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GOP Blog Plays Favorites on “Campaign-Style Mail”

Last updated on 2015.04.01

Earlier this month, an elected official sent a letter to constituents that, in one sentence, takes credit for a public works project. The letter directs recipients to contact another official, the project manager, with questions. The letter is on official letterhead and was hand-delivered, though whether at taxpayer expense remains to be demonstrated. Dakota War College deems this letter "weird" and considers it sufficient reason to "think twice about re-electing" this official.

Earlier this month, an elected official sent a letter to constituents that, in one sentence, offers services to constituents. The letter—actually a glossy flyer—touts the official's "listening" and urges recipients to contact the official directly. The flyer is marked "Public Document: Official Business" and was prepared, published, and mailed at taxpayer expense. Dakota War College deems this letter fulfillment of the "duty to stay in touch with constituents" and says attacking this official for this mailing "falls flat."

So what is the difference between Mayor Alan Hanks sending letters to folks in a Rapid City neighborhood to inform them of upcoming street repairs and Intern Congresswoman Kristi Noem sending glossy flyers across South Dakota to offer services, put her face next to the flag in everyone's hand, and seek a biased survey of public opinion? Both politicians appear to be playing the same game, using the legal privileges of office to send out factual information and boost their name recognition. If either mailing is campaigning, Noem's is campaigning harder, with more expensive glossy color, her photo, and (key for branding) her name multiple times in much bigger print than the mayor's appears in his letter. Noem is even on the record making a promise not to send "unsolicited campaign-style mail to South Dakotans at taxpayer expense." I am not aware of any such promise from Mayor Hanks.

If I'm generous, I say neither Hanks nor Noem did anything wrong. If I'm cranky (and I should be, because Hanks is a Republican, too, isn't he? So what do I care if he gets raked over the coals?), I say both Hanks and Noem are using the privileges of office to boost their political fortunes.

But when Mayor Hanks sends a single-page letter to one neighborhood saying the city's coming to work on the streets, and when Congresswoman Noem sends a glossy flyer giving herself top billing in big fonts (and not really citing any immediate projects or accomplishments, just offering to do people favors), it's a lot easier for me to argue that is either politician is campaigning, it's Noem. I thus find it impossible to criticize the mayor but excuse the Congresswoman.

Whoever sets the agenda at Dakota War College apparently doesn't have this problem. Evidently the boss at DWC wants to revisit the failure of its attempt to blogstorm against Hanks in 2007 in favor of challenger Sam Kooiker. When the conservative base gets tired of Noem, it will be interesting to see if DWC finally abandons its awkward Noem adulation and backs a real conservative in the 2012 primary challenge.


  1. larry kurtz 2011.04.30

    Any idea what kind of traffic Madville gets out of the Hills, CAH?

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.04.30

    Interesting question, Larry. Looking at the last 500 hits, 80% are likely SD; just 5% are likely Black Hills. As for that quarry, it sounds like a dusty proposition. Noem must love it.

  3. larry kurtz 2011.04.30

    The War Toilet has me blocked, Cory. Here's the question I'd like to pose:

    "Cory makes a great point. It’s a Bob Ellis tactic to use sleight-of-hand to drive attention from Republicans doing bad things. It’s important to remember that the Lien quarry dust issue is a hazard to Lakota Homes and to North Rapid the likes of which you East River bloggers have little awareness.

    How DID you get a photocopy of this rumpled Hanks letter, Tyler?"

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.04.30

    Where is Lakota Homes, anyway? Is it one development? Who's the developer/owner?

  5. larry kurtz 2011.04.30

    It's on North Haines west of Lowe's. If memory serves it's a cooperative HUD and tribal community maybe on non-contiguous reservation ground. Notorious, I'm afraid. Hotbed for anarchy. Apolitical as a whole, likely some surplus vehicles that would have to be moved for construction work to begin.

    Hanks' letter looks like a personal appeal for cooperation in an effort to repair some historically gnarly streets. Bill?

  6. BobJones 2011.05.03

    Hanks letter is ridiculous. Since when do city government officials hand deliver door hangers taking credit for road projects a month before an election, on city letterhead??? Who was paid to deliver these??? Were they a city employees on the clock??? Are you really OK with mayors running their re-election campaigns while on duty and being paid by us? Come on. If that is not misuse of taxpayer dollars, what is? Hanks needs to go ... yesterday.

  7. BobJones 2011.05.03

    "Hanks’ letter looks like a personal appeal for cooperation in an effort to repair some historically gnarly streets."

    Excuse me while I try not to explode in laughter. What an idiotic assessment. Hanks, is that you???

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.05.03

    Bob, I can confirm that Larry Kurtz is most definitely not Mayor Hanks... although a universe in which Mayor Kurtz rules Rapid City is a brain-tickling alternative universe.

  9. larry kurtz 2011.05.03

    Guess my fishing for a Rapid Citian landed a carp, Cory. My fault. So much for a run at the mayor's job.

    My point stands until corrected by a credible witness, BJ.

  10. BobJones 2011.05.03

    As a credible witness, I hereby denounce your delusional stand. Also I'm no carp. I'm a pike.

  11. BobJones 2011.05.23

    "Hanks’ letter looks like a personal appeal for cooperation in an effort to repair some historically gnarly streets."

    LOL!!! You must be looking at it through rose-colored glasses. Also, why are they "historically gnarly"? Doesn't that really apply to about 50% of Rapid City streets -- especially residential?

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