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.


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!


KELO-TV posts a fun table showing how much each GOP candidate for U.S. Senate candidate spent per vote*:

Candidate Cash Spent Votes Cash/Vote
Rounds $2,425,135 41,372 $58.62
Rhoden $89,138 13,591 $6.56
Nelson $83,451 13,178 $6.33
Bosworth $1,608,148 4,282 $375.56
Ravnsborg $43,399 2,066 $21.01

If you wanted real fiscal conservatism, you should have voted for Stace Nelson. Each vote cost him less than some lunches at McDonald's. Senator Larry Rhoden was pretty frugal, spending just a quarter more than Nelson per vote. Of course, Nelson and Rhoden may also demonstrate that too much fiscal conservatism leads to failure.

It's like gas mileage: getting 90 miles per gallon on the moped is great, until some jerk runs you over in his Hummer and gets to town before you do.

GOP nominee Mike Rounds spent nine times more per vote than either Nelson or Rhoden. For the price of one Rounds vote, Mike could have taken Stace, Larry, Jason, and Annette all to Perkins for a consolation meal.

The economists in our audience will shout something about marginal inputs, but imagine what would have happened if we could rerun the election, keep everything else the same, but put more money in either Nelson's or Rhoden's pockets. Nelson lost to Rounds by 28,194 votes. To close that gap and get one more than Rounds, Nelson would have needed to spend just $178,547.65. I say "just" with a grin, recognizing it was hard enough for Stace to raise what he did, never mind tripling that amount to beat Rounds. But with the average cost of winning a U.S. Senate seat over $10 million, $179K doesn't seem like much.

Similarly for Rhoden: he lost to Rounds by 27,781 votes (you can hear the Union Center "neener neeners!" aimed at Nelson echoing across the Plains). If his per-vote price held, he could have beaten Rounds by spending $182,211.16.

The other challengers faced a harder climb. Jason Ravnsborg needed over 39,000 votes to close the gap. At $21.01 a pop, that would have been $826,000 in additional campaign spending. And Annette? Oh my. Losing by more than 37,000 votes, at $376 each, she would have needed nearly $14 million just to catch Rounds and win the primary.

Update 2014.07.28 13:30 CDT: Here are those per-vote dollar figures, updated with the Q2 FEC reports showing operating expenditures through June 30. Rounds's figures will be a bit inflated, since the primary victor's expenditures will include money spent after the primary to promote his general election campaign.

Candidate Cash Spent Votes Cash/Vote
Rounds $2,868,392 41,372 $69.33
Rhoden $127,565 13,591 $9.39
Nelson $134,790 13,178 $10.23
Bosworth $1,885,485 4,282 $440.33
Ravnsborg $56,572 2,066 $27.38

The South Dakota primary is all done but the shouting, of which we will do plenty in the Wednesday blog cycle. To get us started, let's look at the county maps for the GOP Senate race and the Democratic gubernatorial race (no need for a map of the GOP gubernatorial primary: just picture one solid block of Daugaard red):


2014 GOP Senate Primary (click to embiggen!)

As we may have expected, Rounds dominated, winning 60 counties and 55.54% of the statewide vote. Larry Rhoden jumped to second place at 18.25%, taking four counties. Rhoden only pulled 40.91% of his home county of Meade, with Rounds at his spurs with 37.01%. Rhoden was strongest in Ziebach, where he won 53.33%

Third-place finisher Stace Nelson won 17.69% statewide. He won only two counties, but he won his home county with 70.64%.


2014 Democratic Gubernatorial Primary (click to embiggen!)

The Democratic gubernatorial primary made for a more interesting map. Susan Wismer won statewide 55.48% over Joe Lowe's 44.52% and took 44 counties to Lowe's 22. Wismer grabbed a handful of Lowe's West River neighbors, but Lowe made similar inroads into Wismer's East River territory. Lowe beat Wismer by 62 votes in Minnehaha County.

But Wismer held a better home turf advantage: in northeastern South Dakota, she beat Lowe with 70% of more of the vote. In her home county of Marshall, she took over 85%. Out West, Lowe took his home turf of Meade and Pennington with much smaller majorities (54.6% and 53.6%, respectively). Despite more work as state fire chief on the reservations, Lowe still split Indian Country with Wismer. Lowe's best finish came in Tripp County, where Wismer still broke 40 and held Lowe to 58.85%.

