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Gant Moved State Documents to Private Server, Hid Millions of Filings from Public

Ah, so maybe that’s why Pat’s server was so slow….

Evidently eager to track down more information about all those corporations Scott Westerhuis created to shuffle federal education grant money to his friends, Angela Kennecke ran into the same wall Bob Mercer and I have: corporate filings are now available only back to 2012. On September 23, Mercer said former Secretary of State Jason Gant yanked those documents in 2014 in what smelled like part of the EB-5 coverup:

Gant’s change of the system came in the wake of the EB-5 scandal. A coincidence, perhaps, but easy Internet access to those business records was important. Now that easy access to the histories of those companies — and all companies beyond a few years — is gone. Evidently that is what was wanted [Bob Mercer, “A Public Record Vacuum w/update,” Pure Pierre Politics, 2015.09.23].

Mercer reported that Gant removed the documents in response to Gant’s own failure to keep those documents secure and then ignored orders to fix the problem:

Secretary of State Shantel Krebs said Thursday morning she has two people working part-time on restoring access to the records. She said the records were hacked in 2012 and Gant didn’t heed directives from the state Bureau of Information and Telecommunications and from the office of state Attorney General Marty Jackley to repair the situation [Mercer, 2015.09.23].

Hey, wait a minute: who was the tech guru Jason Gant initially hired to be his director of operations in charge of administrative services like the website?

Now reinvigorated investigative reporter gets Secretary of State Shantel Krebs and Gant on the record detailing just how big and how irresponsible Gant’s document removal was:

“I want to clarify that the corporations system or website was on an outside server.  And it was not on the state’s information and technology–state sanctioned and state secured–server,” Krebs said.

Something Krebs says was set up by her predecessor Jason Gant.

“We used state servers; we used outside servers,” Gant said [Angela Kennecke, “Missing Documents on Secretary of State Website,” KELO TV, 2015.10.06].

Wherever those documents were sitting, they were still accessible until Gant realized (in his fourth year in office) that the documents he’d shunted off to outside servers contained sensitive information. His solution wasn’t to get them back on a secure state server; it was to erase them. Millions of them:

Gant says that he didn’t take documents off of the public database until 2014, when he discovered that many contained corporate tax ID numbers or even Social Security numbers.

“My memory was around 2 to 3 million documents we had taken down–that’s how many corporate documents there are in the system and the reason was corporate identity theft. We wanted to make sure we were going to protect the businesses,” Gant said [Kennecke, 2015.10.06].

Hillary Clinton has caught holy heck over the past several months for using a private server while Secretary of State for her e-mails, which may have included some sensitive materials. South Dakota’s Secretary of State Jason Gant used something other than the official state server to store millions of documents containing information that he admits was sensitive enough to warrant deleting the whole batch.

If Gant’s old director of operations can cheer the attention Joel Arends got for joining the attack on Hillary Clinton for using private servers for official business, shouldn’t the local Republican war machine be calling for heads on pikes over the failure of Gant and his staff to (1) prevent the 2012 hack, (2) restrict sensitive information to a state server, (3) follow directives from the Attorney General and the state tech chief to fix the problem, and (4) come up with a better than just hitting delete on millions of public records?

These weren’t just emails of a former employee that Gant destroyed; these were public documents. Gant destroyed not only those documents but the value of thousands of past employee-hours and the vast utility for citizens statewide able to review all of those documents without taking state employees away from other tasks. Gant’s lazy decision also imposed new costs on taxpayers for document scanning and retrieval on taxpayers.

Gant had many important jobs as Secretary of State. He appears to have failed in all of them.

Just because Gant and Powers did not do anything illegal doesn’t mean they didn’t do something stupid – they did.

editorial, Pierre Capital Journal, 2012.07.19


  1. moses 2015-10-06

    Ever wonder why he was one termer .Is he in pierre or farming in Geddes or Bovee , lake andes area.

  2. Disgusted Dakotan 2015-10-06

    Smelly situation! Kudos to you and Angela for cracking the seal on this septic tank.

    Messieurs Gant & Powers have some splaining to do..

    I’m sure Marty Jackley (Whom Powers seems to have on speed dial must answer status) will get to the bottom of this as quickly as he cleared Powers of private campaign operations out of the SOS office.

