Following the Republican be-rilement over Senator Tim Johnson's vote to confirm rejected Obama assistant AG nominee Debo Adegbile, I served up a question about whether hiring a lawyer who represents scum should have any impact on our assessment of the candidates seeking to replace Johnson.

Today I ask how Republicans feel if a candidate himself represents scum.

Last fall, Scott Krantz of Sioux City pled guilty to possessing and transporting child pornography (note to perverts: if you have to have child porn, don't move it! you'll save yourself an extra charge). He tried to contend that the court should let him walk around free pending sentencing because he'd served in the military. The U.S. Eighth Circuit said no, military service is not an "exceptional reason" to excuse bad guys from jail.

Helping Krantz make this unsuccessful argument: soldier, lawyer,and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jason Ravnsborg.

A nice Republican candidate spends his work day trying to keep a child porn user out of jail—frankly, I don't get too bent out of shape over that, because Ravnsborg's a lawyer, and he has an important if at times unpleasant job to do. Everyone deserves legal counsel, even scum.

But I don't have to vote in the GOP primary. Republicans do. And Republicans shouted an awful lot about how it was unacceptable for our current U.S. Senator to even vote for a decent lawyer who has defended a disreputable individual. Can they now vote for a decent Republican who has himself represented a disreputable individual?

Or does Ravnsborg get a pass because he, unlike Tim Johnson and Debo Adegbile, is a soldier?

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Mike Myers made the ballot on time, but not his press conference. The now-official Independent gubernatorial candidate was supposed to spend an hour with Republican gubernatorial candidate Lora Hubbel telling the press about corruption in South Dakota. He arrived nearly an hour late.

I can't tell if it's bad reporting (couldn't be! Betsy Jibben is an alumna of high school debate and South Dakota State!), but from KDLT's synopsis, I get the impression we missed another chance to focus South Dakotans' attention on specific problems that our next governor needs to solve.

Hubbel and Myers mentioned South Dakota's well-known F for corruption in state government. Myers said hospitals should pay their taxes. KDLT said Myers agreed with Hubbel that we should repeal the Affordable Care Act. Hubbel said the U.S. should just trade with Israel instead of China (China's GDP: $9.2 trillion; Israel's GDP: $291 billion.)

Then Hubbel advocated nullifcation by sheriffs:

"I want to make sure you have a Governor that says no way to Federal Government. You're not crossing over this line. You're not messing with our state and you're not messing with us here," said Republican Candidate, Lora Hubbel.

Hubbel says she wants to start a volunteer sheriff's organization that will keep the federal government out.

"Your local sheriff is the best protection against the federal government," said Hubbel [Betsy Jibben, "Two Candidates Talk SD Corruptions," KDLT, 2014.04.23].

Oh, goody. Hubbel is talking about something like the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, which confuses the judiciary and executive branches and reads the oath sheriffs swear to protect the Constitution as authorization for local badge-and-gun tyranny. You want corruption? I think a local sheriff saying the Constitution says what he says it says is a viable definition.

So while Myers runs late and Hubbel worries about FEMA setting up concentration camps (an audience member asked if she knew where FEMA has its two camps in South Dakota, and she dithered in agnosticism instead of smacking down false nutbar rumor), we'll watch Dennis Daugaard cruise to an 85–15 win in the primary.

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Democratic candidate for governor Joe Lowe thinks the EB-5 scandal is worth talking about in the gubernatorial race as well as the Senate race. In his latest press release, Lowe calls it "inexcusable" that the Legislature is ignoring its duty to hold hearings on EB-5 and the financial shenanigans in the Governor's Office of Economic Development.

...The citizens of our state need to demand that an independent audit be done because it is important to finally resolve this issue. However, it seems our legislature has more important things to do.

Our state taxpayers lost $4.3 million; the Governor says EB-5 records were lost; 50 or so Asian Investors lost $500,000 each and some did not even get their green cards; lawsuits are pending; and a federal investigation may be ongoing [Joe Lowe, press release, 2014.04.21].

Lowe questions his opponent's professed ignorance of malfeasance in GOED and EB-5:

Governor Daugaard claims he knew nothing about the program when he was Lieutenant Governor. I find this interesting since each Division Director, and I was one, had to turn in a monthly governors report that spoke to what each division was doing and report accomplishments. I would presume that the Governor kept the Lieutenant Governor in the loop on what was going on in each division of state government [Lowe, 2014.04.21].

Lowe frames EB-5 and corruption as a primary theme of his campaign:

It is well past time to end this culture of corruption. Our citizens deserve answers. At best, EB-5 was bad business and lacked the proper oversight and protections that the program needed [Lowe, 2014.04.21].

I encourage South Dakota Democrats to run unashamedly as Democrats. But even I recognize that the EB-5 scandal is a powerful campaign issue for Lowe and other Democrats because it does not require speaking in some unique Democratic voice. Critiquing the current administration on EBAY doesn't require citing a single plank of the Democratic party. It just calls for advocating responsible supervision of government programs, something everyone can agree is a good idea... and something all but the most diehard partisans can agree didn't happen with South Dakota's EB-5 program.

