The vote was 76-22 in favor of Wilson becoming the top civilian overseeing the Air Force. The 22 “no” votes all came from Democrats.
At her confirmation hearing in March, Wilson praised the stealth capability of Lockheed Martin Corp’s (LMT.N) F-35 fighter jet, in remarks suggesting the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons system would have an important advocate [Patricia Zengerle, “Senate Confirms Heather Wilson as Trump’s Air Force Secretary,” Reuters, 2017.05.08].
Represent South Dakota wasn’t able to stop the Legislature from repealing Initiated Measure 22, the anti-corruption measure voters passed last November. Thus, they are proposing a constitutional amendment to restore some of what the Legislature took away, strengthen some of what the Legislature passed to “replace” IM22, and, in a reach beyond what IM22 did, protect the initiative and referendum process from Legislative meddling.
Represent SD spokesman Doug Kronaizl of Vermillion says his group filed language for an initiated amendment with the Legislative Research Council this morning. Represent SD has not made that draft available for publication yet, but their press release summarizes the main provisions as follows:
Protect voter-approved laws from legislative meddling. Prohibit the legislature from changing or repealing laws passed by the voters without going back to the voters for their approval.
Ban lobbyist gifts to politicians. Close loopholes created by the legislature that currently allow lobbyists to provide politicians with lavish meals and alcohol.
Ban foreign money in South Dakota elections.
Ban union and corporate contributions to political candidates. Reinstate the longtime ban on contributions from labor unions and corporations to candidates quietly repealed by the legislature in 2017.
Lower campaign contribution limits to ensure that large donors can’t buy South Dakota’s elections.
Create an independent citizen ethics commission. After repealing IM-22’s ethics commission, the legislature offered the people a weak, toothless replacement, and then exempted themselves from its oversight. The amendment replaces it with an accountable, independent citizen ethics commission that has oversight over all three branches of government [Represent South Dakota, press release, 2017.04.06].
Item #5 would place in the Constitution the lower campaign contribution caps that our Legislature completely ignored in its reforms this year (but which Senator Brock Greenfield assures us he wants to take up in 2018—gee, Brock, maybe Represent SD is about to save you some work?).
Finally, Item #6 challenges House Bill 1076, which creates the Government Accountability Board. Represent SD points out a remarkable fact about the GAB that our legislators said would replace the IM22 ethics commission: HB 1076 gives the GAB authority to “review and investigate any person holding a statewide office, as defined in § 12-27-1, and employees of the executive branch.” That scope conveniently leaves legislators outside the reach of their ethics commission.
Hmm… after this Session, do we really believe the Legislature can get by without some external review? Again, do you see what happens when you let legislators write laws to curb their own corruption?
Notice that these points do not mention public campaign finance, a key component of IM 22 that Republicans universally panned and refused to consider in their “replacement” legislation this year. I will wait to see a full draft to confirm that “Democracy Credits” are not part of this show.
In submitting their draft to LRC, Represent SD starts a 15-day review period, by the end of which LRC must provide its comment on the amendment draft. Represent SD may then submit its draft to the Attorney General, who will have another 60 days to review and provide his public explanation. So by June 21, if government takes all time allotted and Represent SD moves with all possible alacrity, we could see petitions on the street for this Amendment. Represent SD will need to gather 27,742 signatures from registered South Dakota voters by November 6 to place this amendment on the 2018 ballot.
I love you—I’ll never do it again, says the abusive husband after giving his wife the back of his hand.
The implication of this headline promise may not be realized this Session. Opposite a whole bunch of replacement bills is Senate Bill 171, a proposal with bipartisan sponsors to create a “Government Accountability Task Force to study government, campaign finance, lobbyist restrictions, and ethics” and propose legislation for the next Session.
In the past, task forces have been used to delay action… in this case, action that a majority of voters demanded be taken yesterday. SB 171 could be a failsafe—if all else fails, we at least get a task force—but it could also signal that even in the face of a popular vote and big protests in Pierre, legislators still haven’t found the political will to take action that could curb their perks and power.
They also haven’t found the will to listen to and empower the voters. The GATF would have thirteen members: four Republican legislators, two Democratic legislators, two picks by the Governor, two by the Secretary of State, two by the Attorney General, and one by the auditor general.
Hmmm… twelve members chosen by the foxes, one chosen by an office more generally concerned with guarding the henhouse.
