July 4th

"About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers."

From President Calvin Coolidge's speech on the occasion of the 150 anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. July 5, 1926, Philadelphia.

The full speech can be found here.

For more about Coolidge, a great president who is often overlooked, try Amity Shlaes's biography titled "Coolidge"


Attorney General

The convention process is now complete.

It will be Randy Seiler and Jason Ravnsborg in the November general election. The campaign should be interesting.

The republicans may have lucked out when the democrats chose Seiler. Tatewin Means has a lot more charisma and may have been a much more formidable candidate. We'll see how things play out with Seiler and Ravnsborg.


Paper ballots?

Lots of problems with voting devices yesterday. Whether mechanical or digital, voting machines can have problems. The old mechanical machines frequently broke or just wore out. The electronic machines have power failures, software issues, and who knows what.

Mechanical machines can be rigged. Digital devices can also be tampered with although so far it's failure and not vote fraud that occurs. There were a few minutes yesterday when I thought the failure might be just a ploy to keep polling places open later to benefit one candidate or another. But it appears it was just the election day chaos we've come to know so well.

Paper ballots are old fashioned but reliable. They can easily be counted and recounted if needed. Election boards won't like it because it's a lot of work, although not as much as what some poor election officials went through yesterday. The news media won't like it because for them, immediacy is more important than integrity. Instant gratification, even if it's wrong.

Paper ballots can be rigged, but it requires the cooperation of everyone in the room from both parties and all the campaigns on the ballot. Tough even at the local level. Even with the Russians trying hard to cause trouble.

It may sound like a step back in time, but paper ballots are worth considering.

posted by DB Cooper

Moving the Goalposts

by Nick Reid

When your slim chance at winning is based on turnout and your tendency is to win at any cost, it seems a little strange when events like the technical problems being experienced today crop up.

The Argus Leader reports that there have been problems with voting machines in eight counties across the state. Brookings, Brown, Hughes, Hyde, Pennington, Potter, Sully, and Yankton counties have all had problems, yet only two of them are extending their hours for the polls.

Coincidentally (pure chance, I’m sure) the two that are being extended are Pennington and Hughes. Both are in the list of counties that Jason Glodt claims Jackley has a slim lead. If, as the Argus also mentions, turnout is low, keeping those two counties open as long as possible is essential to any chance Jackley might have in this gubernatorial primary.

Both Pennington and Hughes counties will stay open an extra 1:45 (until 8:45 mtn). This, despite the fact that only a few polling locations in those counties were affected and, in Hughes county, where only 3 locations had issues, the problems delayed things for about 10 minutes.

Excuse me for being a bit skeptical, but me thinks this is a little too convenient for the losing side.

What this means for South Dakota Republicans is that those who have not voted for Kristi Noem need to get out and cast a ballot to counter Jackley’s delay.

When you can’t get over the goal line, simply move the goalposts.


Lest We Forget

by Nick Reid

This primary election is about more than just whose face is attached to the Republican agenda. It’s about more than a simple preference of style. This primary, in particular, will decide what kind of state we want to live in. The primary voters will decide whether deceit, subterfuge, and crony capitalism is acceptable in South Dakota state government.

The statement made in the voting booths will send a message to our children and fellow citizens what we truly value as South Dakotans, but also as Americans, friends, neighbors, and purveyors of a positive vision for the future. When all is said and done, what do want to say to those coming behind us?

The race, thus far for Democrats is largely meaningless. The choice for the soon to be vacant US House seat is also all but wrapped up. The choice for the Republican nominee for governor is all that hangs in the balance for the state at large.

The choice before the voters is one of a popular US Congresswoman whose record is clear for the world to see. Agree or disagree, that’s all you have. Kristi Noem is a devoted wife, mother, and a tireless fighter for South Dakota. Her personal life, as well as her business dealings, are beyond reproach. If you are going to vote against her, you are doing so on the basis of her record.

That’s fair and understandable, in context. I have disagreed with some of her votes, and can easily make a case for how I would’ve done it differently in her place, but the fact is, I’m not. If there’s anything I respect about Rep. Noem, it’s that any vote I have disagreed with, she can give a reasoned explanation as to why she went the way she did.

She has been repeatedly attacked by her opponent as out-of-touch with South Dakota and a product of a flawed DC establishment. She doesn’t understand how things work here in the state, they say. She doesn’t know how to get things done.

That charge is as ridiculous as it is self-convicting. The fact that Kristi has been outside the corruption and cover-ups of the last 8 years is political armor.

The EB-5 scandal, the Gear Up scandal, the Richard Mette case, the Laura Zylstra-Kaiser lawsuit, the outright thievery of Global Aquaponics, and the millions of dollars, as well as 7 lives, that have gone with them all are an absolute indictment on “the way things are done” in South Dakota.

