What Other Scandals? Ask Rep. Mathew Wollmann and Legislative Interns with Whom He Had Sex

A couple weeks ago, longtime Republican one-man brain trust asked what other scandals there are besides EB-5 and GEAR UP in South Dakota. The former SDGOP chairman asked those of us complaining about corruption in Pierre “to specify what exactly, very specifically, has been done that’s unethical.”

O.K. Republican Representative Mathew Wollmann had sex with legislative interns, in 2015 and in 2016, one former intern says Representative Wollmann’s sexual misconduct was “common knowledge,” and Legislative leadership did nothing about it.

In case that’s not specific enough for you, Joel:

  1. Representative Wollmann had sex with people over whom he held enormous public power, which is unethical.
  2. Representative Wollmann had sex with interns, which his fellow Republican Representative David Lust said in committee last week violates Legislative Joint Rule 1B-1 on the maintenance of ethical standards.
  3. Representative Wollmann had sex with interns, which his fellow Republican and Senate Majority Leader R. Blake Curd said in committee last week is bad professional behavior and violates Legislative Joint Rule 1A-4 on sexual harassment.
  4. Representative Mathew Wollmann lied to intrepid KSFY reporter Bridget Bennett last night before caving in and admitting his unethical behavior. That lie is unethical; his about-face preface about working in film and creating a “character defining moment” for all history is fatuous self-aggrandizement.
  5. The Legislature—and even though they’re getting only one point in this list, this is the biggest point on the flow—it sounds as if the Legislature knew about Representative Wollmann’s unethical behavior for some portion of his first term in office. The Legislature’s failure to act upon allegations of improper sexual conduct by Representative Wollmann would prove that the Legislature cannot be trusted to enforce its own rules, police its own members, or protect young employees from the sexual advances of powerful politicians. That’s unethical and then some.
Better days, when Mathew Wollmann, Dusty Johnson, and the SD Teenage Republicans could just go camping and have fun. From Dusty Johnson, Facebook post, 2014.07.24
Better days, when Mathew Wollmann, Dusty Johnson, and the SD Teenage Republicans could just go camping and have fun. From Dusty Johnson, Facebook post, 2014.07.24.

And remember: the legislators who took no action while Representative Wollmann violated the Joint Rules include many who moved quite swiftly to protect themselves from the creation of Initiated Measure 22’s ethics commission. Representative Wollmann and his Republican colleagues voted against creating an ethics commission in 2015. In 2015, Rep. G. Mark Mickelson called an ethics commission “unnecessary.” Then-Rep. Lee Schoenbeck called it “a bad idea whose time has passed.” Then-Rep. and Majority Leader Brian Gosch said the last ethics commission was used to besmirch reputations of some legislators.

Now I see Gosch’s point: why create a whole bureaucracy to besmirch legislators’ reputations when legislators can besmirch themselves quite well on their own?

The following legislators and other prominent Republicans put money in Wollmann’s campaign coffer in 2016, after his unethical behavior:

  • Rep. G. Mark Mickelson: $250 personal, $1,000 PAC
  • Regent Randy Schaefer: $250
  • Pat Prostrollo: $500
  • Then-Speaker of the House Dean Wink (the leader to whom any sexual harassment was to be reported): $100
  • Then-Rep. Lee Schoenbeck: $1,500
  • Governor Dennis Daugaard: $1,000

You asked for it, Joel. Your own Republican legislators have now delivered.

Related Reading: Even I thought Mathew was a promising candidate when he announced his first bid for Legislature in 2014.

53 Responses to What Other Scandals? Ask Rep. Mathew Wollmann and Legislative Interns with Whom He Had Sex

  1. Mrs. Nelson

    The biggest noises made by some repubs that “they were of consenting age!” shows that they just. Don’t. Get. It.

  2. Greg Deplorable

    Growing government & having sexy times. Too much party time in Pierre, a session once every 2 years would be fine by me.

  3. Sad that this has happened, credit Stace Nelson for his courage on fighting for some honor in Pierre.

  4. South DaCola

    I think it should be against the law for Republicans to have sex anyway, unless it is with each other to spread disease and pestilence amongst themselves.

  5. Robin Friday

    Wollman a Trump accolate? Legislature had no guts, just like congressional GOP. Sickening.

  6. Robin Friday

    acolyte? Accolate is an allergy med, I think.