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I had a long drive yesterday, with plenty of time to think about Joop Bollen, Richard Benda, and their scheme to get rich funneling EB-5 money to TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline. But it only took me about ten minutes out of the driveway to realize that the EB-5/KXL overreach was an outright violation of Bollen's contract with the state and the whole purpose of the state economic development office.

Recall the terms of Bollen's contract with the Governor's Office of Economic Development (the contract inked while Benda was GOED/DTSD chief, the contract that took Bollen's EB-5 operations private as SDRC, Inc., and out from under more strict state scrutiny):

A. DTSD is an agency and instrumentality of the State of South Dakota empowered and directed to promote economic development in South Dakota and to enter into public-private partnerships for the purpose of promoting economic development in South Dakota.

...D. DTSD desires to contract with SDRC for the pirpose of having SDRC administer the Regional Center and the EB5 Program and to market the EB5 Program for the benefit of South Dakota, all in conformity with applicable statutes and regulations [Department of Tourism and State Development, contract with SDRC, Inc., 2009.12.22].

Bollen and Benda sought to expand SDRC beyond South Dakota's borders in order to solicit EB-5 funds for stretches of the Keystone XL pipeline and pumping stations in Montana and Nebraska. The state contract allowed Bollen to work on EB-5 "within the Regional Center's territory," but the above text, GOED's mission statement, state law, and common sense make clear that South Dakota's state economic development authority is supposed to promote economic development in South Dakota. Let's look at the statute establishing GOED's purpose:

The Governor's Office of Economic Development shall forge a private-public partnership among state government, local communities, higher education, and the private sector to create jobs that create goods and services for use within the state and for export outside the state, which results in the creation of new wealth [SDCL 1-53-3].

Funding Bollen and Benda's EB-5 promotion to lay pipe in Montana and Nebraska would not "create jobs that create goods and services for use within" South Dakota.

Remember also the basic tenet of government promotion of economic development: we spend tax dollars to make things happen that wouldn't happen without government help. TransCanada has said it needs no government assistance to build Keystone XL. TransCanada is an oil company. They are stinking rich. They've planned to fund the pipeline out of cash flow. And they've planned to build Keystone XL through South Dakota all along.

TransCanada didn't need any government incentive or crutch to choose a pipeline route through South Dakota. Bollen and Benda's desire to divert EB-5 money to TransCanada would not have created a single job or cranked out a single dollar of tax revenue that TransCanada didn't already plan to plow into South Dakota. The only unique benefit of connecting EB-5 investment with Keystone XL would have been more money in the pockets of Joop Bollen, Richard Benda, and their friends in the EB-5 money machine.

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And in other crazily connecting Keystone XL news, Bob Mercer suggests we could see President Obama's latest delay on approving TransCanada's tar sands oil pipeline open the door to an oil-train deal that could enrich Mike Rounds's friends.

On very Good Friday, President Obama said he cannot approve Keystone XL until the Nebraska Supreme Court has had a chance to sort out legal questions over legislation establishing the pipeline's route through that state.

If Nebraska is the monkey in the wrench, TransCanada might want to go around Nebraska. That detour could happen, logically, in South Dakota. Bob Mercer says that detour could involve a South Dakota rail line that friends of oil-friendly Mike Rounds are lobbying to rebuild:

Keystone XL Route through South Dakota

Keystone XL Route through South Dakota
(click to enlarge)

TransCanada’s proposed route through South Dakota would cross the old Mitchell – Rapid City railroad right of way that is owned by the state of South Dakota. The rail line is already rebuilt from Mitchell to Chamberlain. The Legislature this year approved $7.2 million to help pay for rehabilitation of the rail line’s bridge over the Missouri River between Chamberlain and Oacoma — this $1.2 million piece was at the request of Gov. Dennis Daugaard — and to help rebuild the line west to the vanished community of Lyman, where Wheat Growers wants to put a fertilizer distribution and grain shipping complex. That second piece with an appropriation of $6 million came at the request of Sen. Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell.

And for what it’s worth, the public-affairs trio whose firm is running the U.S. Senate campaign of former Gov. Mike Rounds — the former governor’s former chief of staff Rob Skjonsberg, former senior aide Jason Glodt and former state Sen. Bob Gray — also are involved in the effort to put together the money to get the line west to Lyman. It all might be a coincidence, but it’s also worth noting that the former governor’s father, Don Rounds, was a long-time lobbyist for the petroleum industry [Bob Mercer, "Will Oil Trains Be Next for South Dakota?" Pure Pierre Politics, 2014.04.19].

I think re-establishing a cross-state railroad is a fine idea... if only we could include a commuter line so I could ride the rails from Sioux Falls to Spearfish and blog all the way while Casey Jones does the driving. But keep an eye out: one way or another, friends of Mike appear determined to cash in on Keystone XL.

