Rep. Kathy Tyler expands on my voting guide theme of electing Democrats to check one-party rule by explaining one of the greatest harms of letting Republicans run the Legislature: the unnecessary damage done to education. Rep. Tyler says that in her first term representing District 4, she has seen South Dakota has the wealth to improve education funding, but Republicans lack the courage to make that investment. She calls on us teachers to change that system:

We have a one party system in our state. That party does not put education as a priority. Candidates claim to be pro education, but their votes don’t show it. Many of their votes are ruled by the party. Quote by a Republican after a very ‘political’ day:  “You (the Democrats) can vote the way you want. We can’t always do that.”

You, as educators, have the power to change the state’s priorities—to put education where it belongs.  I realize that some may be happy with the status quo—you are close to retirement, you aren’t trying to support a family on your teaching income, you have a second job, you love your job and would work for any wage.  But think about the future of education in South Dakota; think about the teacher-less classrooms of the future; think about your children or grandchildren and their quality of education.

You can change the way South Dakota treats education and educators by your vote on Tuesday. Your vote for a new governor and Democrat legislators—a vote to get South Dakota back to a two party system and a vote for legislators who can and will prioritize education–is the start [Rep. Kathy Tyler, "A Letter to South Dakota Educators," Kathy's Corner, 2014.10.30].

Teachers, Indians, women—South Dakota needs all of you. Grab two friends, go vote now, and we can win.

3 comments

South Dakota Magazine continues to live dangerously, allowing me to grace its genteel online pages with my political polemics. This week I offer my Leftist voting guide for the 2014 general election.

On candidates, I offer one simple criterion: check the one-party regime in Pierre by electing qualified alternatives to Republicans wherever possible. No surprise there. I offer a few more specifics about the application of that criterion in South Dakota Magazine.

On the three ballot measures, I offer the following advice:

Initiated Measure 17, requiring health insurers to include any willing and qualified provider in their networks: Opponents have characterized IM 17 as “another mandate with more government control over health care.” However, IM 17 doesn't lay a mandate on anyone other than insurers, who have to accept any physician who meets their standards into their networks. You, Mr. and Ms. South Dakota, get more control over which doctor you see. IM 17 may save you money and a trip to Sioux Falls. Vote YES.

Initiated Measure 18, raising South Dakota's minimum wage: The labor and liberty of even the lowest-skilled worker is worth more than $7.25 an hour. Be moral, help workers pay their bills, and stimulate the economy. Vote YES.

Amendment Q, allowing roulette, keno, and craps in Deadwood: No part of a noble constitution should include the word crap. Schoolkids will giggle. Besides, I hear the  high-rollers from Asia want to play baccarat. Send this amendment back to the drafters and demand an amendment giving this picayune authority to the Legislature. Vote NO [Cory Allen Heidelberger, "The Leftist's Guide to Election 2014," South Dakota Magazine, 2014.10.29].

I'm not convinced liberty hangs in the balance on Amendment Q. But the other issues and candidates on the ballot offer you real chances to improve economic security, liberty, and governmental integrity for lots of South Dakotans.

27 comments

Susan Wismer is making her final campaign pilgrimage around the state this weekend, including  a 2 p.m. stop today at Dem headquarters in Madison. She ought to play this Joan Jett Get-Out-The-Lady-Vote video at every stop, really loud:

In his Thinking Unenslaved reboot podcast Wednesday night, Jered Dawnne and I discussed how being a Democrat and fighting for women's rights can get one a bad reputation in South Dakota. Democrats, feminists, and other believers in equality and liberty need to get our Jett (and our Tyler, and our Page, and our Weiland) on and not give a damn. Go, fight, vote!

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The South Dakota Board of Regents has declined to release further documents pertaining to the EB-5-related Darley v. SDIBI litigation. At least one apologist has suggested that the Regents' and even Mike Rounds's opaqueness on EB-5 is wise, given that the state has been pursuing pursuing legal fees from California company Darley International.

That excuse is now gone. California arbitrator Robert A. Baines issued his final ruling today and followed through with what he suggested pretty clearly in his initial ruling on October 7: nobody gets anything, so go home.

