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Sanford® Premier Bankcard® Mount Rushmore Reopens Monday

Governor Dennis Daugaard has accepted the Interior Department's offer to let states pay for reopening certain national parks and monuments. However, as I suspected, Governor Daugaard doesn't think Mount Rushmore is important enough to spend South Dakota tax dollars on. Instead, he called his rich donors and got them to cough up $15,200 a day to reopen the Shrine of Democracy on Monday morning.

Rapid City hotelier John Tsitrian, who felt the partial federal shutdown put the pinch on his business, celebrates Rushmore's reopening as a clarion call to a privatization revolution. Rep. Mike Verchio (R-30/Hill City) smugly asks what we "smart a- dems" have to say about "those awful selfish corporations" saving the day.

Mount Rushmore privatized 2013
Mount Rushmore, brought to you by....

On behalf of smart Dems everywhere, I say this is no way to run a country. Piecemeal funding, whether by public or private funding, leaves numerous vital functions unfunded. Even the handful of politically potent government functions that Daugaard and his private donors might choose to finance (and remember, of all the government functions that have been shut down, these rich donors are restoring just one recreational facility) are left in a ongoing funding limbo. Sure, a cadre of 16 donors have written checks for Mount Rushmore. That will keep the park open for a couple weeks.

What happens after that? If Congress continued to malfunction, how long would our corporate beneficiaries continue writing checks? And when would these laudably civic-minded corporate donors get around to funding crop insurance and livestock indemnity payments, and the U.S. Attorney's office, and heating assistance, and the federal prison in Yankton (where, interestingly, guards are forced to work without pay while inmates still receive checks)?

I love Mount Rushmore precisely because it symbolizes what we can do together as one nation, one community working together. Treasures like Mount Rushmore belong to all of us; if it really matters to us, we should all provide steady, ongoing, public funding so that it remains fully in our hands.

Governor Daugaard and his chortling corporate backers are engaging in temporary political theater, not sustainable statecraft. They cheapen Mount Rushmore with this crass exercise in privatization.


  1. jerry 2013.10.12

    The Shrine of Decadence at its finest hour. Ranchers can go suck eggs, but the hoteliers must be taken care of. The construction companies that do the bidding that they cannot loose on, thrive on. All of these, including our healthcare providers, corrupting the system even further.

    What will they get out of this "help" for Denny? You can bet something. There will now be a bigger chip in the game that will come due at tax payer expense, count on it.

  2. Douglas Wiken 2013.10.12

    Perhaps Sanford should reduce charges instead of playing silly games with Daugaard and other corporatists.

  3. jana 2013.10.12

    Rep. Mike Verchio's comment speaks volumes about his character.

  4. interested party 2013.10.12

    The Hills are infested with Verchios, Jana:
    Mike suffers from intense oral fixation:

    Theoretically, oral-stage fixations are manifested as garrulousness, smoking, continual oral stimulus (eating, chewing objects), and alcoholism. Psychologically, the symptoms include a sarcastic, oral sadistic personality, nail biting, oral sexual practices (fellatio, cunnilingus, analingus, irrumatio), et cetera.

  5. interested party 2013.10.12

    The Hills are infested with Verchios, Jana.

    Mike suffers from intense oral fixation:

    Theoretically, oral-stage fixations are manifested as garrulousness, smoking, continual oral stimulus (eating, chewing objects), and alcoholism. Psychologically, the symptoms include a sarcastic, oral sadistic personality, nail biting, oral sexual practices (fellatio, cunnilingus, analingus, irrumatio), et cetera.

  6. interested party 2013.10.12

    The Hills are infested with Verchios, Jana. I just happen to know him very well.

    Mike suffers from intense oral stage fixation

  7. owen reitzel 2013.10.12

    My guess credit card interests rates and healthcare will go up.

  8. Wayne Pauli 2013.10.12

    Nothing surprises me any more about what our party in power will do "to" us...not "for" us. The age of reason died with Bill Janklow.

  9. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.10.12

    "Reason, Bill Janklow?" Surely you jest.

    Cory, this smart Dem thanks you for speaking so clearly and wisely on my behalf.

  10. interested party 2013.10.12

    Curious that the Neimans gave to this cause but left Devils Tower, namesake of their company based in Hulett, Wyoming, unfunded.

  11. John Tsitrian 2013.10.12

    Cory, I think you mischaracterize my piece as a "clarion call to a privatization revolution." It's about state and local authorities assuming operational control and using private sector money and resources to run the facility. I cite Custer State Park as an example of what I have in mind. Though this would be a revolutionary development, I would hardly call it a "privatization revolution." The public sector is still very much in control.

