South Dakotans Fighting Animal Cruelty Together has released its "PAWSative" scorecard for the South Dakota Legislature. SD FACT scores legislators on critter-comity based on votes on four bills:

  1. Support for Senate Bill 46, the bill SD FACT championed to make animal cruelty a felony in South Dakota as it is in every other state in the Union.
  2. Support for Senate Bill 75, the ban on pit bull bans.
  3. Opposition to Senate Bill 76, which would have expanded current law to allow people to kill mountain lions when their safety is threatened, not just their lives.
  4. Opposition to House Bill 1068, which would have allowed Rep. Betty Olson to hunt mountain lions across the state with more than one dog.

Seven Senators and twelve Representatives score 100% PAWSative:

  • Sen. Angie Buhl O'Donnell (D-15/Sioux Falls)
  • Sen. R. Blake Curd (R-12/Sioux Falls)
  • Sen. Jean Hunhoff (R-18/Yankton)
  • Sen. Mark Kirkeby (R-35/Rapid City)
  • Sen. Deb Peters (R-9/Hartford)
  • Sen. Deb Soholt (R-14/Sioux Falls)
  • Sen. Alan Solano (R-32/Rapid City)
  • Rep. Dan Dryden (R-34/Rapid City)
  • Rep. Christine Erickson (R-11/Sioux Falls)
  • Rep. Marc Feinstein (D-14/Sioux Falls)
  • Rep. Peggy Gibson (R-22/Huron)
  • Rep. Timothy Johns (R-31/Spearfish)
  • Rep. David Lust (R-34/Rapid City)
  • Rep. Scott Parsley (D-9/Madison)
  • Rep. Dean Schrempp (D-28A/Lantry)
  • Rep. Karen Soli (D-15/Sioux Falls)
  • Rep. Roger Solum (R-5/Watertown)
  • Rep. Kathy Tyler (D-4/Big Stone City)
  • Rep. Susan Wismer (D-1/Britton)

Only two departing Representatives, Republicans Manny Steele (12/Sioux Falls) and Don Kopp (35/Rapid City), are in doghouse with zeroes. Five Senators and twenty Representatives scored just 25%:

  • Sen. Jason Frerichs (D-1/Wilmot)
  • Sen. Tom Jones (D-17/Viborg)
  • Sen. Al Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen)
  • Sen. Larry Rhoden (R-29/Union Center)
  • Sen. Mike Vehle (R-20/Mitchell)
  • Rep. David Anderson (R-16/Hudson)
  • Rep. Jim Bolin (R-16/Canton)
  • Rep. Gary Cammack (R-29/Union Center)
  • Rep. Scott Craig (R-33/Rapid City)
  • Rep. Brian Gosch (R/32-Rapid City)
  • Rep. Brock Greenfield (R-2/Clark)
  • Rep. Jenna Haggar (R-10/Sioux Falls)
  • Rep. Steve Hickey (R-9/Sioux Falls)
  • Rep. Kris Langer (R-25/Dell Rapids)
  • Rep. Isaac Latterell (R-6/Tea)
  • Rep. Elizabeth May (R-27/Kyle)
  • Rep. Scott Munsterman (R-7/Brookings)
  • Rep. Stace Nelson (R-19/Fulton)
  • Rep. Betty Olson (R-28B/Prairie City)
  • Rep. Herman Otten (R-6/Tea)
  • Rep. Lee Qualm (R-21/Platte)
  • Rep. Nancy Rasmussen (R-17/Hurley)
  • Rep. Lance Russell (R-30/Hot Springs)
  • Rep. Jim Stalzer (R-11/Sioux Falls)
  • Rep. Dick Werner (R-22/Huron)

There's certainly more Democratic flavor in the higher rankings and more arch-conservative flavor down low. But Senate Minority Leader Frerichs is among the low scorers. Among the top dogs, we have House Majority Leader Lust and other prominent Republicans.

I mention this partisan mix because Republican squawkers, Big Ag, and some of the press have misportrayed SD FACT as "out-of-state greenies" working for the vilified HSUS. But SD FACT's legislative agenda apparently is not so foreign or radical that it can't find support from South Dakotans of both parties in Pierre.

4 comments

Bob Mercer follows up on his Wednesday list of legislator out-of-state travel reimbursements with a big Sunday feature on the Legislature's far-too-loose travel policy. Evidently the Legislature continues to slide away from rule of law and down into the arbitrary discretion of one man.