There’s no question that Attorney General Marty Jackley knows very well how things are done. He has been in the middle of every scandal that has arisen in his tenure. For some, like the removal of 39 of 40 charges against serial rapist and child molester Richard Mette and his wife, Jackley has clearly been a pivotal figure. The same can be said of the $1.5 million awarded to Laura Kaiser from her sexual harassment case.

For EB-5 and Gear Up, the best that can be said is that the AG’s head was deeply buried in the sand. Alarms were raised and improprieties were not hard to see, but Marty Jackley chose through ignorance or something more nefarious, to look the other way. In the wake of those quagmires, he has come up with exactly one plea deal with no jail time and no one, but the 7 people who allegedly took their lives, being punished.

Dereliction of duty is a kind description for these actions (or inactions).

Do not forget the much too recent past as you head to the polls. Do not forget the weight of the choice before you. Do not take the truth lightly.

This choice is about who we want to lead the state, but it is also about what we will no longer tolerate.

With this on mind, remember these four words as you step into the voting booth.

Kristi Noem for Governor.

Ich Bin Ein East Riverite

by Nick Reid

As often seems to happen in South Dakota, it appears that even the gubernatorial race is east river vs. west river.

In an endorsement with as much excitement as a late night bowling tournament on ESPN 4, The Rapid City Journal gave the nod to Marty Jackley. The argument was, well, I’m not exactly sure what the argument was. The article said something about Kristi working with colleagues instead of giving decisions to committees and talking about Jackley’s role in EB-5.

It’s pretty apparent the Journal is searching for reasons to pick Marty (perhaps they have a sexual harassment case they need help with, or something). In a common refrain from the RCJ, they decided to skip the voracity of Noem’s (and our) accusations (I prefer the more accurate, “nuggets of truth”) against the AG and simply say, she’s mean and we don’t like her. And Marty knows stuff. So, there.

Truly, Marty couldn’t have said it better himself.

The Argus Leader went the other direction. With all of the scandals in Pierre and the need for actual change, the editorial board at the Argus sees that, “Both GOP candidates have vowed to transform Pierre if they are elected governor, but only Noem can turn the page by her very presence”.

In other words, the status quo must go.

Having seen the packed house at Noem campaign HQ in Rapid City for Kristi’s sprint to the finish line, I would say there are a lot of West Riverites (Riverans?) that strongly disagree with their hometown fish wrap.

For me, personally, it’s a sad day. First I had to drive all the way to Sioux Falls to see Paul McCartney, and now this.

To mangle the timeless quote from JFK, on Tuesday, ich bin ein East Riverite.

Prosecutorial discretion and why Jackley for Governor is a bad idea

by DB Cooper

Prosecutorial discretion is a powerful thing. It gives a prosecutor the ability to decide which defendants get to experience the full power of the state's criminal justice apparatus being applied to convict them, and which defendants get a slap on the wrist, or maybe even a wink and a nod. This is a huge amount of power in the hands of just a few people. In South Dakota, of those few, Marty Jackley is the most powerful.

Jackley used his discretion as a prosecutor to arrange a plea bargain with Joop Bollen. The deal closed the state's embarrassing involvement in the EB-5 program. A lot of money went missing, a lot of interesting transactions involving public money went in and out of Joop Bollen's hands. Some of it never to be seen again. Attorney General Jackley decided it was in the best interest of South Dakota to let Joop plea guilty to some charges and "cooperate" and in exchange, Joop would serve no time in prison. Perhaps Jackley felt the cost of an extended prosecution of a complex financial matter wasn't worth the expense. In fact, at one point, Jackley walked away from investigating the scandal claiming it was a federal problem. Or maybe Jackley was afraid that if the case did go to trial, he would lose. Juries sometimes do that. Would we have thought any less of Jackley if he had explained that taking the case all the way to trial was that important? To defend the taxpayers, and do everything possible to prosecute corruption, win or lose?

Jackley's prosecutorial discretion can be questioned in the Gear Up matter. The state auditor reviewed the program and found millions missing or misappropriated. Jackley was told about it not by the auditor, but by South Dakota's hardest working reporter Bob Mercer. According to Mercer, no one in the AG's office was routinely working with the auditor concerning the auditor's findings, some of which like with the Gear Up program, were ripe for criminal investigation and prosecution. What else may have been missed?.