  12. Waynepauli 2013.10.12

    No Deb, that is just how poorly thought out this deal is. I am just saying even Janklow would have thought through this thing. But on the flip side it does make it easier to spend money at Crazy Horse, and at least it is not tourist season, and my trips out west are over till April.

  13. interested party 2013.10.12

    Like CSP is a model for anything but single party Disneylandian control. Try harder, Mr. Tsitrian.

  14. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.10.12

    I getcha Wayne. Agreed.

  15. Winston 2013.10.12

    Couldn't we have saved the $15,200 by fooling the out-of-state tourists with the presence of the four Presidential mascots (owned by the SD Tourism Division) at the entrance to Mt. Rushmore?..... Where are those four wild and crazy guys when we need them?.....

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.10.12

    John, I'm inclined to cite the Golden Rule: he who has the gold makes the rules. What conditions could donors place on these "donations"? When it's tax dollars, we have full accountability. When it's private donations, we give up some control.

    John, do you really believe that all national parks should be ceded to state/local control? Does the federal government have no business maintaining cultural and recreational facilities that will be open to all Americans?

  17. John Tsitrian 2013.10.12

    Cory, your points are well-taken and deserve a lot of consideration, but time is of the essence just now. The balance of the tourist season is but a couple of weeks long and a quick-fix is necessary to get Mt. Rushmore up and running. To answer your questions, no, I don't believe that all national parks should be ceded to state/local control and don't think I said so in my piece. I even pointedly called attention to the fact that the federal ownership is probably an effective check on mismanagement and marketing excesses. I do believe that turning operational responsibilities to state/local governments working in conjunction with private sector vendors (much like the Custer State Park model) is an idea that is worth considering, mainly because locally-based operations can probably have more flexibility when it comes to servicing their unique markets. I called attention to the "woefully underpromoted" ferret reintroduction program in western South Dakota's National Grasslands as an example of a missed opportunity that I believe local entrepeneurs could develop (along with the Grasslands themselves) into
    destination experiences for the many of the millions of tourists we get out here. These are assets that could be leveraged into economic opportunities that we haven't seen as yet. For that reason, though all of us are perfectly content with a resumption of the pre-shutdown status quo, this experience could turn into a valuable experiment. Categorically rejecting the notion doesn't strike me as a reasonable reaction to the turn of events at Mt. Rushmore. As to your second question, yes, the federal government has a responsibility for maintaining cultural and recreational facilities that will be open to all Americans, and I believe it can excercise that responsibility by retaining ownership of those assets and insuring that their maintenance and marketing, if turned over to localities, are sufficient to make sure that they are well maintained and accessible. I think we have great working models in the form of state parks throughout the country that certainly show how well these types of facilities can be operated by the respective states.

  18. Rorschach 2013.10.12

    I have no problem with the idea of private entities donating money to the federal government to keep a national monument open. Mt. Rushmore is still being run by the federal government in the same way they have always done it. There will be no advertising as Cory suggests.

    What does bother me is non-profit health systems donating money to this effort while their collection agencies shake down poor sick people who can't pay their medical bills. Renew and reinvigorate your focus on charity care, non-profit health systems. I would like them compete to see who can help the most needy people instead of battling to see which oligopolistic behemoth can divert the most revenue to advertising and PR.

  19. grudznick 2013.10.12

    I should not be as surprised as I am that SD circumventing Obama's plan to inflict as much pain as possible has driven my friend Larry almost irrational with rage so that he blogs 3 times in a row the same thing.

    I say BAH on the federal government doing hurtful things out of spite. BAH.

  20. interested party 2013.10.12

    The National Grasslands should come out of USDA and be part of Interior: more BIA, Park Service so there is increased insulation from corporate and special interests.

  21. grudznick 2013.10.12

    The National Grasslands should be burned clean like in the old days and then left as free range.

  22. interested party 2013.10.12

    From the Pecos to the Yukon, Missouri River to the Divide, grud.

  23. grudznick 2013.10.12

    There's the kind of jocularity that my old friend Bill expresses each week at breakfast! I miss Bill.

  24. interested party 2013.10.12

    W'all be drugged. Don't choke on those gravy taters, grud.

  25. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.10.12

    John, I'm glad we're both talking about wise government rather than no government. Wise government will provide more reliable funding and protection for our national treasures than marching yearly to Denny Sanford's office and hoping he still feels he needs to do more to promote his name.

    R, I too notice that Sanford is spending a lot of money on non-medical expenses. Mount Rushmore, college basketball... every time you get sick in Sioux Falls, you're paying for other people's recreation and self-promotion.

  26. Popessa 2013.10.12

    Seriously, has anyone checked if there is electrical power at Mt. Rushmore? I have heard the place is still without it. If that's the case, I don't think I would want to be the first on the donor list!

