Fake Libertarian candidate for attorney general Chad Haber has chosen to exploit American Indian foster children as his primary campaign (fundraising) issue. Even American Indians aren't falling for Haber's latest scam. Chase Iron Eyes, attorney for the Lakota People's Law Project that worked to bring abuses in South Dakota's foster care system to light long before Chad Haber decided he could make money off the issue, says Haber's exploitation of the issue is as bad as any cover-up or corruption of which we might accuse Haber's opponent, Attorney General Marty Jackley:

The articles surrounding the issue recently have tended to focus on Chad Haber and his campaign to unseat Marty Jackley from the Attorney General’s office.

Lakota People’s Law Project believe Jackley and his officers were more interested in covering the tracks of the corrupt DSS than pursuing justice for disempowered and sexually abused children.

The heinousness of this crime cannot be overstated and the fact that it has received little to no press coverage inside or outside of South Dakota is disappointing to say the least.

However, it is equally dismaying to see this unconscionable instance being used as little more than a narrow window of political opportunism by opponents to Jackley who are angling for a high-powered state job.

The Mette case should not be about elections. If Haber is elected, will the illegal practices of the Department of Social Services suddenly cease? Forgive us for our cynicism, but it is doubtful [Chase Iron Eyes, "The Mette Case Is About the Children, Not Elections," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.08.28].

South Dakota's Lakota people have true allies in the ACLU, the U.S. Department of Justice, and other conscientious actors. They recognize that the attorney general campaign is a sideshow that will do nothing to advance the cause of their children and families.

4 comments

Mr. Powers perpetuates his obsession with picking on Angelia Schultz by rolling in the dead-fish rumors people feed him about the supposed withdrawal of Democrat Schultz from the race for Secretary of State. Team Schultz says hold the phone, she's on her way:

The American News contacted Schultz about the status of her campaign. In a phone interview Wednesday afternoon, Schultz' campaign strategist Bajun Mavalwalla said Schultz has been assembling a team and they're finalizing their strategy to find the best and most efficient way to get her message out across the state.

"As far as my candidate, she's not missing, and she's not pulling out," Mavalwalla said. "Right now, what Angelia recognizes is what we have in South Dakota is a core group of voters who need to know what she's all about. That's why we are making sure when we put everything out that the message is synchronized and right on time" [Elisa Sand, "Secretary of State Candidate Assembling Campaign Team," Aberdeen American News, 2014.08.27].

I'll admit, now is not the time to be assembling a campaign team. Now is the time to be dispatching the campaign team that you assembled back in June to go flood the State Fair with brightly T-shirted hand-shakers and jawboners to tell everyone that you rock, Krebs is Gant in heels, Stacey is crazy, and Emmett... well, he's just Emmett. You should also be answering the heck out of your phone and angling for every bit of free press coverage you can get.

But Schultz has Mavalwalla on the job, and his Nebula Group appears to be mobilizing in support of multiple Democratic candidates in South Dakota. Better late than never—now let's see some big push!

Related: In addition to his freshly announced work for District 12 House candidate Ellee Spawn, Mavalwalla's team has also signed on to blog favorite Robin Page's District 33 Senate campaign. No word yet on whether Page's new campaign consultants have moved her poll numbers, but they have finally launched a campaign website for Robin! Whoo-hoo!

7 comments

I've lived in Spearfish. I've seen Gillette. No one can convince me that Gillette is a nicer place to live and work and love than Spearfish.

But former Spearfish teacher Lynnae Fox disagrees. Wyoming's teacher pay just enticed her and several colleagues across the border:

Lynnae Fox is one of seven teachers from South Dakota who have been recruited to Gillette. Fox is a new fifth grade teacher at buffalo ridge elementary.

Fox spent the last four years teaching second grade in Spearfish, S.D., before taking her new position.

The Campbell County superintendent says a lot of out of state teachers come to Wyoming for the salary increase [Melea VanOstrand, "Wyoming Schools Recruit Teachers from South Dakota," KOTA-TV, 2014.08.27].

Just one school district pulls seven of South Dakota's good teachers in one year. That's brain drain isn't going to help our teacher shortage.