You can dig into the statewide race data yourself on the Secretary of State's website. Stay tuned for more anlysis of these results as well as the Legislative primaries!


I like dramatic elections. Alas, The Displaced Plainsman anticipates no drama in Tuesday's GOP Senate primary. Neither does Bob Mercer, who has upped his estimate of frontrunner Marion Michael Rounds's vote count from 50% to 60%, based on May campaigning:

Rounds’ campaign stepped up its efforts tremendously with its blitz of signs, its well-done newspaper stuffers and the candidate’s busy schedule of appearances at grassroots events.

Meanwhile the other four didn’t seem to pick up steam. They resorted to holding and/or attending news conference-style events trying to draw wider attention [Bob Mercer, "Will Mike Rounds Break 60 Percent?" Pure Pierre Politics, 2014.05.31].

I hate to play into a sense of inevitability, but the Rounds money machine appears to be coasting to victory. Rounds has avoided debates and eased up on the fundraising gas while managing not to get mired in any of the very valid critiques his opponents could be making about his record of corruption, laziness, and failure as governor.

But hey, in case any of you Republicans are still thinking about changing your vote, let me re-don my Republican hat and offer the best reasons I can think of for Republicans to vote for each of the four legitimate U.S. Senate candidates on their ballot Tuesday:

Mike Rounds:

  1. No one will bring more money, polish, and name recognition to the campaign.
  2. Rounds has no policy vision, but Republicans don't want policy vision. Republicans hire a candidate to occupy the seat and keep Democrats out. Rounds will go to Washington, cast his desultory votes, and get right back to fundraising for the next election.
  3. While the end of earmarks has made it harder for Senators to send home pork, Rounds has demonstrated the least philosophical compunction against big federal government spending to benefit South Dakota. His lack of commitment to the Republican slogans he campaigns on, buttered with his insurance-salesman charm, give South Dakota the best shot at drawing funds for the Lewis and Clark water pipeline and other porky projects.

Stace Nelson:

  1. Nelson means what he says and says what he means more than anyone else on the GOP ballot.
  2. If you're a Tea Party Republican, Nelson is absolutely your only choice. No other GOP candidate has espoused the principles of hard right conservative Republicanism, appeared at more South Dakota Tea Party events, and more openly embraced the language of the Tea Party movement.
  3. If anyone has a chance of bucking crony capitalism in Washington, it's Nelson.
  4. Speaking of crony capitalism, if the EB-5 investigations break open before November 4, Republicans will need cover. Nelson has spoken most forthrightly against EB-5. Nelson sponsored legislation to get South Dakota out of EB-5.
  5. Joining Nelson with John Thune would give South Dakota the tallest Senate duo in the country.
  6. Nelson's size and style would get South Dakota more national press than even Kristi Noem.

Larry Rhoden:

  1. Of the challengers, Rhoden is the most experienced legislator, with a greater record of crafting, negotiating, and passing bills.
  2. Joining Rhoden with Thune would give South Dakota the handsomest Senate duo in the country.
  3. On pure image, Rhoden best affirms South Dakota's agricultural mythos, in which we all deep down crave to be from West River.

Jason Ravnsborg:

  1. On the campaign trail, Ravnsborg has done a good job of peppering his responses with specific policies, showing a focus on reversing the impression that the GOP is the "Party of No" and thus offering more appeal to voters interested in solving problems rather than playing partisan politics.
  2. Ravnsborg will draw the least attention, the least excitement, and the least financial support of the four candidates you have to choose from. If you're playing SDGOP chess and don't like Mike Rounds, this isn't a bad thing. You use Ravnsborg to send Rounds home. You elevate him to Senator, let him muddle about for six years doing no harm, and keep him out of the way of the 2018 round of musical chairs, when you'll have a whole bench of characters wrestling for governor, attorney general, and other posts that you wouldn't want Ravnsborg messing with. And then in 2020, you can promote a GOP all-star to that Senate seat by primarying Ravnsborg out. (Yes, I had to stretch for that one, because even with my Republican hat on, I have a hard time thinking of why any Republican gets excited about Ravnsborg.)

Ugh. I feel dirty.

I know my probing of the Republican mindset won't have much impact on Tuesday's primary. But Republicans, don't say I didn't try to help.