Judge Baines does declare the Regents, here in the guise of the South Dakota International Business Institute that ran EB-5 technically under Regental aegis from 2004 to 2009, and SDIBI partner Hanul Professional Law Corporation the prevailing parties. The Regents got out of several million dollars in damages, while Darley merely escaped SDIBI's and Hanul's "modest" defensive counter-claims. But Baines declines to reward the prevailers any legal fees, based on actions by Hanul and the Regents that "unduly protracted" the litigation:

Once SDIBI's two-year efffort to avoid participation in this arbitration proved unsuccessful, both Hanul and SDIBI devoted significant time and effort attempting to avoid a hearing on the merits, including seeking to revisit the issue of SDIBI's involvement in the Agreement and raising a disfavored plea in abatement, i.e., Darley's temporary loss of its corporate powers. As noted in the undersigned's Order Regarding Request to Dismiss, dated December 4, 2013, there is a "strong public policy disfavoring pleas in abatement," and this issue could have been waived by Hanul and SDIBI if they truly were desirous of concluding this matter expeditiously.... Further, Hanul's unseemly effort to prevent Darley's corporate reinstatement in California (by reserving with the Secretary of State the very corporate name that Darley had already selected) was indicative of Respondents' tactics in this matter.

Also, certain of the defenses raised by the Board of Regents unduly protracted this matter. For example, despite the rulings of the Los Angeles Superior Court, the Board of Regents continued to claim that it (and NSU) essentially were unaware of SDIBI's acivities, and thus could not be held liable for SDIBI's actions. However, the evidence revealed that NSU was well aware of SDIBI's EB-5 operations and of the Hanul law firm's involvement at the forefront of those operations. For example, the President of NSU signed annual or semi-annual contracts with the Governor's Office for the running of SDIBI, and these contracts described SDIBI's activities, including its employment of the Hanul law firm: "SDIBI will continue to work exclusively with Hanul Professional Law Corporation for submission of the I-526 petitions and management of the regional center;" "SDIBI will identify additional relationships in South America for dairy projects and additional relationships in China for better foreign investor recruitment. This work will be done by Hanul;" and "SDIBI, with Hanul, will further develop a website to recruit investors worldwide for our EB-5 projects" [Judge Robert A. Baines, Final Award, JAMS Arbitration Case #1100054680, 2014.10.30, p. 24].

Judge Baines concludes that Hanul and the Regents "should not be rewarded for their conduct, both in the underlying transaction" (letting SDIBI director Joop Bollen essentially write his own ticket, usurp the NSU president's contract authority, and conceal his activities with Hanul) "and in this arbitration proceeding."

Judge Baines doesn't go here, but I would suggest that his incredulity at the Regents' claims of ignorance of SDIBI's EB-5 activities could apply as forcefully to then-Govenror Mike Rounds's claims of ignorance of what was happening in his own EB-5 program. NSU President Patrick Schloss signed those SDIBI agreements; so did Jim Hagen, Marty Davis, and Richard Benda in the Governor's Office of Economic Development. The Governor's Office.

If the Governor's Office had been watching Joop Bollen's activities a little more closely, it might have avoided the whole Darley mess. The Regents might have avoided a half-million dollars in lawyer fees. And Mike Rounds definitely would have avoided having to avoid all these awkward questions about his incredible ignorance of what was happening in his EB-5 program.

9 comments

I have never heard an Independent or third-party candidate on the South Dakota ballot sound as serious, as well-versed in policy, or as downright sane and competent as Larry Pressler. Coming off last night's Senate debate performance, in which he sounded as passionate and determined to win as anyone else at the table, Pressler issues two final radio ads. Does he go for schmaltz and nostalgia? Does he get dear wife Harriet to say what a swell guy he is? Heck no. He sticks with policy, pitching better air service for South Dakota and his noteworthy idea to turn the Hot Springs VA hospital into a center dedicated to treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder:

Air Travel:

PTSD:

Comparing Pressler to the likes of Chad Haber, Emmett Reistroffer, B. Thomas Marking, and Gus Hercules sets a pretty low bar. One could perhaps argue that, with a 5–1 record in statewide elections and 22 years of Washington D.C. experience and connections, Pressler should be able to mount an even stronger campaign. But Pressler's smart, wonky performance in the 2014 Senate race sets a standard for all future non-Republican, non-Democrat, low-budget candidates in South Dakota to demonstrate their fitness for public office.