  3. Disgusted Dakotan 2015-10-06

    Lets hope Gant & Powers stays away from Charles Mix County.. Just in case somebodys are worried the EB5 files might not have been destroyed..

  4. Jana 2015-10-06

    Are we really sure that PP and Gant didn’t do anything illegal by destroying these public records?

    Has the AG investigated this?

    Who was the Governor at the time who oversaw this rape of public records?

    Oh, never mind.

  5. leslie 2015-10-06

    cool, another rounds/daugaard era scandal: but no deaths; pretty blonde sos steps in it-says “he did it”; wonder kid gant director of dakota care insurance at 23 fresh out of polysci usd bachelor’s degree takes down 2-3 million docs as insurance agent/millionaire rounds’ sos (am guessing); pretty boy hires pat powers to fix faux “hack” on corp sos public records (why am i blocked when i have never posted to pp’s site?)

    this should be great. thx for you and mercer’s reporting. oh, and thx alot cory. post regularly on your blog about liberal governing so the town bully beats me up.

    crazy lil’ state

  6. larry kurtz 2015-10-06

    Krebs turning on the party is very curious. RINO or self-preservation?

  7. leslie 2015-10-06

    perhaps integrity-wouldn’t that be a “thing”, earning a state salary?

  8. larry kurtz 2015-10-06

    If Krebs had any any integrity she wouldn’t have ratted out Kristi Noem for being infidelitous.

  9. larry kurtz 2015-10-06

    Krebs craves power only or she would have had children.

  10. Jana 2015-10-06

    Just as an aside…do any of our regental universities teach a course on government ethics? Has an elected GOP official ever lectured at one of those classes? If they did, can the students sue to get a wasted hour of their life back…or at least a refund on their tuition.

    Rounds, Daugaard…this crap is all on your shoulders. Put your big boy pants on and have a political appointee take responsibility. ;^)

  11. Jana 2015-10-06

    File this one under WTF This is Hysterical.

    Public records destroyer and bottom feeder off the public teat, Pat Powers, is ripping on a ballot petition to fight ethics reform. Because reading is stoopid.

    PP, you read this blog. Tell us how what you did was ethical. Tell us how the rampant corruption under GOP rule that causes people to kill themselves and innocents is something we should just say “Stuff Happens” (ht: Jeb Bush)

    Man up PP…tell us the story of why the GOP has earned our collective trust when you have had such a role in not just hiding corruption, but promoting it as a virtue!

  12. Bob Newland 2015-10-06

    Maybe, just maybe, Krebs wants to do the right thing.

  13. Jana 2015-10-06

    So Shantel has hired two part time staff to get to the bottom of this.

    So is this another case of proving that the GOP is for growing government or that they really don’t believe that government shouldn’t create jobs?

    Wait a minute…I’m confused.

  14. leslie 2015-10-06

    have some state websites been down since platte “went down”, did someone say??

  15. Jana 2015-10-06

    Remember when PP wiped his blog clean to hide self incriminating comments of himself and his friends?

    Was that a practice run for public records?

    I bet Bill Clay knows!

  16. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-10-06

    I hope you’re right Bob. In the meantime, I’m going to buy nose plugs because this is another Koch/Republican corruption scandal that reeks.

  17. leslie 2015-10-06

    wow deb, think gant is a Koch boy??

  18. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-10-06

    No doubt Leslie. No doubt.

  19. Jana 2015-10-06

    Looks like Gant Pee Peed all over the people of South Dakota!

  20. leslie 2015-10-06

    i like how a state department head always has to have an extremely competent assistant with institutional memory who does all the WORK, so the top dog can go use up his/her travel stipend. then they hire two part-timers to do the REAL work to “fix” gant’s little boy conniption fit protecting the grand corporate resident’s of the state’s precious public data. the party of job creators (sniff). just musing

    how many times do tax payers in a republican state get to pay for a job to be done well and correctly?

    remember when SD used social security numbers on driver’s liscenses, or some big institutions did anyway?

  21. Oldhag 2015-10-06

    Here’s how this all happens, 1998 $$M SBIR funds go to an organization that is not licensed to do business in SD, that creates to create a program called MataHari….creative, don’t ya think.
    Isn’t it exciting to know that the term “dark web” was coined in SD!