  7. Roger Cornelius

    Why does Joel think that corruption only exists when their are state funds involved.
    The legislators that sat on this story for two years are as corrupt as Wollman.
    Republicans couldn’t pass an ethics class if their lives depended on it.

  8. My memory is a little fuzzy. Was it Rep. Wollmann who recently got engaged and the GOP Party hired his fiance to be an intern – this legislative session? Or was that someone else?

    If my fuzzy memory is correct, then the legislative leadership is sitting around at the liquor room joking and patting Rep. Wollmann on the back saying, “We know how much you like interns so we hired one just for you! ha ha ha ha ha”

    Some people have a French maid fetish. Some people like whips and chains. One guy likes women who work for him.

  9. Donald Pay

    You know corruption is a way of life in South Dakota. The water development districts (and various water projects) used to be a bi-partisan money churn. Some of the districts were totally corrupt. When the the Oahe Irrigation opponents got control of the Oahe Irrigation District, they were able to start the decades-long effort to end the corruption in water development. The Black Hills Water Development District used to be completely corrupt. Governor Mickelson did a lot to straighten out the whole process, putting water project and other natural resource funding on a rational basis, and take the corruption out. On the other hand Mickelson did nothing to halt the sewage ash scam, which began in the corrupt Janklow era. DENR regulators secretly asked me to file a contested case petition to get a hearing, because they didn’t believe the thing was legitimate, but couldn’t oppose it because Janklow was pushing it. I could go on with large-scale corporate CAFOs and heap-leach mining. Just about everything that has happened in South Dakota has had some corruption associated with it.

  10. “I’m shocked. Shocked that intern diddling is going on here.”


    Here’s the thing about this investigation they called. Everybody knew about this before and they didn’t call an investigation. They don’t really want answers because they have had them for a long time.

  11. Ror: your memory is headed in the right direction.

    I also remember that the 2016 Republican legislator worked really hard on legislation to protect our children against the evidence-less threat of transgender sex predators in our school bathrooms. Yet at the same time, the GOP may have had evidence of Rep. Wollmann’s predatory behavior, and they took no action.

    One guy boinking interns shouldn’t be this big of a news story. But inaction by leadership turns this tawdry tale into an indictment of the SDGOP’s moral authority on multiple fronts.

  12. Now is the right time to commend (I know that term is ironic given my prior criticism of his multiple commendations) Sen. Nelson for at least starting the ball in motion on this matter with his proposed rule change. He wasn’t even there last term, but he heard about this from people who were there. There is no plausible deniability.

    Reminds me of an earlier scandal with a legislator named Ted Klaudt. One day before his arrest and prosecution some of his colleagues put a homemade sign on his desk calling him the “doctor of love.” A photo was taken of that sign by a Democratic legislator from Klaudt’s district. Refer back to what Klaudt went to prison for, and ask yourself if the colleagues who posted that sign on his desk knew what he was up to before the law did.

  13. Roger Cornelius

    You nailed it Cory, how many times have the actual illegal or immoral acts taken a back to seat to the corruption involved to cover up by lying, destroying evidence, and not reporting the criminal activity.
    This is the problem I’ve had with Jackley and EB-5 and Gear Up. Thus far we have only had surface investigations with a minimum of charges of theft when there should have been more charges related to the theft.

  14. Lora Hubbel

    If you took sex with lobbyists, other legislators and higher-ups out of Pierre, how would some of the more “influential” legislators get their way? A few work more on their backs than with their brain…AND how far do we want to detail what sexual contact is inappropriate? Do we insist on sexual fidelity in our US Delegation (not…we don’t say anything about that). Do we insist on sexual fidelity between Department Directors and say…our governors? (naw…we don’t address that either). But we have a problem now in a lowly legislator and intern where we can claim we have cleaned up Pierre…I guess we are moral now that we have a scapegoat. It’s never right when someone in power uses it to get his way with interns…but there is a lot more to clean up in Pierre….

  15. Joe Nelson

    If he is removed, who replaces him?

  16. Rod Goeman

    Cory, the intern did NOT work for Rep. Wollmann. Two consenting adults, both over the age of 21 had legal drinks in a legal bar and spent time together away from work and after hours. No power-play here and your comment is neither substantiated or factual, “one former intern says Representative Wollmann’s sexual misconduct was “common knowledge” is irresponsibly slanderous. You are the great source-master, so who is your source? The Argus Leader says no rules exist and no rules were broken. Use your tremendous brain power and investigative skills to determine who gains by Wollmann’s decline? Who spread the initial rumors that were scathing, blatantly misleading and false among legislators? Follow the trail of mistruth because that is your real story.