Mercer reports that the Legislature has a list of approved events for which legislators can foot the bill. But faced with requests from lawmakers who went to events off that list, the Legislature's Executive Board lost its nerve and handed decisions over to their chair:

But at least one trip fell outside those approved events.

Rep. Isaac Latterell, R-Tea, and Rep. Jim Stalzer, R-Sioux Falls, attended the meeting of the group called the Mount Vernon Assembly held in Indianapolis in June.

Maher said he gave that trip the go-ahead because last year he approved a trip by Rep. Ray Ring, D-Vermillion, to a special economic conference.

Rather than fight over the Mount Vernon matter, or tighten the policy, the board instead loosened the approval policy by adding a sentence to the policy effective Oct. 1 to give the chairman more latitude. It says, “Any out of state travel to a non-mentioned organization shall be at the discretion of the Executive Board chair” [Bob Mercer, "Secrecy Surounds Increased Travel by South Dakota Lawmakers," Rapid City Journal, 2014.09.14].

Combine this increased latitude with the Legislature's decision to end election of the Executive Board chair and hand that position to the House Speaker and the Senate President Pro-tem (in alternating years), and we see one less chance for accountability to policy and open vote and one more chance to concentrate power in the hands and the whim of one legislator.

Related Arithmetic: Eight Democratic legislators and seventeen Republican legislators have submitted vouchers for out-of-state travel since the end of the 2014 session. The average travel expense request among the Democrats is $741. The average travel expense expense request among the Republicans is $1,633. The thriftiest traveler is Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rep. Susan Wismer, who vouchered $252.51 for one trip. The most profligate globetrotter is Republican Speaker of the House Brian Gosch, who is claiming $4,339.09 for two trips.

13 comments

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.

59 comments

The Government Operations and Audit Committee should be receiving some interesting reading in the coming several days. GOAC chair Senator Larry Tidemann (R-7/Brookings) says that SDRC Inc. exec Joop Bollen has declined to appear before the committee in person but has offered to write answers to questions.

Senator Tidemann says that if Bollen is "willing to provide the answers in writing, that is as good as in person." False:

  1. Taking answers in writing allows Tidemann and Bollen to filter and stall. Tidemann is requiring legislators to submit questions by Friday, September 19. The committee will then "discuss" (i.e., weed out the questions the Republican majority doesn't want asked) those questions at its September 24 and forward the surviving questions to Bollen. We don't know when GOAC will receive or discuss Bollen's responses, since GOAC does not have another meeting on the calendar.
  2. Answers in writing don't allow for immediate follow-up. Bring Bollen in person to Pierre, and an attentive legislator or counsel for the committee could ask for clarification of unclear points, delve deeper into new information, and immediately redirect Bollen if he evades certain points.
  3. We cannot know if written responses are coming from Bollen himself, from his lawyer (Jeff Sveen? Rory King? Harvey Jewett himself?), or from the Rounds for Senate campaign. Only in-person testimony allows truly curious and nimble legislators to get Bollen off whatever script his minders prepare for him and hear directly from the witness.

Committee members composing questions will have written responses from Governor Dennis Daugaard and former governor Mike Rounds in hand to inform their questions:

Tidemann said Gov. Dennis Daugaard and former Gov. Mike Rounds, the GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, both indicated that by Wednesday they will provide written responses to the committee's questions so its members have a week to review the information before the Sept. 24 meeting [Carson Walker, "Joop Bollen Vows to Give Written Answers on EB-5," AP via that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.09.12].

To further inform their questions, committee members should turn to documents from GOAC's 2008 inquiry into Bollen's activities as director of the South Dakota International Business Institute at Northern State University:

  1. NSU President Patrick Schloss's June 16, 2008, letter to GOAC explaining what SDIBI was doing and where Joop Bollen sat in the chain of command.
  2. NSU interim president Laurie Stenberg Nichols's September 8, 2008, letter telling GOAC that SDIBI activities were creating lots of jobs and economic activities (with attachments listing EB-5 projects and showing growth in exports).
  3. NSU Nichols's October 14, 2008, letter explaining SDIBI's activities and itemizing expenses for the 2006, 2007, and 2008 International Business Conference hosted by SDIBI at Mount Rushmore.
  4. Minutes of December 1, 2008 GOAC meeting (Bollen and Nichols testified the same day as Richard Benda, who assured GOAC there was nothing funny going on with his department's $6.9-million contract with Lawrence & Schiller).

Reviewing these documents may allow committee members to focus on plowing new ground.