Bonus Prediction: Trying very hard to weed out wishful thinking, I check my gut, glance at the 2010 GOP primary results, and divine the following outcome:

  1. Rounds: 55% (better than Daugaard 2010, but not much better)
  2. Nelson: 25% (wins all of Howie's voters, plus boost from only effective challenger's ground game)
  3. Rhoden: 10% (barely carries Meade County)
  4. Ravnsborg: 6% (more margin of error and "don't like the other guys" than active support)
  5. other/spoilage: 4%

Republican Senate candidate Jason Ravnsborg has lost a key member of his campaign team. Tea Party organizer Ken Crow announced Sunday that he has left the Ravnsborg campaign and is endorsing GOP challenger Rep. Stace Nelson.

This defection and endorsement appear to revoke the support that Crow's Tea Party Tribune declared for Ravnsborg in March. While Crow was initially impressed with Ravnsborg's answers to an e-mail questionnaire, Crow's six weeks of traveling around South Dakota with Ravnsborg left Crow with an impression of a weak candidate running to run and not to win. Crow cannot figure out why a Ravnsborg interested in winning would not take the very logical step of running a hard-hitting ad on EB-5 against GOP frontrunner Mike Rounds. Crow was also unsettled by Ravnsborg's regular mentions of Dan Lederman and other supporters of GOP frontrunner Mike Rounds. Crow thus gets the impression that Ravnsborg is more interested in hitching his star to those already ascendant in the GOP than ascending by his own merits and promotion of Tea Party conservatism.

Crow says the "minor" issues that originally kept him from endorsing Nelson are far outweighed by Ravnsborg's failure as a candidate:

...Mr. Ravnsborg either isn’t hungry enough for victory or there are hidden agendas that I am unaware of. But his refusal to try and win this campaign is enough reason for me personally to withdraw my support of Jason Ravnsborg for U. S. Senate. Being a national Tea Party figure as I am, I am compelled to only support people that I know are conservative by nature, have a moral compass and are willing to fight for the Constitution.

In light of the afflictions currently facing America, we as a nation are in desperate need of strong and bold leadership to guide our nation at this time in our history. While Stace Nelson might still be a little tougher than we are used to viewing our Senators as, he is exactly what we need in Washington, D. C. We need an outspoken advocate for the citizens of this great nation and the great state of South Dakota. We need someone that is unafraid to stand firm just as he did in Pierre.

I have subsequently learned that Nelson was given several bad raps simply because he dared to stand in the face of “career politicians and the status quo” and of course they did not like that very much. To me, that is true leadership and representation [Ken Crow, press release, 2014.05.25].

When Crow's Tea Party folks lined up behind Ravnsborg, pro-Rounds blog Dakota War College eagerly printed both press releases, without commentary or criticism. Now that experience and face-to-face contact with the candidates have made Crow realize Stace Nelson is the truest Tea Party conservative in South Dakota's Senate race, it will be interesting to see if DWC treats this news with similar gentleness or if DWC will now brand Crow an out-of-state interloper who has no business endorsing candidates in a South Dakota race.


Oh, you crazy readers! The latest Madville Times polls asked you to vote for your favorites in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, the Republican Senate primary, and the Republican gubernatorial primary. I asked the questions in that order, and I present the answers in that order... which I also believe reflects the ascending order of unlikelihood:

Democrats for Governor:

  1. Joe Lowe: 73% (165 votes)
  2. Susan Wismer: 27% (62)

Republicans for Senate:

  1. Larry Rhoden: 46% (179)
  2. Stace Nelson: 35% (135)
  3. Mike Rounds: 8% (30)
  4. Jason Ravnsborg: 7% (29)
  5. Annette Bosworth: 4% (14)

Republicans for Governor:

  1. Lora Hubbel: 63% (210)
  2. Dennis Daugaard: 37% (125)

Lowe, Rhoden, and Hubbel—we do love the underdogs here (which shows I'm reaching my intended audience). How do we explain these results (other than saying, "It's a blog! Har de har har!)?

Lowe is the least under of the dogs. Against Susan Wismer's inherent advantage as an experienced party establishment candidate, he has mounted a vigorous and credible statewide campaign with smart advisors and straight talk. He wins an advantage here perhaps in part because we haven't heard much in response from Wismer, who only started campaigning in earnest after tax season ended.