  17. Does it matter if the intern is working for him or another legislator?

  18. Thank you Cory for pointing out how badly South Dakota needs an ethics commission with teeth.

  19. Darin Larson

    Rod Goeman, the rationale by the joint committee that voted down Nelson’s proposed rule was that sexual contact with interns was already prohibited by the code of conduct and they needn’t duplicate the prohibition with Nelson’s rule. Now you are saying that the conduct at issue is not prohibited by the code of conduct. Either you are wrong or the joint committee that voted down Nelson’s proposed rule is wrong.

  20. Darin Larson

    Rod Goeman, you said “The Argus Leader says no rules exist and no rules were broken.”

    The Argus Leader story that I just read, dated January 18, doesn’t say that no rules exist and no rules were broken. I think you should get your house in order before you throw stones at Cory.

  21. My this Wollman is a regular Bill Clinton! He didn’t even know for sure how old these interns were according to that Sioux Falls Paper.

    We all know if this was a democrat legislator, the GOP would have hung him out to dry.

  22. The GOP Party circled the wagons around him, Jenny. They killed the rule Sen. Nelson proposed to prohibit this conduct, and they hired his fiance as an intern to keep him off the other interns.

  23. I guess the moral of the story from the GOP is (excluding Stace Nelson) it’s okay to be caught with your pants down if you’re a member of the exclusive Good Ol’ Boys Club. .

  24. Darin, that is the part that gets me too: the contradiction in the application of the rules here. The political play here (to keep scandal at bay) probably would have been to accept Sen. Nelson’s new rule BECAUSE consensual relations are NOT covered under the existing rules – so nobody “broke” those rules. That way they wash their hands of past scandals and shut down any issues moving forward.

    But as Nixon taught us, it’s not the scandal that brings you down, it’s the cover up.

  25. Charlie Richardson

    A code of conduct is in place. Wollman admitted he violated that code. A nine member panel is investigating (5 republicans and 4 democrats).I figure the most that will come of this is Wollman will be censured, although, given that he is a republican, a mere slap on the wrist will be in order. Buy hey, if they dismiss him, he can always go to Washington and work for the Trump administration. He’d fit right in.

  26. private richard

    Ethics commission! South Dakota state legislature don’t need no stinkin’ ethics commission!

  27. Porter Lansing

    What if it had been two legal aged lesbians? The “code of conduct” is unconstitutional and ripe for litigation.
    ~ A system of morality which is based on relative emotional values is a mere illusion, a thoroughly vulgar conception which has nothing sound in it and nothing true. – Socrates

  28. Rod, do you disagree with your nephew’s statement yesterday that his actions were unacceptable? Is your nephew making an error in saying that will accept any punishment for his unacceptable actions?

    Rod, again, there are rules. I cite those rules above, rules that were cited by Rep. Lust and Senator Curd in committee as covering exactly this sort of situation, sexual contact between legislators and interns.

  29. Joe, the Governor appoints replacements to fill any Legislative vacancy.

  30. CraigSK, I would contend that, according to the language of the existing rules, which Curd and Lust said encompass the violation Nelson wanted to add to the Joint Rules, no, whether the interns worked directly for Wollmann or not does not absolve Wollmann any more than whether the sexual contact was consensual or with individuals 21 or over. Let me review the rules I cited above:

    Joint Rule 1A-4 speaks in pretty absolute terms: ” All members shall avoid any action or conduct which could be viewed as sexual harassment.” It doesn’t restrict conduct by direct line of supervision. “All members… any action or conduct….”

    Joint Rule 1B-1 speaks more broadly of our ethical expectations: “The people of South Dakota require that their legislators maintain the highest of moral and ethical standards as such standards are essential to assure the trust, respect and confidence of our citizens. Legislators have a solemn responsibility to avoid improper behavior and refrain from conduct that is unbecoming to the Legislature or that is inconsistent with the Legislature’s ability to maintain the respect and trust of the people it serves. While it is not possible to write rules to cover every circumstance, each legislator must do everything in his or her power to deal honorably with the public and with his
    or her colleagues and must promote an atmosphere in which ethical behavior is readily recognized as a priority and is practiced continually, without fail.”