Inquiring legislators will also want to review my July 30 list of unanswered issues involving Bollen, Richard Benda, Northern Beef Packers, and the state's exploitation of the EB-5 visa investment program. That information and subsequent revelations should lead to the following crucial questions:

  1. Did you seek a lending license for the loan operations of SDRC Inc. and/or its subsidiary loan funds?
  2. Did you or any of your incorporated entities pay bank franchise tax?
  3. Who authorized the 2008 contract/"memorandum of understanding" between SDIBI (which you directed) and SDRC Inc. (which you owned)?
  4. Explain the genesis of the SDIBI–SDRC Inc. contract:
    1. Who participated in the conception, development, and drafting of that contract?
    2. When did that conception, development, and drafting take place?
    3. Who in state government authorized the conception, development, and drafting, and signing of that contract?
  5. Was the 2008 SDIBI–SDRC Inc. contract essentially a contract between you and yourself?
  6. How much money did privatizing your EB-5 recruitment and management functions divert from the public coffers to SDRC Inc.'s private profit?
  7. When you created SDRC Inc., did any member or employee of the Board of Regents, the Governor's Office of Economic Development, or other state government entity advise you as to whether your creation, ownership, and activities in SDRC Inc. violated Board of Regents policy, state statute, or any other rules or regulations?
  8. When Darley International filed suit to force SDIBI into arbitration in 2008, whom in state government did you notify, and when?
  9. Who in state government authorized you to submit the brief you filed in U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Western Division, on behalf of SDIBI on August 22, 2008?
  10. Who helped you draft that August 22, 2008, brief?

That's just me getting going over breakfast. Numerous follow-up questions would suggest themselves in a face-to-face interview. But since Senator Tidemann insists on shielding one former state employee from hard questions about his on-the-job activities, we'll have to trust in our legislators (well, at least in the two Democrats on the committee) to think through these questions, anticipate the possible answers, and compose an exhaustive list of follow-ups to submit on Friday for Chairman Tidemann's approval.

33 comments
Eldon Nygaard (third from left) raises a toast with Dakota Natural Meats organizer Brian P. Fredericks (second from left) at "Thankful Dinner" among Guangdong TongYee Law Firm, Dakota Natural Meats LLC, and State of South Dakota EB-5 Regional Center Project, August 26, 2013.

Eldon Nygaard (third from left) raises a toast with Dakota Natural Meats organizer Brian P. Fredericks (second from left) at "Thankful Dinner" among Guangdong TongYee Law Firm, Dakota Natural Meats LLC, and State of South Dakota EB-5 Regional Center Project, August 26, 2013.

Last November I reported that former legislator Eldon Nygaard from Vermillion was helping to promote EB-5 visa investment in South Dakota as recently as August 2013, when he traveled to China with leaders of Dakota Natural Meats, the last known (and still unrealized) project approved for EB-5 recruitment before EB-5 became a political liability for South Dakota's leaders last fall.

Nygaard was apparently interested in EB-5 money for his own business, too. Among the documents Rep. Kathy Tyler presented yesterday to support her allegation that the Rounds administration and Board of Regents countenanced fraud in the EB-5 program is this request for amendment to South Dakota's EB-5 Regional Center, filed by the South Dakota International Business Institute in January 2008. This document was SDIBI's justification to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to expand South Dakota's use of EB-5 from dairy farms to a variety of economic development projects.

I've cited this document previously to show that SDIBI employee Joop Bollen and state economic development chief Richard Benda planned to use the failed Hyperion refinery as a profit pool for EB-5 investor recruitment. This document also promotes a $10,000,000 expansion of Nygaard's Valiant Vineyards:

SDIBI is currently considering a proposal from Valiant Vineyards, South Dakota's first winery established in 1996 which produces over twenty different wines. Valiant vineyard [sic] (www.buffalorunwinery.com) is proposing to build a new winery in south east South Dakota near the intersection of I-90 and I-29. The new winery would consist of a modern building including a small convention center, gift ship, tasting room and 30 acres of vineyards for which land will be purchased. Wine initially, until the new vineyards becomes productive, will be sourced from Valiant's existing winery which's [sic] wine often is blended with imported varieties from California and other states. Valiant would be hiring educated winemakers and marketers to produce a South Dakota wine in a professional package that will be distributed nationally. Valiant estimates new job creation to exceed 155 jobs which is in line with the RIMS II Multiplier numbers. Twenty percent of the jobs will consist of skilled labor and 80 percent of unskilled labor. This $10,000,000 winery would generate 153 jobs (15.3910 per million X 10 million) allowing 15 EB-5 aliens (15 aliens X 10 indirect jobs per EB-5 alien) to contribute $7,500,000 ($500,000 per investor X 11 [sic] investors) Valiant is committed to provide $2,500,000 to arrive at a total project cost of $10,000,000. The entire project will be constructed in 18 months when the entire $10,000,000 is invested and at which time the jobs, as per definition of the RIMS-II Final Demand Multiplier, are created [SDIBI, Request for Amendment to DEDR, January 2008].