----------Update 08:50 MDT: Lowe's Black Hills neighbor John Tsitrian contends that Lowe should beat Wismer on specifity over reticence.--------------

Rhoden again showed he has a lot of followers online willing to turn out and click his name when offered the opportunity, even on a liberal website. Recall that in December, Rhoden finished second behind Nelson among readers here. Rhoden actually pulled the same number of votes this time, but fewer folks showed up to click for Nelson. Remember that Rhoden and this blog share connections to Madison, so that Madison audience could be turning out big for the West River rancher (watch for Lake County to be an island of western turquoise for Rhoden amidst a electoral checkerboard of Nelson red and Rounds blue on June 3).

Rounds is clueless about the Internet, so we wouldn't expect them to show up in representative numbers here. Rounds is still the favorite. Nelson has made the hardest pitch for the anti-Rounds vote, assembling what appears to be the largest grassroots campaign and the strongest visibility of anyone not named Mike. But South Dakotans have a timid streak, and Nelson makes enough people mad that, if they are looking for a Rounds alternative, they might default to the safe, clean, and manly Rhoden.

And then there's Lora Hubbel. Readers may have turned out strong for Hubbel in part because she has been willing to share her views on a variety of issues with this blog, despite the fact that I've swung the Tea-Party-crazy club at her. She's shown that even amidst our disagreement, we can find common ground on important issues... and I get the impression that's as important to you, dear readers, as it is to me.

I doubt, alas, that that goodwill has gotten out much beyond these pages and various Tea Party meetings. Hubbel doesn't have as large of a ground game as Dennis Daugaard. Hubbel will win a protest vote from Republicans who get a bad taste in their mouths from the Rounds-Daugaard administration's GOED/EB-5 errors. She'll get votes from two thirds of the folks who vote for Nelson. But a strong majority will still nominate Daugaard.

Thank you, dear readers, for casting your votes! As always, I invite your interpretation of the results. Now don't forget to vote in the real primary June 3!


So maybe this explains the Rhoden surge in the Madville Times primary poll?

Rep. Stace Nelson loses focus in the final push for a primary upset. While his sole target should be frontrunner Mike Rounds, he slips into taking potshots at fellow military man and electoral non-threat Jason Ravnsborg:

...He also went after Jason Ravnsborg, specifically over their tiff on relevant military service, calling him ‘ignorant,’ and oddly belittling him as just “a truck driver in Iraq,” because “they have a TV show about NCIS, I don’t think they have got a TV Show about being a reservist as a truck driver in Iraq or Afghanistan yet” [Pat Powers, "When Nelson... Torched the Republican Party...," Dakota War College, 2014.05.20].

We've had this conversation. Taking cheap shots at any soldier's service profits no one. Whether you're investigating crimes, driving trucks, slinging hash, or leading prayers, your willingness to do so under the orders of the military is respectable service and sacrifice. Like any other work, it may or may not make you a better U.S. Senator, but splitting hairs over the relative merits of such sacrifice and service is, at the very least, a waste of time.

It also torques PNR off:

Nelson is not only dead wrong on the specifics, his statements in this regard are an affront to the proud traditions of discipline, teamwork, and devotion that mark the United States Marine Corps. He should be ashamed of himself. If he were capable of shame and remorse, he would withdraw such statements and apologize for them, not least to the widows and mothers of those truckers who died to bring supplies to my Marines and never gave a damn about showing up in stupid television shows. This pissing contest has gone on long enough ["Stace Nelson Should Be Ashamed," P&R Miscellany, 2014.05.21].

Ravnsborg hurt himself by making his snarky attack on Nelson's service. Nelson makes the same error by letting himself be drawn into a conversation more suited to two soldiers who've had one too many at the bar than two candidates who ought to be talking about nothing other than how awesome they personally are and how East-Coast-rotten Mike Rounds is. Nelson and Ravnsborg could end up playing Kirby and Barnett, allowing cowboy-clean Larry Rhoden to round up the sane and attentive anti-Rounds vote.

The only good to come out of Nelson's error is the opportunity for The Displaced Plainsman to make the first B.J. and the Bear reference of the 2014 primary... and perhaps of any South Dakota primary ever. Now that's a worthwhile distraction!


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