Shall we talk about peopling a task force on domestic abuse with a majority of wifebeaters?
House Bill 1141 proposes another task force to study revisions to the initiative and referendum process. I wouldn’t mind if that task force delayed every bill proposed this Session revising initiative and referendum, because so far, every bill proposed this Session revising initiative and referendum attacks and weakens the power of the people to propose and vote on legislation directly. Honoring the voters would mean killing every I&R measure except for this task force…
…but watch out: HB 1141 thinks the people on that task force should be the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, two House members picked by the Speaker, two Senate members picked by the Senate Pro-Tem—all Republicans!—and one representative of the Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber?!? Are you kidding me?!? You (you! prime sponsors Lust and Curd!) pick just one non-Capitol critter to sit with six insiders to discuss what’s good for the power of the people, and you pick one special interest lobbyist from a group that has fought numerous initiatives and referenda? Noooooooo way! I’ll spot you the Secretary, the A.G., and one member of each chamber, each of opposite parties, but then you need to place nine regular citizens not holding elected office who have petitioned for ballot measures in the last three election cycles. The I&R task force should have a majority of members whom the I&R process is meant to serve, not a majority of those whom the process rankles.
I might take the HB 1141 I&R task force over passage of any of the anti-I&R bills in the hopper right now, but if the I&R task force is to promote honest reform (if any reform is needed), we’re going to need a different bunch of people on that task force.
Honor voters? How about putting us on your task forces to tell you what we know, instead of packing the task forces with your pals from the top?
Representative Larry Rhoden adds Ethics Lite to the mix of legislative proposals competing to tell South Dakota voters how they should have done ethics reform. House Bill 1089, sponsored exclusively by Republicans, creates no new ethics panel but assigns new investigative and enforcement powers to mostly partisan entities.
Section 1 of HB 1089 authorizes the Secretary of State to impose an addition up-to-$500 fine on folks who violate campaign finance law. (The Koch Brothers, who poured at least $627,000 into campaigning against IM22, would consider $500 shrinkage.)
Section 2 makes clear that any interested person may file a complaint with the Secretary of State alleging campaign finance violations. Upon receiving such a complaint, the SOS shall investigate and may seek civil penalties in court or refer the complaint to the Division of Criminal Investigation.
Section 3 makes clear that any person may file a complaint with DCI about fraud by public officials, bribery of public officials, or violations of the lobbyist gift ban (what? we can’t file such complaints already?).
Section 4 says that if DCI doesn’t find a prosecutable criminal case in a Section 3 complaint, it may (may? not shall?) refer evidence of lesser wrongdoing by executive branch officials to the State Board of Internal Control (which consists mostly of members of the executive branch) and wrongdoing by legislators and legislative employees to the Government Operations and Audit Committee (which consists entirely of legislators).
Unlike the bipartisan-sponsored HB 1076 and IM 22, whose repeal HB 1089 is meant to excuse, Rep. Rhoden’s proposal makes no effort to minimize partisan influence in the entities investigating unethical conduct. Section 4 makes clear that Rep. Rhoden and his co-sponsors maintain that the Legislature can police itself, even though the Wollmann sex scandal strongly suggests the contrary.
Related Legislation: Bob Mercer notes that six Republicans and two Democrats, led by Senator Phil Jensen (R-33/Rapid City), are sponsoring Senate Concurrent Resolution 8, calling on the Attorney General to appoint a special prosecutor “to prosecute, both civilly and criminally, all losses that the South Dakota taxpayers have sustained as a result” of the EB-5 and GEAR UP scandals.
Democratic Representative Karen Soli now adds House Bill 1076, which would create a State Government Accountability Board. Apparently aware that the word “ethics” makes Republican leadership skittish, Representative Soli does not use the word “ethics” anywhere in HB 1076.
HB 1076 would empanel six people to review and investigate the following issues:
Any contract, grant, or loan with any public entity that provides the authority to any other entity to expend public funds;
Documents filed under chapter 3-23 or alleged violations relating to conflicts of interest;
Allegations of a direct or indirect interest in a contract in violation of the constitution or law;
Allegations of malfeasance in office by a constitutional officer, public official, or public employee;
Misappropriation of public funds;
Use of false instruments to obtain public funds;
Theft or embezzlement of public funds;
Use of public money not authorized by law in violation of the constitution [HB 1076, Section 3, filed 2016.01.23].