Nygaard's proposed I-90/I-29 wine complex seems not ot have materialized, and no public documents indicate that any EB-5 investors signed on to his operations.

In 2008, Nygaard was a Democratic member of the South Dakota House. That same year, the Legislature performed its first review of SDIBI and the Governor's Office of Economic Development's EB-5 program. The Legislature's Government Audit and Operations Committee, chaired by then-Senator Jason Gant, missed an opportunity to exercise strong oversight over the program, even as Joop Bollen privatized EB-5 and turned his state job into a profit center.

And while GOAC slept at the switch, a fellow legislator hoped to make bank on EB-5.

Maybe that's why we can't count on GOAC to conduct a rigorous investigation of GOED and EB-5 today, even as evidence of malfeasance mounts. Perhaps the Legislature just can't bring itself to investigate a cookie jar for which its own members were eagerly reaching.

8 comments

What?! Nobody brought up the EB-5/Northern Beef Packers scandal at the State Fair gubernatorial debate? My belief is beggared! Debate sponsor Farmers Union is clearly showing its organizational bias toward Republicans, obviously shielding Governor Dennis Daugaard from questions about his involvement in the loss of millions of tax dollars and the privatization and exploitation of a federal program for personal profit on his watch. Obviously.

John Tsitrian agrees with me that Rep. Susan Wismer should not shield Governor Daugaard from her direct questioning. The Democratic gubernatorial candidate announced (unprompted, it seems, by any public criticism) that she would like permission to step down from the Government Operations and Audit Committee that is supposed to be investigating EB-5/NBP and send a proxy to question Governor Daugaard, former governor Mike Rounds, EB-5 exec Joop Bollen, and EB-5 lawyer Jeffrey T. Sveen (if they show) at GOAC's September 24 hearing. Tsitrian says stepping away from GOAC at this crucial moment cheats citizens and Wismer's own campaign:

...Wismer is still an elected official with all the knowledge and responsibilities that go with that position.  I have no doubt that during her work on this matter, Wismer has learned some things that give her a particular set of insights that no proxy could possibly possess. It's Wismer's job to bring that knowledge to bear on the hearings regardless of the political repercussions that will be an inevitable part of this process.

...Wismer's withdrawal from the committee would be doing voters a disservice because she's got a great opportunity to get some substantive media face time as the election approaches. Could there be a better way for voters to get the measure of her and Daugaard than in a face-to-face confrontation occurring during the routine work of government? I relish the chance to watch them doing what we hired them to do, along with all the comparisons and contrasts that go with it. Given her underdog status, Wismer should relish it too [John Tsitrian, "No Way Should Susan Wismer Withdraw From The EB-5 Hearings. No Way," The Constant Commoner, 2014.08.28].

As Tsitrian says, political theater is not inherently repulsive. Sometimes spectacle serves the public interest. Wismer as warrior on EB-5 is exactly the image that made her appearance at the Dakotafest debate a success. Wismer should keep that image ball rolling, stay on GOAC, and be ready to play Watergate inquisitor on September 24. What did you know and when did you know itwho wouldn't want to look Governor Daugaard in the eye and ask him those questions?

13 comments

The truest statement of the day comes from Sen. Tim Rave (R-25/Baltic), discussing calls from his colleagues Rep. Bernie Hunhoff (D-18/Yankton) and Sen. Larry Lucas (D-26/Pickstown) to bring Mike Rounds, Dennis Daugaard, Joop Bollen, and Jeff Sveen in for questioning in their investigation of the EB-5 scandal:

Investigating... it's not really in our skill set or our wheelhouse....

[Sen. Time Rave, quoted in Charles Michael Ray, "Dems Push for EB-5 Inquiry," SDPB Radio, 2014.08.27]

You know, Senator Rave, kids come to my classroom all the time and say, "I'm not good at French (algebra, speech, taking tests...)." I say to them the same thing I say to you: "There's no better time to get good at it."

32 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.

152 comments

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