South Dakota's only hope for keeping teachers in the nation's teacher-pay gutter is stiff competition:

South Dakota teachers made up 38 percent of out-of-state applicants but the district only hired 2 percent of them. The district hired a total of 74 new staff members [VanOstrand, 2014.08.27].

The lesson for South Dakota: pay good money, and you can afford to be choosy about your teachers.

23 comments

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?

29 comments

Mike from Iowa asked for a close-up of bluestem grass. Can do, Mike!

Bluestem, also known as turkey foot, also known as "ice cream for cattle." (CAH, 2014.08.21)

Bluestem, also known as turkey foot, "ice cream for cattle," and the key to putting the prairie back to work. (CAH, 2014.08.21)

Carter Johnson showed me this native grass and a whole lot more on his EcoSun Prairie Farm on a hot summer morning last week. I've written about Johnson's prairie farm and its philosophy before. The SDSU ecology professor gave a stirring speech on his vision for a working prairie at TedX Brookings last winter. But I wanted to see the Prairie Farm for myself.

Read the rest of this entry...

15 comments

Rep. Susan Wismer (D-1/Britton) makes a curious request this afternoon, asking Senator Larry Tidemann (R-7/Brookings) to allow the Democratic leadership to appoint a proxy to sit in for her at the September 24 meeting of the Government Operations and Audit Committee.

September 24 is the eagerly anticipated hearing at which the brilliant Sen. Tidemann has asked SDRC Inc. executive (and tax-evading banker?) Joop Bollen and U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson to enlighten GOAC about the Northern Beef Packers/EB-5 scandal. Democratic legislators have asked Governor Dennis Daugaard, EB-5-initiating former governor Mike Rounds, and SDRC Inc. lawyer and GOP pal Jeffrey T. Sveen to join Bollen for the September 24 hearing.

Gubernatorial candidate Wismer apparently anticipates awkwardness in the possibility of her questioning her election opponent Governor Daugaard during the hearing:

We need to get the bottom of this, and in order to do that, key EB-5 decision-makers need to answer questions from committee members in person. The people of South Dakota deserve to know the truth about EB-5. If my campaign and membership on the committee creates a conflict, I’m more than willing to step aside during this meeting so South Dakotans can get answers without the meeting turning into political theater [Rep. Susan Wismer, press release, 2014.08.27].

Conflict? Political theater? Oh, Rep. Wismer, we're already there, whether you're in one of the big chairs September 24 or not.

Candidate or not, I wouldn't give up a GOAC seat for anything, not when I could have the chance to look Bollen, Rounds, Daugaard, and Sveen in the eyes and ask What did you know and when did you know it? The crucial meeting of GOAC's entire interim, the only one so far at which GOAC may have before it a prime player and witness to the EB-5 snafu, is no time for someone who has followed the issue, heard the testimony, and read the documents presented so far to step aside and be replaced by a legislator who may need to be brought up to speed.

But if Rep. Wismer's concerns are valid, if we mustn't chance an ugly or spinnable confrontation between two candidates for governor, then let's get someone who's followed EB-5, someone who has been a bulldog on the issue, someone who has some investigative and prosecutorial experience who could bring some cross-examinatory heat to Joop Bollen and whoever else testifies on September 24.

As Rep. Wismer's proxy, let's appoint Rep. Stace Nelson (R-19/Fulton).

He's not on any ballot this fall. He proposed legislation calling for stiffer action to prevent further EB-5 mischief. He railed against EB-5 and lost tax dollars during the primary season. His experience as an NCIS investigator trained him in asking suspects the right questions.

And to top off his qualifications, Rep. Nelson is a Republican. If we're really worried that Rep. Wismer's presence at GOAC on September 24 would undermine the search for truth with accusations of partisan machinations, what more magnanimous gesture could Rep. Wismer and the Democratic leadership make than to appoint a Republican in her place?

Rep. Wismer, I think you should keep your seat. But if you think stepping aside is best... well, Rep. Nelson, polish your shoes and prep your questions!

