Jeromy Pankratz spoke to Brown County Republicans (and one Democrat) at the Reagan Lunch in Aberdeen today. Press for the event and Pankratz’s Linkedin profile say he is, present tense, Attorney General Marty Jackley’s senior campaign advisor. Pankratz did a fine job of masterminding Jackley’s 82% victory over Chad Haber in last November’s election, which Pankratz told the crowd is the biggest win in any contested South Dakota election ever. But that was last November. I asked Pankratz if there is, present tense, a Marty Jackley campaign. He said, “Anything is possible.”
But Pankratz didn’t come to Aberdeen to launch his boss’s 2018 gubernatorial bid two years early. He came to talk about his other job, in the Attorney General’s office, where he fulfills three roles:
1. Pankratz directs all tobacco settlement litigation. Pankratz joked that it took him two years just to figure out what all that job entailed, but essentially, he makes sure South Dakota continues to receive the $23 million to $28 million annually that has rolled into our state from Big Tobacco since the 1998 settlement. (Policy note: we rank 12th among states for the percentage of that tobacco money we spend on tobacco-prevention programs: out of $23.9 million in settlement money, we spent $4.5 million on tobacco prevention prevention.)
2. Pankratz handles lobbying and governmental relations for the AG. During Session, Pankratz testifies before committees and works the halls to get legislators to do what AG Jackley wants. Pankratz reported that this year, he helped the AG get seven of the eight bills he wanted (see Senate Bills 12 through 18). The only no-go was Senate Bill 11, which would have restored a little job protection against mean politicking for the Division of Criminal Investigations chief that the Legislature took away in 2012. Pankratz said that bill died primarily because legislators said, “South Dakota’s a right-to-work state!”
3. Pankratz handles “special projects” (like Jason Williams in Secretary of State Shantel Krebs’s office). In the AG’s office, that means Pankratz gets to field the unexpected and unprecedented questions that come to the Attorney General. (Quick! Someone think up some tricky public-records questions for Jeromy!)
Pankratz indicated that we might hear a little more about Senate Bill 18, the anti-raffle-scam bill, next week as Annette Bosworth’s perjury trial gets underway in Pierre. Senate Bill 18 arose in part because of the revelations of raffle scams perpetrated in 2012 by Bosworth and her husband Chad Haber under the auspices of their so-called charity Preventive Health Strategies. As the AG’s consumer protection office looked into the bogus PHS raffles, the AG discovered that South Dakota didn’t actually have a law saying that selling raffle tickets, taking money, not holding the drawing, and keeping the money is any sort of crime. Senate Bill 18 fixes that odd loophole, saying no, really, if you sell raffle tickets, you either draw for and reward the prizes or you give refunds.
The AG shook loose five $1,000 refunds for PHS raffle ticketholders in April 2013. However, AG Jackley testified before Senate Commerce and Energy in February 2015 that thirteen other raffle ticketholders are still waiting for refunds from PHS. Pankratz said that the AG’s office can’t retroactively apply Senate Bill 18 to the Haber and Bosworth raffle scam, but the consumer protection office continues to seek some restitution for the ticket buyers Haber and Bosworth cheated.
Haber owes South Dakota taxpayers at least $6,000 for his violations of campaign finance law. Haber is now months delinquent in filing the pre-general (due October 24, 2014) and year-end (due February 2, 2015) campaign finance reports for his vindictive, publicity-seeking, but never serious campaign to unseat Jackey as AG. Past sixty days late, each delinquent form incurs the maximum $3,000 fine. Pankratz said that AG Jackley has handed investigation and enforcement of Haber’s campaign finance violations to a different prosecutor, in order to deprive Haber and his deluded hangers-on of the opportunity to say the prosecution for those crimes is simply revenge against a political opponent. (Not that reality checks matter to the cult Haber and Bosworth cultivate, but reality check: beating a guy 82% to 18% at the polls is about all the revenge any sane politician needs, and whatever his faults, Marty Jackley strikes me as quite blandly sane.)
On the personal side, Pankratz talked about his education. He has a master’s degree in English and professes a love of 19th-century European literature. Add Pankratz to the list of humanities graduates holding pretty good jobs in Pierre, despite Governor Dennis Daugaard’s insistence that liberal arts degrees lead to bad job prospects.
Pankratz, a Sioux Falls native, got to study law in Hawaii a dozen-plus years ago. He said he had an offer that could have kept him in Hawaii, but he traded the sea of blue for the sea of summer green, autumn gold, and winter white of his home state. GOED, pay attention! Instead of comparing South Dakota to Mars, you should have more guys like Pankratz comparing South Dakota to Hawaii.