Item #2 on that list appears to overlap with the jurisdiction of the Board of Internal Control created last year by 2016 SB 162. That list does not appear to include campaign finance violations, which were an integral part of the duties of the IM22 ethics commission and are the sole purview SB 53’s more limited campaign finance ethics commission.
The HB 1076 Government Accountability Board would be able to hold hearings on “any corrupt act” that falls within the above nine criteria, subpoena witnesses, take sworn testimony, and, if a majority conclude violations have occurred, refer violations to the relevant state’s attorney or the Attorney General. The HB 1076 board does not have the teeth given to SB 53’s campaign finance board to impose fines and recommend decertification of candidates and removal from office of elected officials. Nor does HB 1076 have the authority of IM22’s ethics commission to pursue civil action against violators whom the Attorney General declines to prosecute.
HB 1076 would likely have an even split, 3–3, of Republicans and Democrats. The House Speaker, House minority leader, Senate pro-tem, and Senate minority leader each appoint one member; the Governor appoints two not of the same political party. (Yes, yes, the Governor could trick us and appoint his favorite Republican and an “independent.”) SB 53 would give us a six-member board, chaired by the Secretary of State, with four members chosen by the same Legislative leaders as HB 1076 provides and one member chosen by the Board of Elections, with no explicit restriction on party affiliation. IM 22 sought a five-member board appointed by the Governor from lists of nominees provided by Legislative leaders and the presidents of SDSU and USD, with no more than two from the same political party.
HB 1076 attaches the Government Accountability Board to the Attorney General’s office and specifies the Extraordinary Litigation Fund as a source of funding.
One may jump to the conclusion that, since a Democrat is initiating this effort, just like IM22, Republicans are sure to fight it. However, along with her Democratic co-sponsors (Representatives Bartling, Hawley, and Wismer; Senators Frerichs, Heinert, and Sutton), Representative Soli has enlisted Republican Speaker Mickelson, House Majority Leader Qualm, House Assistant Majority Leader Peterson, and Senate Pro-Tem Greenfield to sponsor the bill. Republican Senator Greenfield is even the prime sponsor in the Senate. Hmm… maybe Brock meant what he said last November about reaching beyond partisanship and “respect[ing] the judgment of my fellow South Dakotans.”
If that bipartisan sponsorship signals HB 1076 is the preferred vehicle for discussing the creation of an ethics commission, then I would suggest merging HB 1076 with SB 53, with a sprinkling of IM 22. Write in campaign finance audits and enforcement from SB 53, and consider either IM 22’s odd number or, if Republicans won’t throw an executive branch authority flag, an appointment or two based on recommendations from experts outside of Pierre.
Folks who think that action ended the South Dakota Legislature’s sex scandal should tune in to The Greg Belfrage Show on KELO Radio tomorrow (Wednesday) morning at 8:05 a.m., when Belfrage will interview Senator Stace Nelson about who knew what when.
For the attention of the AG and for the record with House leadership, the following information is provided as written documentation of information already passed to several of you in person which I received from former interns who served in the House in 2015.
Two former interns reported the suspect legislator in fact knowingly gave alcoholic beverages to a known minor in 2015 on at least one occasion. One intern reported that he allegedly engaged in kissing and fondling of an intern, allegedly in front of at least one other, who was so intoxicated the intern opined the young intern may not have been sober enough to consent to the contact. To be clear, interns identified 2 interns he (the legislator) had consensual sexual intercourse with in 2015, another different one he groped while she was extremely intoxicated, and another one that he sexually harassed and outraged when he was caught trying to “get with” multiple pages. The interns indicated he was texting them constantly through out (sic) the day trying to “get with” the female interns.
Several House leadership members confirmed that written complaints were received by House leadership members, last year, allegedly alluding to the sexual contact with interns and pages , (sic) and when the one intern was extremely intoxicated. . . [Senator Stace Nelson, e-mail to Legislative leaders, Attorney General Marty Jackley, and LRC Director Jason Hancock, 2017.01.19; in Todd Epp, “Legislators Likely Knew in 2015 That a Member Was Having Sex with Interns,” KELO.com, 2017.01.24].
Just after Wollmann’s announcement, KSFY News spoke with Former House Speaker, Dean Wink, who had been out of state for the last week. Wink told KSFY News reporter Erika Leigh that he became aware of Wollmann’s relationships with interns back in 2015, after receiving an unsigned letter that appeared to have come from an intern.