22 comments

Last night's KELO Senate debate was an example of substandard political journalism by South Dakota's broadcast media. Moderators Ben Dunsmoor and Don Jorgensen failed to live up to their own promised format, to manage the debate fairly, or to ask any probing follow-up questions of the candidates.

Jorgensen and Dunsmoor opened the show by promising something different from the usual debate format. They promised a free-flowing conversation, with time limits only on the opening and closing statements. They said they would intervene if candidates got off track. They said they would jump in to move the conversation along and ask follow-up questions.

No such forum happened. We got the usual debate format: question, responses and rebuttals in pre-determined order. The conversation never flowed freely. On one occasion when Howie tried to challenge Rounds out after the usual rebuttal cycle, Dunsmoor cut him off and moved mechanically to the next question on his list. There were no follow-up questions.

Jorgensen engaged in no watchdoggery of "off-track" answers. Amidst a sea of evasion from Rounds, Dunsmoor remained silent and reserved his interruptions for Howie. Consider the EB-5 question. Rounds mentioned EB-5 specifically for maybe the first ten seconds of his response, then went off on a complete tangent about needing to review every federal program. He reverted to his standard rants about ObamaCare and Keystone XL, programs that have nothing to do with the merits of EB-5. Dunsmoor, who has been KELO's EB-5 hawk, made not one peep and let the Governor ramble unleashed away from the question.

But on the next question about Keystone XL, Dunsmoor jumped all over Howie. Our friend Gordon gave a concise answer: he believes the pipeline will be a net gain for the state. He then tried to invoke the "free-flowing" spirit of the conversation with a smart segue: he said we're having trouble passing Keystone XL because we have trouble believing our leaders on the pipeline details. Howie then tried to turn back to Rounds's dismissal of his EB-5 attacks as mere falsehoods. I believe Howie tried to invoke the stunning revelation that Rounds's campaign manager, Rob Skjonsberg, used his government position to send government to a corporation in his investment portfolio. Dunsmoor interrupted Howie and said the question was about Keystone XL.

That moment demonstrated a clear bias on the part of the moderators. Dunsmoor didn't dare interrupt the frontrunner Republican on a clear evasion, but he stopped the Independent Howie from trying to follow the stated format of the program.

In a violation of common debate protocol, KELO gave the candidates a heads-up on the hardest question of the night. As they headed into the first commercial break, Dunsmoor said they'd be asking about EB-5 next. Dunsmoor at least was fair in giving all four candidates a minute or so of prep time for the question, but the point of a debate is to see the candidates thinking on their feet, not giving them time to rehearse their talking points off-camera. Dunsmoor ignored that debate protocol and instead played standard "stay tuned!" showmanship.

Dunsmoor and Jorgensen also chose and framed their questions poorly. The EB-5 question—whether candidates would support the federal-level review called for by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley—avoided prbing for answers to questions about South Dakota's EB-5 program. KELO biased the Keystone XL question by phrasing it in terms of a poll showing 60% of South Dakotans say they support the pipeline. In the biggest journalistic error, Dunsmoor floated a question on restrictions on assault weapons and large magazine. Guns have not floated to the surface as a pressing issue in this Senate campaign. Compared to EB-5, Keystone XL, the Affordable Care Act, or the Farm Bill, gun issues have little impact on South Dakota's daily well-being or our ability to distinguish the candidates' trustworthiness. Yet Dunsmoor wasted precious minutes on this question, crowding out time for more relevant discussion. When Dunsmoor squeezed in that last question about the ACA, he cut candidates off at 30 seconds and allowed no rebuttals.

This forum was better than nothing. We should appreciate KELO for giving up this smidgeon of prime-time ad revenue (although programming against Game 7 of the World Series, how much did KELO really lose?). And Don Jorgensen is cute to look at. But KELO failed to deliver the unique format, journalistic inquiry, and fairness that they promised with this forum.

32 comments

Democrat Rick Weiland and Independents Larry Pressler and Gordon Howie spent the final debate of South Dakota's U.S. Senate campaign doing what they should have been doing from Day One of their campaigns: calling Republican Mike Rounds out on his lies and corruption. Rounds offered three main responses:

  1. Blame Obama.
  2. Be a crybaby.
  3. Keep lying.


The first words out of Rounds's mouth were "Barack Obama," followed quickly by "South Dakota Common Sense," "D.C.... dysfunctional," and "ISIS and Ebola." His opening statement also included two blatant lies:

  1. "A vote for any one of my opponents is a vote for President Obama's failed policies."
  2. "My opponents—they think big government is the answer."

