Last updated on 2013.09.01
The Jason Gant scandal has grown to the point where the embattled Secretary of State has to tell that Sioux Falls paper that allegations of incompetence and corruption against him are "false and untrue" (memo to the Secretary of State: false and untrue mean the same thing). I find three new elements to the story worth mentioning this morning:
1. The investigation is real. Senator Adelstein told the Rapid City Journal and reiterated here that Department of Criminal Investigations chief Bryan Gortmaker traveled to Adelstein's Rapid City office for an hour-long interview Monday. "This was the director," observes Adelstein, "not a freshman investigator doing what is needed for show. We discussed the scope of the investigation, and it is thorough and REAL."
2. The Gosch-Gant notary scandal may go to court. Rapid City wingnut Ed Randazzo says a movement is afoot to challenge Rep. Brian Gosch's nominating petitions in court. Recall that Rep. Gosch notarized his own petitions, a clear violation of South Dakota notary law. Recall also that Secretary Gant let Gosch sway his staff to accept those improperly notarized petitions, in violation of past Secretary of State's office practice. Randazzo makes me nervous when he turns the purported legal movement into a fundraising pitch for Gordon Howie's fake blogroll, but he insists the pending legal action is legit.
3. Perception matters. I visited with a treasurer for a Democratic legislative candidate earlier this week. He said he was going to start entering his candidate's campaign contributions (a Democrat getting money! Whoo-hoo!) in the Secretary of State's new online campaign finance database. I haven't dug into the system, but the treasurer suggests one can enter contributions as they come in and save the data online for the finance reports. The pre-general report is due October 26.
But another candidate urged my correspondent not to do it. The moment you enter that data, said the candidate, that information goes right from Secretary Gant to your Republican opponent.
Now I can't tell if such alarm is warranted. But I don't recall hearing fellow Dems express such a lack of confidence in the previous Secretary of State. Whatever the reality, Secretary Gant's arrogant and unbridled partisanship are fueling the perception that we can't trust the Secretary of State's office with our data or our elections. In the Secretary of State's office perhaps more than any other office in the Capitol, perception matters.
Former SDGOP chief Joel Rosenthal responds to Secretary Gant's participation in the Rick Santorum and Val Rausch campaigns with this explanation of the unique sanctity of the office:
In the secretary of state's office, you can't take sides.... It's a ministerial function, and the law's the law. You've got to follow it [Joel Rosenthal, in David Montgomery, "Pressure Builds, But Gant Won't Go," that Sioux Falls paper, 2012.07.10].
A governor or a legislator can do all sorts of stupid, partisan things and still not warrant calls for resignation. But the Secretary of State is a different beast. Jason Gant holds a position of public trust that requires the perception and practice of impeccable fairness and integrity. Jason Gant's errors are pecking that public trust to death.
With less than four months before a big election, Jason Gant needs to act quickly to restore that trust. The quickest act would be his resignation.