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Too many tabs open: time to clear the queue! Here's a potpourri of my weekend reading:

1. My friend The Displaced Plainsman offers his take on a fascinating study that finds beautiful people rationalizing their genetic good fortune into a greater acceptance of economic inequality. From a political perspective, that means that if you're looking for a candidate more sensitive to inequality and injustice, you vote for Stace Nelson.

2. Some bosses evidently think they are entitled to enhance income inequality. Washington Post columnist calls for stiffer penalties for wage theft. Hmmm... would server tip-out be a form of wage theft? And do any of South Dakota's pretty politicians care?

3. If you waiters and waitresses are looking for fairer-paying jobs, South Dakota's job outlook isn't too ugly. Moody's Analytics predicts South Dakota will see 6,809 new jobs this year, an increase of 1.62%. Minnesota will see 51,359 new jobs, growth of 1.85%. Tell me again, where's that competitive advantage we get from not doing a state income tax?

4. Speaking of tips, your tips (informational and financial) have helped this blog fight a real David-and-Goliath battle. The Madville Times has apparently been leading the charge against the biggest 2014 Q1 money-raiser in the South Dakota Senate race. My blogging and her fundraising demonstrate either my fearlessness or my ineffectiveness. Maybe both. Onward!

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Bernie Hunhoff allows me to sully the online pages of South Dakota Magazine this week with a proposal for a dirty trick: how about we Democrats help Gordon Howie get on the ballot? Howie says he's running as a Plan B in case Stace Nelson doesn't win the primary; could we turn that Plan B in Rick Weiland's favor?

The only reason I like Howie's Plan B is that it helps Rick Weiland. It boxes Rounds in: he can't attack Nelson too hard in the primary, because that would alienate Nelson's hard-right supporters, who could (as Kevin Woster notes) happily hand their votes to Howie in November. That increases the chances that Nelson can stage an upset in the primary, and Weiland can beat the cash-poor Nelson more easily than he can beat the Nine Million Dollar Man [Cory Allen Heidelberger, "Openly Dirty Tricks," South Dakota Magazine, 2014.04.16].

Check out my full argument, Democrats, then tell us: would we sell our souls signing Howie's Independent nominating petition? Or would we just be maximizing our advantage by further dividing the GOP electorate?

p.s.: One more reason to put Gordon Howie on the ballot: since they are both musicians, they could wrap up the State Fair debate by performing Dueling Banjos.

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Rounds for Senate staffer Justin Rollins got really excited about casting his primary ballot early yesterday. He took a picture of his marked ballot and posted it on Twitter to encourage all of his followers to vote for Mike Rounds and Dennis Daugaard, "Two great South Dakotan's." Aside from misusing the apostrophe (hey, my typing fingers slip and do it, too), no big deal, right?

Well, Jonathan Ellis points out that displaying your marked ballot violates SDCL 12-18-27:

Marked ballot not to be shown--Folding for deposit in ballot box. No person may show a ballot after it is marked to any person in such a way as to reveal the contents of the ballot, or the name of any candidate for whom the person has marked a vote. Nor may any person solicit the voter to show the voter's ballot. Immediately after marking the ballot the voter shall fold and refold the ballot, if necessary, leaving the official stamp exposed [South Dakota Codified Law 12-18-27, passed 1939, amended 1974, 1976, 1990.].

Rollins tells Ellis he had no idea South Dakota outlawed sharing images of marked ballots. Neither did I. Upon being informed of the law, Rollins deleted the photo tweet.

This issue came up nationwide during the last election, when folks on both sides proudly and propagandistically posted images of their ballots on their social media accounts. Such laws are meant to inhibit vote-buying:

[Boston Reporter David] Bernstein said that, after asking around, he’s come to understand that the law stems from the state not wanting people to buy votes. ”The idea being if someone was buying your vote, you’d take a picture to show that you voted for who they wanted you to vote for,” Bernstein said. “So you could see the thought behind it in that sense” [Nate Goldman, "That Photo Of Your Ballot You Posted On Social Media? It’s Against Mass. Law," WBUR, 2012.11.06].

One may also justify ballot-display bans on grounds of protecting the integrity of the polls. We prohibit electioneering activity at polling places, and taking a photo of your ballot may be construed as electioneering activity.

I see no ill intent in Rollins's ballot photo-tweet. I know I've taken photos of my ballot before (though I can't remember if I posted such photos or if I ultimately just kept them for documentation; I trust some ambitious reader will sift through my online trail to find out). But Rollins's ignorance of the ballot photo ban is worth noting considering his resume:

In the summer of 2010, Justin returned to South Dakota as campaign manager for Jason Gant for Secretary of State. Since the election, he has served as State Election Coordinator in the Secretary of State’s office, serving as the office’s point-of-contact for campaign finance issues, as well as school and municipalities election law [SDGOP, press release, 2011.11.15].

The man who had no idea this election law existed was hired by Secretary of State Jason Gant to explain election law to schools and municipalities. South Dakota, that's the quality in government we got by hiring Jason Gant as our Secretary of State.

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