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KELO Shows Legislator Hypocrisy on Food for Votes

KELO shows a little blog-style moxy by discussing our legislators' hypocrisy on "food for votes." Ever since the Democrat-organized rallies on the Indian reservations last fall where the Herseth Sandlin campaign respected Lakota tradition by serving food, then helped folks get to the polls for early voting, Republicans have been huffing and puffing about the great danger to democracy of feeding Indians.

Lest we get too excited about television journalism jumping back to the cutting edge of political inquiry, I review the files and find Bob Mercer connected the dots last November between the food-for-votes hysteria and the free feeding troughs laid out for legislators.

So KELO sends Ben Dunsmoor to the Pierre buffet lines, where our legislators can apparently eat for free morning, noon, and night. (Free food?! Holy cow, where's my nominating petition for 2012?!) Dunsmoor finds Senator Larry Tidemann (R-7/Brookings) struggling not to pork out at the South Dakota Municipal League's free rib feed, since he's waiting to eat at the third big supper he's been invited to. We find Representative Gene Abdallah (R-10/Sioux Falls) assuring us that this free food doesn't influence anyone, since so many groups offer these inducem—er, refreshments. We get Senator Bob Gray (R-24, Pierre), prime sponsor of anti-food-for-votes Senate Bill 88, telling us "legislators swear an oath that they will not accept anything of value for a vote," so no legislator he knows "is beholden to any lobbyist or any interest group."

Don't get me started.

The message from our legislators: Passing a bowl of chili to an Indian or any other common, venal citizen is rank bribery. Laying out full free meals for our morally flawless legislators isn't influence; in the words of Senator Tidemann, it's simply a friendly "chance to talk to us, a chance to tell us their story."

Update 16:50 CST: Mr. Ehrisman also smells something other than roast beef in our legislators' responses on this issue.


  1. slhart 2011.02.15

    Wow! Vocabulary word of the day: Hypocrite!

  2. jana 2011.02.15

    Maybe it would be good to apply the Reagan test of 'trust but verify' to what Senator Gray had to say. Maybe Senator Gray has a good answer on how he runs the test to make sure that food doesn't influence any votes.

    Any truth to the rumor that a group of people living below the poverty line had a Ramen Noodle feed?

    So how would we match up a list of the free food givers with a list of legislators and their votes?

  3. Charlie Johnson 2011.02.15

    Maybe those clients on Medicaid should hold a mac n cheese feed in pierre? See how many legislators show up?

  4. snapper 2011.02.15

    Bob Gray is a good man but that food for votes stuff was only a ploy by the Noem Campaign to suppress the vote.

    Main reason it worked was because the Argus and RCJ bit and started running with it instead of saying wait you both do it.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.02.15

    Heck, Charlie, why even break out the mac-n-cheese? If these events are just about giving groups a chance to tell their story, why do they need to serve food at all?

  6. Charlie Johnson 2011.02.15

    My point is rarely do many legislators travel the trail that many poor people do every day. Several caring individuals do but not many. How many legislators have spent a day walking in the shoes of a nursing home aide working 12 hour shifts at minimum wage?

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.02.15

    And Charlie, that point is very well taken. The fat cats can roll out their ribs (that gets my mouth watering), but the poor hardly have the resources to keep noodles on their own tables, let alone lay out a spread of peanut-butter sandwiches for 105 legislators.

    Does Pierre have a food pantry, or an outfit like The Banquet in Sioux Falls? Imagine how different our politics might be if our legislators started each day serving breakfast to the poor, or maybe delivering Meals on Wheels to the elderly, instead of being waited on by special interests.

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