53 comments
Chris McClure, Democratic candidate for District 14 House, Sioux Falls, SD, 2014.08.23

Chris McClure, Democratic candidate for District 14 House, Sioux Falls, SD, 2014.08.23

I'll bet Dennis Daugaard wishes this philosophy major would take up welding. Democrat Chris McClure wants to bring his political philosophy and experience to Pierre as District 14 Representative.

McClure emphasizes that he views himself as a moderate. He says he sees no need to raise taxes or impose an income tax. He considers the state's fiscal situation to be pretty good. He supports small business. Harkening to his working-class upbringing (Mom and Dad both worked retail), he believes firmly in personal responsibility. At the same time, he supports social programs that help hard-working families advance.

McClure applies a bothersomely cautious moderation to women's issues, specifically to abortion. He says he's personally pro-life but respects the Constitution. Unfortunately, he also says he would leave South Dakota the way it is, which those of us fighting for women's reproductive autonomy will tell you is mean and misogynistic. McClure says that as a male, it's not his place to comment on whether South Dakota's 72-hour abortion waiting period is appropriate (if we were philosophizing, I'd say he's inconsistently yielding to those males who think it is their place to impose such a waiting period).

We all can understand why McClure and other Democrats in South Dakota may shy away from abortion as a campaign issue: speak up for abortion rights, and it's far too easy for Republicans to mobilize the rabid right and distract us from discussing the shambles GOP policies are making of our schools, roads, and workforce. And as I found with my Catholic socialist neighbor Gerry Lange, we South Dakota Democrats can't afford litmus tests.

But moderation that allows women to be second-class citizens is bad moderation. I'll keep working on McClure.

Now if I got really cranky and exclusive, I could tell McClure to take his moderation to the GOP. McClure says Republicans have indeed tried to recruit him. But he won't bite. "I believe in being the party of reason," says McClure, and that means being a Democrat (yes!). He sees the right wing taking the GOP so far right that Democrats now represent the center. There is no far left in South Dakota, says McClure, among candidates or in the media. McClure says that if he were in Massachusetts, he might be a Mitt Romney Republican... although he carefully points out that he means Governor Mitt Romney, the guy who invented ObamaCare, not 2012 Mitt Romney, the guy who tacked unconvincingly right to get the ultra-conservative donors and votes.

However moderate McClure may be, his main issues mirror those his cross-town counterpart Ellee Spawn puts at the front of her campaign: teacher pay (raise it!), Medicaid expansion (do it!), and minimum wage (boost it and more!).

When I ask if he has a plan to raise teacher pay, he says yes, he does: "Pay teachers more!" There's no complicated socio-economic phenomenon depressing teacher salaries: we pay teacher rock-bottom "because that's what Republicans want to do." McClure calls it "ridiculous" (did someone say moderate?) that South Dakota pays teachers $17,000 to $18,000 less than Wyoming, Minnesota, and the national average.

He says we need to pull more money from the surplus and from economic growth into education, cut other programs, and establish reliably dedicated funds. But voters don't trust Pierre to do that because they have seen that Pierre does not prioritize education, and that's the fundamental problem that we must solve.

McClure says that moderates and conservatives alike should be able to agree that Medicaid expansion roacks from a fiscal perspective. McClure says we're giving up 1,900 jobs and $420 million in federal funding over three years by refusing to expand Medicaid. We'd help workers get health care, which means they'd stay healthy, work more, and boost the economy. Either way, we're paying taxes to cover the expansion, but our recalictrance means we get zilch in return. That, says McClure, is a "very bad financial decision."

McClure says Initiated Measure 18, which will boost the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour, won't create a living wage, but it's closer. He says 70% of South Dakotans support raising the minimum wage and predicts IM 18 will pass. McClure argues that, just like expanding Medicaid, raising the minimum wage makes sense, since lower-income workers are more likely than anyone else to spend their additional dollars and stimulate the economy. Boost the minimum wage, and you boost everybody.

At 32, McClure is the youngest candidate in District 14. Yet his résumé makes a strong case for his ability to legislate. He worked as head attorney for the state's child support enforcement division. He saw children and parents suffering under loopholes in the state's child paternity laws, and he helped the 2012 Child Support Commission revise those laws to establish a clearer process for determining paternity and better protect children's best interests (see 2013 House Bill 1021). McClure is now an associate at Swier Law Firm in Sioux Falls.

