Last updated on 2014.09.13
If I only knew what I read in the papers, I'd say the allegations of ethics violations by South Dakota's House GOP leadership are dead. In his report on yesterday's ad hoc subcommittee hearing in Pierre, Bob Mercer declares the fuss "might be resolved" by a good manly hug:
House Republican leader David Lust, a Rapid City lawyer, sat down and publicly apologized for his comments during a private meeting last winter about the work product of the Legislative Research Council, the nonpartisan professional staff.
Specifically mentioned was Reuben Bezpaletz, the senior lawyer who's been at LRC since 1972.
Lust told the three legislators on the investigation panel that "a well-intentioned discussion" mushroomed into something that wasn't intended. He said that, in his zeal to look out for legislators and the process, he might have stepped on toes.
"I should have been more sensitive to that," he said.
Lust then stood, turned and hugged Bezpaletz with several loud man-claps on the back [Bob Mercer, "S.D. Legislative Spying Allegations Might Be Resolved," Aberdeen American News, 2012.01.04].
Contrary to their indications on Monday, Reps. Lance Russell and Stace Nelson made the trip to Pierre to testify, as did seven other legislators. Some were encouraged to attend by Rep. Cutler's announcement during the hearing that declining to testify when summoned is a Class 2 misdemeanor that can get a legislator kicked out of office for good. Rep. Lora Hubbel offered this explanation about her signing the original December 6 letter of complaint:
Rep. Lora Hubbel, R-Sioux Falls, told the investigatory committee that she signed the letter because she hoped to get information about why a legislative committee voted 13-0 to kill her legislation declaring President Obama's federal health-care law to be null in South Dakota [Mercer, 2012.01.04].
While the agenda for yesterday's hearing was somewhat vague, I'm pretty sure it did not include re-explaining to Rep. Hubbel in single-syllable words why nullification is bad. I was hoping Hubbel's interest in this matter was something more than a product of her futile and ill-informed Teabaggery. I was perhaps too hopeful.
The most important testimony came from Bezpaletz and LRC director Jim Fry, who "denied there was any confidential information passed or pressure exerted regarding other legislators' drafts." Bezpaletz "repeatedly disputed Rep. Stace Nelson's versions of events." I've been waiting to hear the straight dope from the LRC staff; now we have it on the record. If we can take anyone's word, it's the word of our Legislative Research Council. If they say there's no fire, there's no fire.