  27. John Tsitrian 2013.10.12

    Definitely, Cory. Preserving what's left of the tourist season calls for action that doesn't have the benefit of a great deal of planning. Our Congressional delegation has let us down and we're now in "extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures" mode. I agree that depending on a cluster of plutocrats for any long term source of money and resources to keep Mt. Rushmore open is a fool's errand. I doubt that this will go beyond a very short term situation, but if it does, a more stable and broadly based source of money to run the park will need to be found.

  28. John 2013.10.13

    Nice recollection, Taunia. As the republican's too often snort, 'it's ease to be generous when you're spending someone else's money' - knowing full well that often a disproportionate share of their money came from subsidies, tax breaks, grants, loan forgiveness, or a panoply of wealth transfer gimmicks.

  29. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.10.13

    If Congress does its job, we have a stable and broad-based source of money to run the park, the same one that has run it effectively for decades: Uncle Sam. We can get a Congress more inclined to do its job by replacing the currently non-functioning Kristi Noem next year.

  30. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.10.13

    Laundered tax money—well put, Taunia! And $65K in overbilling—dang! Sanford should have to cover four days of Rushmore operations... with no tax deduction allowed!

  31. Steve 2013.10.13

    To me this is another example of the "charity" of the wealthy. Although Mt. Rushmore is an impressive monument (and a key to tourism dollars), opening this back up certainly is not where I would think the first dollars of charity should be spent. Governing means setting priorities, and this being our states top funding priority is funding misspent.

    Was closing Mt. Rushmore really the worst thing to happen to SD citizens resulting from the GOP shutdown?

  32. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.10.13

    Steve, it was certainly the worst thing to happen to the privileged leisure class and tourism business people like Ted Hustead who fund our Governor and Congresswoman.

  33. Poly43 2013.10.13

    R, I too notice that Sanford is spending a lot of money on non-medical expenses. Mount Rushmore, college basketball... every time you get sick in Sioux Falls, you're paying for other people's recreation and self-promotion.

    This might help explain why Sanford has money for fields of dreams.

    Just type in Sioux Falls in the top line and whatever malady you want in the next drop down.

  34. Michael B 2013.10.13

    The blame lies with Congress and the President not passing and signing a budget on time. A continuing resolution is a poor way to fund government.

    We can't afford to fund everything the way we want to. We will have to do the best we can with what we have. Is Mt. Rushmore more important than many worthy gov't programs? That would depend on if you directly benefit from that program. It does look pathetic that the greatest country on Earth cannot keep it's great shrine to democracy open.

    Gov't can do much for all of it's citizens but Congress has decided not to.

  35. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.10.13

    Can you blame the President when he has no bill on his desk to sign?

  36. Michael B 2013.10.13

    The President submitted his budget two months late.

  37. Joseph g thompson 2013.10.13

    It has been a couple of years since the United States Senate has even voted on a budget. They won't vote on the President's proposed budgets or the budgets passed by the House of Representatives. Even what is happening in Congress now is not a budget, but a continuing resolution allowing the government to operate on the same budget of a couple of years ago.
    I would have thought that the President would have done his best to insure that the problems we have in Washington would have as little effect on the American people as possible, instead of trying to maximize problems for the public. Effective leadership.
    I'll go away now, just the ramblings of an old man who thought that government employees served the public but have found out that that is not the case anymore. Sad day for America.

  38. Michael B 2013.10.13

    By maximizing the pain, they think that it will help their cause in the next election cycle.

  39. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.10.14

    Michael and Joseph, there would be no pain to maximize if the Republican Corporate Leadership was not willing to shut government down in an effort to defund codified law (ACA) that they could not defeat by established Congressional means.

  40. Robin P 2013.10.14

    The Republican's claim that social safety nets are not needed because people will do the right thing. This is EPIC failure on the part of the Republican Governor and his cronies to do the right thing and help people who suffered loss of homes and other things during the storm. If Republican actions would have followed their words, that money would have been used to find housing, food, and clothing for the families that lost shelter.

  41. Michael B 2013.10.14

    The National Park Service did not shut down all of the memorials, but just the ones that would attract the most outrage. How much more money does it cost to barricade and patrol an open air mall with police and rangers than it would be to reduce staff levels and keep it all open?

    Besides the NPS examples, both parties are looking to maximize the economic pain hoping it will force public pressure to get the other side to blink. This is going to cost us all in higher interest payments on our national debt of $17 trillion.

  42. Michael B 2013.10.14

    Current Debt is listed as $16,747,421,858,503.24
    When Obama was sworn into office it was $10,626,877,048,913.08

    Under Obama the debt has increased $6,120,544,809,590.16
    He still has 1,120 days left in office. If the debt continues to increase at its present rate, he will have accumulated more debt than all of the other presidents before him...combined.

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