Wink says he confronted Wollmann then, but the former legislator denied the allegations. The former House Speaker said he believed him, despite the whispers that resurfaced again near the end of the 2016 session.
“I asked Rep. Wollmann to come to my office and discuss the content of the letter, and [we] agreed that dating interns is completely inappropriate and out of bounds for all the obvious reasons,” Wink explained.
Reporter(s) stated they have been working on this for an extended period of time based off of complaints they received last year which they discussed with leadership (NFI). TV news reporter explicitly told me to relay to a legislator whom she believed made a misstatement of fact in describing the timeframe he became aware of this misconduct, that the suspect legislator of this misconduct “lied” when confronted, and only confessed to (limited aspects) the misconduct when she advised him that she was in possession of a taped interview with a former intern. It is my understanding that interview is extensive, confirms everything contained herein, and much more [Senator Stace Nelson, e-mail to Legislature and A.G. Jackley, 2017.01.20].
Wollmann’s lie, followed by his fatuous observation about his experience in film-making, already cast his confession in a bad light. If the information about the taped intern interview is true, then it appears all the clearer that Wollmann was ready to keep lying, as former Speaker Dean Wink claims Wollmann did when confronted about accusations of sexual misconduct in 2015, until faced with the cold hard fact that someone had finally spoken up to stop him.
Finally, correspondence between Senator Nelson and House Speaker G. Mark Mickelson indicate the nature of the deeper scandal here, the possibility that Republican leaders did not adhere to their own rules in handling Wollmann’s misconduct. Senator Nelson apparently shared accusations about Wollmann’s misconduct with Speaker Mickelson prior to the airing of Wollmann’s confession on KSFY. Speaker Mickelson responded with this letter on Tuesday, January 17, the day before the Wollmann story went public:
Senator Nelson responded by e-mail Wednesday morning, seven hours before KSFY posted the Wollmann story:
I am in receipt of your request which runs directly contrary to the explicit provisions of the Joint Rules of the SD Legislature. I am forwarding you LRC’s official response of how these allegations were supposed to be handled when they were first brought forward to House leadership over the last two years, and how they must be followed now.
It greatly concerns me that you are purposely inserting yourself into a situation in which you have such an obvious conflict of interest which would clearly require you to recuse yourself.
#1 Legislative rules required all legislators aware of this misconduct to report it. Reports from legislators expressly indicate that leadership received timely complaints over the last two years, and did not follow the Joint Rules in handling the complaints that they received. In doing so, they themselves violated the ethical standards and requirements of our legislative rules.
Your request is duly inappropriate in that it violates the due process rights of the accused explicit in the requirements of our Joint Rules; it inappropriately attempts to assume authorities not granted you by statutes or rules and it clearly subverts the authority of your fellow House members who collectively share the responsibility to investigate this reported misconduct under the Joint Rules of the SD Legislature; AND, it violates the due process rights of the victims of this misconduct who deserve(d) to have this misconduct thoroughly and impartially addressed in a timely fashion required under our Joint Rules.
…In closing, I have been told by more than one person that House leadership stated that Nelson made all of this up and brought the rules change as a vendetta to harass the suspect legislator and his fiancé. That comment, in light of the above information, convinces me that this is an extension of the efforts to cover this matter up and protect the legislator your own colleagues have called a “sexual predator” [link added; Senator Stace Nelson, e-mail to Speaker G. Mark Mickelson, 2017.01.18].
House Majority Leader Lee Qualm brought his motion that afternoon to convene a Select Committee on Discipline and Expulsion. Speaker Mickelson named the nine members of the committee the next day.
House Majority Leader Lee Qualm says he called for an investigation of fellow Republican Representative Mathew Wollmann’s sexual misconduct after Wollmann brought the matter to his attention “in recent days“:
House Majority Leader Lee Qualm said on the House floor that Wollmann told him he had consensual sexual contact with an intern in 2015 and 2016.
…Wollmann said he decided to come forward after he was approached Tuesday by a television station and asked about the situation. Qualm said Wollmann discussed the issue with him and in the House Republican caucus.
But leadership may have known about Wollmann’s troubles well before Wollmann’s confession and the media eruption therearound. Senator Stace Nelson has released to the press an e-mail that he sent to the Legislative Research Council on November 25, 2016, inquiring about sexually predatory conduct by a sitting legislator:
#1 Are there still positions open? Was the notice sent out to all our schools?
