mike Rounds:

He... spearheaded the failed Northern Beef Packing plant in Aberdeen, which has cost people millions.

The implementation of EB-5... not only cost investors and taxpayers millions, it has lead to lawsuits, unanswered questions, a death and the distrust of people in state government.

Seven out of the eight years in office, his administration had a structural deficit (more expenses than revenue) and thus took money out of reserve funds to balance the budget.

....Lack of government openness and transparency led to questionable practices, pay to play, tax rebates for oil pipelines and no-bid contracts.

Increasing the number of state employees, many of whom were relatives or friends, increased the state’s expenses and dependency on federal dollars.

...[L]ack of attention and commitment to education funding has caused a severe teacher shortage in the state.

College tuitions are on an upward spiral; South Dakota college graduates have one of the highest educational debts upon graduation, forcing many to leave for better paying jobs.

...Use of state airplanes for the enjoyment of attending Pierre High School football games, with friends accompanying [Rounds] while his son played [Darrell Solberg, letter to the editor, that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.08.27].

I recall Rick Knobe interviewing Scott Heidepriem on KSOO a few years ago. Heidepriem compared Mike Rounds and Bill Janklow. A recovering Republican, Heidepriem said that he disagreed with plenty of Janklow's decisions, but he respected Janklow's big vision and his ability to translate that vision into action. Rounds, said Heidepriem, didn't seem to have any vision. Rounds came and went from the Capitol and didn't really change anything about South Dakota. The only real marks he left were red ink in the budget and higher numbers on the Hobbs meter.

Maybe the South Dakota Republican Party is done giving us Janklows. The party of No and Noem wants pretty smiles that say the right things but do nothing more than raise money and win elections. Mike Rounds's empty gubernatorial legacy shows he fits that mold perfectly.

Anticipated Related Reading: The University of South Dakota is digitizing the Janklow Papers. Janklow gave his papers to his alma mater on the condition that they make the documents available to the public online. The Janklow Papers should make for fascinating historical reading. Candidate Rounds, how about a sneak peak at the Rounds Papers, with a focus on your flight logs and Northern Beef Packers memos?


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.


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.


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.


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....


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


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