Prior to his work in government and law, McClure was student body president at Augustana. He helped start the Big Event concert series, which has brought some pretty big musical names to Sioux Falls. McClure points to that organizing experience as evidence of his ability to defy expectations and get things done.

McClure majored in philosophy at Augustana. Plato said that we'd get the best government when philosophers became kings or when kings started philosophizing. But have no philosophophobia: McClure won't fill you full of abstractions. He'll get a little Socratic, saying that we must recognize that we cannot know everything and thus that our intellect can always err. But he says that knowledge of our fallibility must not stop us from doing our best and acting against injustice. McClure says he'd like to hear more politicians acknowledge their fallibility, admit when they are wrong, and not fear changing their positions for the good of the state.

And that's about as philosophical as McClure gets on the campaign trail. He says the key to winning votes is (his slogan!) "Hard Work and Common Sense." For McClure, hard work means knocking on more doors than the other candidates, who in District 14 include fellow Democrat Valerie Loudenback and Republicans Larry Zikmund and Tom Holmes.

Hard work also means getting people of all political persuasions back to talking to each other. In that spirit, McClure says, "Let's do lunch!" Really! McClure extends an open invitation to any resident of District 14 to join him for lunch between now and November 3 to talk legislative issues. It's first come, first served, so call or Facebook McClure, pick a date, and have lunch with candidate McClure.

I'll remind my new philosopher friend that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. But McClure will remind his friends and neighbors on the campaign trail that his moderate political philosophy and useful experience can bring good policy for District 14 and South Dakota.

150 comments

On January 16, 2014, Governor Dennis Daugaard asserted that Northern Beef Packers did nothing wrong in diverting $550,000 of a $1,000,000 state grant to Richard Benda and SDRC Inc. Attorney General Marty Jackley stunningly reversed that official position on July 29 when he told the Legislature's Government Operations and Audit Committee that he prepared a warrant to arrest Benda for that diversion.

Apparently that reversal has been in the works for months, perhaps since before Governor Daugaard told us the grant diversion was kosher. David Montgomery reports that the state has hired attorney Paul Bachand to look into the viability of a lawsuit to recover that missing half-million:

Last month Bachand was given confidential documents prepared last year by criminal investigators. Under the special court order obtained with Attorney General Marty Jackley's consent, Bachand can review but not copy the investigation file and isn't allowed to disclose its contents to anyone other than Daugaard and other top state officials.

The trove of documents Bachand obtained includes witness interviews, emails and letters, bank statements, canceled checks, "evidence of wire transfers and other evidence of transfers of funds," Benda's credit card statements, receipts and cell phone records, and Northern Beef's private contracts, employment records, time sheets and other relevant records.

"It's a voluminous record," Venhuizen said. "I'm sure that's taking some time."

It's also taking some money. Bachand has billed the state $21,222.49 for work done since Nov. 1. Most of that money, Venhuizen said, relates to Bachand's study of the missing $550,000.

Bachand is billing the state at a rate of $155 per hour, meaning he's put in nearly 137 hours of work since November [David Montgomery, "Daugaard Trying to Get Back $550K Benda Allegedly Stole," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.08.22].

Bachand has been on the Northern Beef Packers–Benda money trail since November. If the state thought it might have grounds to try recovering the money Benda took from Mike Rounds's Future Fund Grant #1434, why would Governor Daugaard not have told us sooner? Was there really any downside to telling us from the start that Benda did wrong and that the state would do everything in its power to get those tax dollars back? Would announcing an aggressive state effort to recover its money have somehow fouled the sale of bankrupt Northern Beef Packers to White Oak?

Why Governor Daugaard would not have assured taxpayers from the get-go of his diligent prosecution of this wrong-doing perhaps pales in importance before the fact that his administration really is prosecuting. But if the Daugaard Administration had come clean from the start, it would not suffer now, just as the election season kicks into high gear, from the bad press of this curious reversal.

16 comments

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