    Who hacked what? Right! We can’t handle the truth!

  22. 96Tears 2015-10-06

    Um, why bother. Jackley … Jackley … sh-t dog can’t hunt.

  23. Roger Cornelius 2015-10-06

    When did Krebs learn of this server problem and why are we just now hearing about it?

    Is it safe to assume that Gant and Powers still have access to all this missing information?

    I can’t wait for a Marty Jackley press conference announcing a full investigation into the Gant/Powers illegal activities.

  24. Jana 2015-10-06

    EB-5, the Platte family massacre, destroyed public records.

    Lee? Troy? Can you tell us again why we should trust the GOP to run this state unfettered by oversight?

    Dumb question…I forgot about the money part.

  25. Jana 2015-10-06

    If reporter(s) wouldn’t have brought it to light, there is no way that Shantel would have disclosed what happened under the Governor and his SOS.

    She isn’t unintelligent

    I’m sure that Roger’s question is making more than Shantel nervous.

  26. leslie 2015-10-06

    oldhag-am likely slower but is SF glenn doing data security work for SDEB5 NSU’s Nat’l Center for FINANCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE SECURITY

  27. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-10-06

    Larry, I’m not convinced this situation can be read as Krebs turning on the party. She turned on Gant in August 2013 when she announced her candidacy for the job and scared Gant out of running for re-election. The party backed her. Gant appears to be out of the party; roasting Gant may not strike the SDGOP as an attack on the SDGOP.

    But yeah… EB-5 files, Benda’s e-mails, Westerhuis’s financial records, online corporate filings… we sure do misplace a lot of documents around this state. How do we fix that? Which party whose name does not start with R do we vote for to restore some integrity to our public records?

  28. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-10-06

    Bob Newland, that Shantel Krebs may just be trying to do the right thing is not impossible.

  29. grudznick 2015-10-06

    Bob, it is possible that there are medical issues that are none of your or my business. We can talk at breakfast this weekend. I will explain. As to Mr. PP and his techopowers that seem to have sunk Mr. Gant I might suggest that perhaps there are things that young Ms. Angela hasn’t uncovered yet that will show Mr. PP is the best open sunshine fellow you have yet seen. Perhaps that’s even why Mr. Gant chased him off. I’m just sayin…

  30. Jana 2015-10-07

    Oh Grud…Please continue…

  31. Bob Newland 2015-10-07

    Yes, grud, please continue. Off the planet. Someday I will figure out who you are, and you will wish you had.

  32. Rorschach 2015-10-07

    Gant moved state records off of a secure state server and onto an unsecure private server. There was no law preventing him from doing that, but why did he do that? Probably one of his friends ran the private server and wanted to make money. Maybe Gant or Powers got a kickback. The press should investigate this.

    After moving the documents onto a private server, the server got hacked. It was unclear whether there were social security numbers or other sensitive information in the documents that got hacked, so Gant pulled them. Why didn’t he ever tell the public about the hack? Probably because questions would have been raised about why the documents were on a private server to begin with.

  33. Rorschach 2015-10-07

    Another reason the public never heard anything about this till now: Republicans control state government, and they circled the wagons to protect the party. If there had been Democrats in position to know any of this back when it happened it would have become public back then. One party government does not make for good government. Credit Shantel Krebs, but really the only reason we’re learning about this now is because the party is no longer protecting Jason Gant from his screwups.

  34. Jenny 2015-10-07

    The total arrogance of of Gant and his sidekick Powers. How on earth did someone like Gant get elected in the first place? Just another fat white boy republican. This is mean, but he looks like Cris Farley from SNL. I know I shouldn’t bully but this Farley lookalike asked for it, to have taken the integrity out of the SOS position.

    Gant must know some people in high places to have gotten gotten hired as executive of the SD American Medical Association, and at 23 hired for director of Dakota Care. I assume he would have been just out of college and no experience at all. A person is usually hired with years of experience for an important job like that.

  35. Nick Nemec 2015-10-07

    Krebs has been in office how long? 9 months? At any rate long enough to hire two employees to reenter years worth of data into the State’s computer system. Why wasn’t this situation made known to the public when Krebs discovered it, so that the owners of the potentially stolen data could be on the lookout for fraud? Was she covering up for Gant or whoever was responsible? What bozo in State government made the decision to include SSNs and corporate ID numbers on the forms to be filed? For what reason?