The Mette case is a continuing tragedy. The aspect of the whole sad story that pertains to discretion is why Jackley did not use his office to intervene in the senseless prosecution of Brandon Taliaferro and Shirley Schwab. Both were charged with coaching the Mette children in making accusations against their parents. The case against Taliaferro, the original state's attorney prosecuting Mette, and Shirley Schwab, a court appointed child advocate, was very weak at best. It was no surprise that both were ultimately vindicated on all charges. But both were broken by the experience. Both suffered the loss of reputation in their community, the loss of the trust and respect of their friends and neighbors. Broken financially as well. It can cost thousands and thousands and thousands to defend against even the most spurious of charges. The state has enormous resources and all the time in the world to grind away at a defendant's savings and life. The process is the punishment. It would not have taken much for the Attorney General's office to put an end to this, but it didn't. The process cleared Taliaferro and Schwab, but the process also inflicted severe punishment that was not deserved on two innocent people.

As Governor of South Dakota Jackley would be the most powerful official in the state. He would have far more power -- discretion -- than he does now. As Attorney General, Jackley has exercised prosecutorial discretion, and these examples speak for themselves. Do they recommend giving him more power, or do they represent a warning?





Jackley and the appearance of pay to play

If elected, Jackley will have some big no-bid contracts for legal services to hand out. Will the contracts go to his biggest contributors? The Second Century Political Action Committee is an in-state pac that has made some big contributions. Most recently the recipient has been Marty Jackley.

This political action committee is very closely tied to the Woods Fuller law firm. The knot is very, very tight. Almost every contribution to the pac comes from Woods Fuller attorneys. The pac has made very large contributions to the campaigns of previous governors.

And the firm has received some very lucrative contracts from the state. In 2017, the firm received two contracts to provide legal services to the Bureau of Administration for an amount not to exceed $400,000, and a second not to exceed $100,000 to represent the state on matters of intellectual property issues. Similar contracts went to the firm in 2018 in amounts not to exceed $600,000 and $100,000 respectively.

The contracts are sole source. No bidding is required. The Governor picks. No matter how it is handled the final choice belongs to the Governor. Nothing illegal in this, but it looks terrible.

And this brings us to Marty Jackley, candidate for governor. The Friends of Marty Jackley committee received $20,000 from Second Century in 2016 (see the year end report dated February 6, 2017), and Jackley for Governor received $15,000 from Second Century (disclosed on the year end report dated January 26, 2018). This is far more than Second Century contributed to any other candidate in 2016 or 2017. More than the contributions to all other candidates combined several times over.

Candidate Jackley is vitally concerned about reform. Or he says he is. Is he concerned about campaign finance reform that would remove the appearance of pay-to-play? It's not that hard. Just don't give contracts to contributors and don't hide behind the technicalities of political action committees.

If Jackley becomes governor, will his administration be influenced by big contributions? He seems to think that a member of congress taking money from Washington pacs is more than a little suspect.

Jackley doesn't need legislative action to promise not to give contracts to any individual or entity that contributes more than, let's say, $5,000. It doesn't require a task force or committee. He could make that pledge today. And promise an open RFP process for no-bid contracts for legal services. The law still says the Governor gets to pick, but a more open process might avoid appearances of pay-to-play.

DB Cooper

The Trump Effect

by Nick Reid

The populist fervor of President Trump is apparently not confined to US shores. It is beginning an increasingly effective and vociferous movement in Western Europe that threatens destabilization of the euro and the European Union, as a whole.

Bolstered (and likely encouraged) by Trump’s election on a MAGA platform that stood in opposition to globalist and central control tendencies in the past decade, Italy’s parliament elected a Prime Minister who ran (seriously) with an “Italy First” platform that swept him to power with the right-wing 5 Star Movement party.

Giuseppe Conteis not a politician, he’s a businessman. He has never held elected office, but is strong on the need to pay attention to his homeland over the needs of his occasional friends in the EU. He is also a strong supporter of pulling out of the common European currency, the euro, under burgeoning fears across Europe that another Brexit (Italexit?) is on the horizon. With that would likely come a steady erosion of the Union and an end to the continent’s big kumbaya moment.

Unfortunately for Italians, the president was having none of it. In Italy, the PM leads the parliament and is generally considered the voice of the people, while the president is the voice of government. In this scenario, the PM and parliament submit cabinet officials to the president who generally just approves them without debate (the few times one has been rejected, it has been with agreement between the PM and pres.).

Two days ago, this precedent was upset as President Sergio Matterella rejected the submitted finance minister because of his open opposition to Italy’s part in the euro. In a show of outrage, PM Conte resigned and an interim PM was then appointed by the President.

Mass political chaos has erupted with opponents of Pres. Matterella calling for impeachment and his supporters cheering on the Sicilian renegade. It is really the first constitutional crisis in Italy’s history (the constitution was adopted in 1947) and will prove to be a test of the strength of the political structures and the weight of the EU in individual European governments.

Whichever way it goes, the MIGA movement is young, but healthy and the Trump Effect is fuel for the fire. The election of Donald Trump is proving to have an effect on not just Americans, but across the globe. The next orange faced Trumpavelli may be on his way.