    JR 1B-1 makes pretty clear that we’re talking about highest moral standards. Legislators don’t get to split hairs or parse words. They have to uphold the highest standards. If there’s any doubt that an action is o.k., a legislator shouldn’t do it. I would contend that if the public has granted you their mandate, and you’re in the Capitol, wearing the badge and wielding the vote, and you can not only ask out but get naked with multiple interns without even pausing to wonder if that’s a good idea, you have an ethical problem under Joint Rule 1B-1 of the Legislature.

  31. Rep. Wollmann agrees that his actions have tarnished the Legislature, which means he recognized the ethical dubiousness of his actions. From that Sioux Falls paper that Mr. Goeman cites:

    “I can’t express how much I’m embarrassed, I understand these actions are unacceptable and I’ll accept all punitive measures that are decided,” Wollmann told reporters. “I’ve tarnished the system and our title, this body as well as my name” [Ferguson, 2017.01.18].

    Darin is correct to say that the Ferguson article does not say there are no rules against the improper conduct that Wollmann has admitted. The article says there is no explicit rule against sexual contact, but it also notes that Rep. Qualm won’t say whether current rules cover this misconduct because he doesn’t want to sway the Legislative investigation. Ferguson also confirms my reporting on last week’s committee hearing: “House members said during the meeting that they considered sexual contact with high school pages and college interns to be misconduct.”

  32. On “consensual”, supervision, and the power dynamic:

    An elected government official in the supermajority party invites an employee on the lowest rung of the totem pole to have sex. The employee can say no, but rejecting a sexual advance from an elected official from a powerful political party differs from rejecting an equivalent advance from some anonymous mouthbreather at the bar.

    Kristie Fiegen, Marty Jackley, Shantel Krebs, and Dennis Daugaard do not have any supervisory relationship with legislative interns. But for any of those powerful elected officials to proposition a legislative intern would still be highly improper.

  33. Excellent layout of the ethics (lack there of) of this entire thing. And Gosch’s comment “besmirch’s reputation of law makers”. That sounds eerily similar to the comments the GOP in D.C. were trying to do with the “ethics kerfluffle” they tried to pull on the very first day of this session.

    while all the attention is on Wollman, and it should be — If it was an open secret, and folks either looked the other way or whatever – what happens to those that didn’t proceed with further review? (or in the words of Stace’s allegation – cover up)

    Legislators – the bathroom police are you most pressing issues? Seriously?

  34. I take one day off of reading this blog, and SD erupts into another scandal.

  35. That said, I give Mr. Wollman credit for coming forward and being forthright with the media. He could have easily started shoveling sand on the allegations and many people in the legislature would have grabbed shovels to help him. His honestly should limit his punishment, the punishment should address the systemic issues and not use him as an example. If removed, the only example he would be to his legislative peers, would be an example of why you should lie more.

  36. Porter Lansing

    This isn’t a scandal. Did one of the parties involved make a complaint? This is a bunch of bored busybodys (Stace Nelson) sticking their noses and judgements in somebody else’s business. Does any legislator have a constructive, new idea or is it just don’t do this and don’t do that? Build something for Heaven’s sake. Make an impact not another pile of trash.

  37. Yeah, but, MD, Wollmann’s first impulse was to lie. He did lie, on camera. In the same interview, within minutes, maybe seconds, he backed out of that lie. But he’s still wavering between accepting responsibility for wrongdoing and peddling exculpatory arguments.

    I disagree that his expulsion would encourage others to lie more. We don’t take that position on other violations and crimes—oh, gee, if we punish this perp, other bad dudes will lie and not confess their crimes, so we’d better not punish.

    Far greater than Wollmann’s transgressions is the scandal of the entire Legislature sitting on this common knowledge and taking no action until the story was going public and they couldn’t hide it any more. Republican leaders scrambling to excuse what they said last week would be a violation of existing rules is a huge mess. An expulsion vote may not be enough to restore public trust, but a vote for anything less says we can’t trust the Legislature to police itself and can’t trust them to protect young people from predators. This scandal calls into question the Legislature’s moral authority and boosts momentum for candidates and initiative backers campaigning on the “corruption in Pierre” narrative.