Rick Weiland would certainly be more supportive of President Obama's policies than Mike Rounds, though he stated the obvious that "I'm not Obama." Whether Weiland favors "big government" or "smart government" is a diverting rhetorical exercise. To claim that Gordon Howie and even Larry Pressler are big-government Obama liberals is laughable. Howie lit into Rounds's "misleading" claim as characteristic of the entire Rounds campaign and its willinginess to perpetuate statements that Rounds knows aren't true. Howie reminded voters that he proposed legislation to block the Affordable Care Act but that Governor Rounds killed that bill. Pressler said he has a 22-year record of voting against big government. Yet Rounds, without citing examples, kept lodging the same bogus claim against all three of his opponents.

Asked about supporting Senator Grassley's call to review the EB-5 visa investment program, Rounds completely avoided the question. He said we should review all federal programs and repeated his comments on ObamaCare and Keystone XL. Weiland said Rounds's evasion on EB-5 showed Rounds refuses to accept responsibility for what happened with EB-5 under his watch in South Dakota. He said Rounds makes up EB-5 job-creation numbers just as he makes up Keystone XL job-creation numbers and lies about Weiland wanting to kill Ellsworth Air Force Base. Gordon Howie jumped in to defend Weiland, saying Rounds knows Weiland doesn't want to kill Ellsworth. Howie then branded Rounds's EB-5 response as n example of "professional deceit." Pressler responded to Rounds's evasion by stunningly asking Rounds why he thinks Richard Benda killed himself and why the autopsy report as been sealed.

In response to that pummeling, Rounds kept evading. He gave no direct rebuttal; he only whined that his opponents were throwing "trash talk" and "innuendo" and (don't even try to restrain your laughter) "avoiding real issues." Weiland and Pressler both leapt on the question of issues. Weiland noted that Rounds spent most of the campaign avoiding debates and forums where the other candidates did talk about issues. Pressler agreed with Weiland that Rounds has skipped opportunities to talk policy and said he resents Rounds's suggestion that Pressler avoids real issues. (Pressler's resentment is justified, given that Pressler wonked out on specific legislation all night, as he has done in every debate).

Rounds's most laughable lie came in the discussion of Keystone XL. KELO loaded the question, framing it around the 60% approval rate Keystone gets from South Dakota voters and thus daring candidates to challenge the majority. Weiland boldly took the challenge, offering his bold and accurate three-point critique:

  1. Rounds's job numbers (inflated last night to 42,000) are bogus: Keystone XL will create 1,350 temp jobs and 35 permanent jobs.
  2. Keystone XL will send oil to the Gulf and overseas rather than boosting our energy independence.
  3. Rounds and Big Oil have lost those first two arguments, so now they're making up a new argument about pipelining Bakken oil to free rail cars for grain shipments, when that won't happen either, since the Bakken producers want to send their oil east for domestic refining and consumption, not south to the Gulf for export.

Pressler added that Rounds's KXL-Bakken-rail claim is false because the shippers can't mix Canadian tar sands oil and North Dakota crude.

Rounds responded that 10% of Keystone XL is reserved for carrying Bakken oil. How does he know this? The folks at TransCanada told him so, he said, and they wouldn't say that if it weren't true.

As Rick Weiland said during the EB-5 discussion, we just saw the real Mike Rounds. If a big corporation tells you something, it must be true.

Mike Rounds hid behind the bogeyman he makes of Barack Obama. He cried that his opponents are talking trash instead of addressing the specific questions and rebuttals they offered to his claims. And when pressed on his lies, he repeated them and told bigger lies.

Rick, Larry, Gordon, I can't tell which of you won last night. But you all three, working together, definitely beat Mike Rounds in the debate. If voters hear the messages you sent last night, you will beat Mike Rounds and his whining dodging and deceit at the polls. Which of you will win the election? Don't sweat that question. Beat Mike, and let the chips fall where they may.

56 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!

52 comments

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