#2 I am concerned about reports that a sitting legislator has been sexually preying on page/interns. It was my understanding that such misconduct was an explicit violation of legislator ethical Conduct. What has been done to rectify this disgraceful misconduct and what are the liabilities for SD and legislators for these past acts? For future violations?
S. Nelson [released to the press by Senator Stace Nelson, 2017.01.19]
Senator Nelson refers to “reports,” plural, indicating he had heard about sexual misconduct in the Legislature from multiple sources. Yet even with this information circulating about violations of the Joint Rules on ethical conduct and sexual harassment, House leaders seated Representative Wollmann in on January 10.
We may imagine a few logical scenarios:
Neither the rumors nor Senator Nelson’s e-mail to LRC reached Majority Leader Qualm or the rest of leadership, and they really knew nothing of Representative Wollmann’s improper conduct until after seating him.
Qualm and leadership heard about Wollmann’s improper conduct, received his assurances that his predatory days were over, and decided to seat Wollmann without pursuing any formal investigation or action under the rules. (Side note: was Wollmann’s December 22 proposal to his fiancée at the Capitol a shotgun engagement pushed by GOP leadership to prove he was off the market and thus not a threat to 2017’s interns and pages?)
Qualm and leadership ignored the rumors and the rules and took no action to protect young legislative staff from further sexual predations.
This committee must decide the proper punishment for Wollmann, but it has an even more important obligation to determine who knew what when and whether Legislative leadership properly acted on information of improper conduct and enforced its rules to protect young staffers from abuses of power.
Update 07:38 CST: KELO Radio’s Todd Epp says Senator Nelson’s November 25, 2016, e-mail to LRC may signal that the Fulton Senator has the “smoking gun” in this Legislative sex scandal.
They were what I would say is long standing friendships that maybe turned into more. I could pick up the phone today and still call these individuals and have a good conversation and really there’s no question in my mind that I didn’t hurt them. No question in mind that I didn’t hurt them….
There are many that would think, “I don’t care what Mathew Wollman does at the age of 24 and 25 with consenting adults. That he could be sitting in a college class with,” but then there are others, that say, “Rules are rules and legislators are held at a different standard,” and I understand both… [Rep. Mathew Wollmann, in Leland Steva, “SD Lawmaker Talks About Having Sexual Relationships with Interns,” KELO-TV, 2017.01.18].
As neither a lawyer nor a public relations consultant, I say, Good grief, Mat!Pick a lane… and stop talking about yourself in the third person. You don’t have a strong enough hand to play moral arbiter and pretend to speak in the voice of “many” who think young legislators get to boink interns but older ones don’t. You win no chips by playing that hand. You admitted you did wrong; now hush.
Behind closed doors, the caucus voted to approve an amendment to a broader House rules package that would put the office under the House Ethics Committee and significantly restrict its authority. The House will vote Tuesday on the rules package as members open the 115th Congress.
…Other changes would include requiring that any matter potentially involving a violation of criminal law be referred to the Ethics Committee. The OCE also would be barred from considering anonymous complaints, and its jurisdiction would be limited to the last three Congresses [Billy House and Erik Wasson, “House GOP Votes to Strip Ethics Office of Independent Status,” Bloomberg, 2017.01.02].
Under the proposed new rules, the office could not employ a spokesperson, investigate anonymous tips or refer criminal wrongdoing to prosecutors without the express consent of the Ethics Committee, which would gain the power to summarily end any OCE probe [Mike DeBonis and Karoun Demirjian, “House Republicans Vote to Rein in Independent Ethics Office,” Washington Post, 2017.01.02].
In other words, if the OCE sees something, they can’t say something.
In a sign of the Newspeak era we are entering, sponsor Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) says his amendment “strengthens” the OCE/OCCR.
WaPo says the GOP conference vote was 119–74. Rep. Kristi Noem hasn’t returned from her holiday Twitter drift, but she didn’t list gutting the OCE on her pre-Christmas policy agenda, so maybe there’s hope that she was one of the 74 who recognized that Congress only has 14 approval points left and that doing less on ethics won’t keep them. Or, maybe she’s so busy watching the Rose Parade and being “all in” for Governor that she was one of the 48 Republicans who didn’t make the caucus meeting. But we’ll get her on the record on ethics today when the 115th Congress votes on its rules for the session right after its swearing-in… which will be followed swiftly by several swearings-at.