  38. The timing of this could not have played out any better if Sen. Nelson had planned it this way. GOP Party leaders shoot down his rule change – going on record claiming the existing rules already cover the issue. Then immediately the Wollmann issue is brought to light – forcing GOP Party leaders to convene an inquiry. Whether or not Sen. Nelson had anything to do with the timing, party leaders got caught with their pants down.

    Did I mention I like the phrase, “You don’t need those pants.”? Grudz, I promised to use that at some point, I just didn’t know it would be this soon.

  39. Lora Hubbel

    I guarantee that the legislators are way passed this. They are voting on other bills and finagling positions for power and debating which social event to go to tonight. Its only us that are still talking about the sex scandal. Its all old news up in Pierre. Im glad people are interested in the moral conduct of our interns (sarc)…but no elected official is going to condemn another elected official. PLUS our elected officials are only partisan on the chamber floor, yet some are as indiscriminate as minks after-hours. My main concern with how laws are made up in Pierre is that we are living under laws made by the influence of sexual favors. There is a whole lot of consensualizing that goes way up …and we suffer bad law because of it.

  40. Lora, if you have evidence of further misconduct by legislators, please provide evidence and names.

  41. Lora Hubbel

    nope….everytime I bring up corruption…I am the one who gets pounded. It is a pretty easy find….just ask who of the legislators/politicians/bureaucrats have open marriages. Do a little digging, Cory, you are good at that.

  42. Lora Hubbel

    Im just worried that Wollmann will become so depressed that he, too, will dress up in a hunting outfit, go to Charles Mix county, shoot himself with a forensics-free shot gun from 18 inches away, carefully stand it up against the tree and fall over dead having not lost any blood. Then Deputy Coroner, Chad Peters, will deem it a suicide (like he did in both the Westerhuis and Benda deaths – even though as a deputy coroner he has no authority to investigate a crime scene or write a death certificate), THEN all the sexual scandals will be blamed on him and the rest of SD politicians will be deemed cleared

  43. Mike Boswell

    Lora Hubbel is good at pointing fingers but not very good for providing much info. I have asked several to “spill the beans” if they have it. (Cory you included). I haven’t seen many beans spilled yet.

  44. Lora Hubbel

    Notice how Mike Boswell screams like a little girl every time EB5 comes up…you should check him out too Cory.

  45. Mike Boswell

    LMAO Lora he can anytime he wants I have nothing to do with State Government other than I am related to some who are employees of the state. I find it funny that you choose to attack those who doubt you rather than presenting your “evidence”. Either get to the “rat killing” or go away.

  46. Mike Boswell

    As far as Cory checking me out he only has to go as BZ and he will get all he needs to know. Cory knows who I am talking about.

  47. happy camper

    Letters aside we could have had that Nelson guy like duh.

  48. Rod Goeman

    Legislators are saying privately that Sen. Stacey “Stace” Nelson has been allegedly spreading some severe stories about Rep. Wollmann in an effort to smear him, to pay him back for some political issue they clashed on earlier. There is your story. Is Stace Nelson trying to create a furor that would grease the skids for his effort without concern for anyone he might politically destroy? There is your story, Cory.

  49. Charlie Richardson

    Wait. What? A fellow republican allegedly spreading rumors about another republican? Say it ain’t so! The only political destruction taking place was the self-inflicted kind; when (1) Rep. Wollman made the decision to boink an intern on more than one occasion after first having lied about it and (2) knowing there was a code of conduct concerning fraternizing with state employees (interns) and making the decision to do it anyway.
    I’m disappointed because I’ve had conversations with Matt in the past, visiting about his work in the legislature and complimenting him on the job he was doing. I thought he had a bright future in state government and perhaps beyond. It appears he threw that all away.

  50. Mike Boswell

    Stace Nelson has a history of not working well with others in the legislature and I got that from a long serving member of the legislature. Lora Hubbel was included in that conversation.

  51. Is that switcheroo Dusty in that photo.

  52. Rod, how does the source of the information or that source’s motivation affect the truth and newsworthiness of the facts I have laid out in this post? Suppose I grant everything you say and imply about Senator Nelson: do you really think one politician taking vengeance on a fellow party member for intervening on behalf of his opponent in his primary is a bigger, more surprising, more important story than a Legislator boinking interns and the Legislative leaders covering up and not acting on that sexual misconduct?