  36. South DaCola 2015-10-07

    There are still lot’s O’ people in the SOS office that have allegiances to Whopper and Whopper Jr.

  37. Nick Nemec 2015-10-07

    Jenny, in South Dakota if you have connections to the Republican establishment you can get a lot of doors opened for you, and at a very young age. The most qualified person doesn’t always get chosen for a job.

  38. Douglas Wiken 2015-10-07

    And the GOP Congress retrogrades are still frothing at the mouth about Hillary Clinton’s computer. Where are Rounds, Noem, Thune on willful destruction of records these days when it is in their own backyard or back pocket?

  39. Roger Cornelius 2015-10-07

    Ordinarily I wouldn’t suggest anyone ever do this, but I suggest you read Powers at the Dump Site for his take on this.
    Obviously Powers does believe denial is a river

  40. mike from iowa 2015-10-07

    And the heck of it all,wingnuts could claim it was all political and wouldn’t have to walk that back,because no one can do anything about the corruption.

  41. mike from iowa 2015-10-07

    With all the factory farms around here in iowa the smell doesn’t cover the stench of South Dakota pols and politics.YIKES!!

  42. Brandon Johnson 2015-10-07

    South DaCola, who are the people in the SOS office still that have allegiances to Jason Gant and Pat Powers (actual names versus insults)?

  43. Daniel Buresh 2015-10-07

    First, Gant has shown he is a moron. Second, a hack doesn’t mean anything was taken or seen. DDOS attacks are considered hacks and they are simply about overwhelming a server to make it inaccessible to anyone. Third, private servers are dumb unless they are for your own use. Do we know if these private servers were cloud resources or other secure entities or just a personal server? Fourth, it doesn’t appear anything was destroyed, only removed from the online system, unless you are talking about Gant’s ability to do anything correctly.

  44. Disgusted Dakotan 2015-10-07

    What job did Jason Gant fall into after being a faithful establishment soldier?

    The one that came out smelling like a rose and parachuted into establishment $$$$? Pat Powers. After running his campaign services out of the SOS, and after Marty Jackley apparently covered his butt? Powers lands a paying gig acting as the establishment attack RINO.

    Destruction of public records (EB5, etc) how else did it not incite a criminal investigation?

  45. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-10-07

    Powers replies thus, and while I share Roger’s trepidation, we should read his sorta-kinda rebuttal:

    Basically Pat tells us the 2012 incident was not a “hack” and did not involve moving public documents to a non-state “server.” But both Mercer and Kennecke use the word “hack” as if it’s coming straight from current SOS Krebs. And in the KELO story, Krebs herself says, “I want to clarify that the corporations system or website was on an outside server. And it was not on the state’s information and technology–state sanctioned and state secured–server.” Pat isn’t just rebutting the press—he’s calling Krebs confused.

    As for the 2014 document deletion, Pat says he knows nothing… meaning he refutes none of what Kennecke and Mercer have reported about Gant’s malfeasance and failure to carry out directives from the Attorney General and BIT. Oh my.

  46. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-10-07

    Brandon’s question is highly appropriate, and similar to my response to Larry. I am of the impression that the SOS office underwent a pretty serious overhaul… or perhaps a retrohaul, back to the competence of the pre-Gant regime. If any staff in that office were still Gant partisans, wouldn’t Secretary Krebs have purged them by now? Wouldn’t her levering Gant out of the office have made clear that anyone putting Gant first should get out of the way? Wouldn’t her public statements now, hanging this massive error very squarely on Gant, force any Gant partisans in Pierre to be even quieter?

    Gant partisans are like the ether: it’s darned hard to prove they exist in Pierre, and it’s darned hard to demonstrate what measurable, practical impact they can have.

  47. lorahubbel 2015-10-08

    You are too nice by calling Gant a moron and garnering pity for him…it was planned. Call him a lying sack of crap…not handicapped. Im betting it was a willful dumping of files and the
    “oops” was either planned or magnified…can’t let a good manufactured crisis go to waste you know

  48. Daniel Buresh 2015-10-08

    Do you have proof of that Lora? Or are you just talking out your ass to score political points?

  49. leslie 2015-10-08

    tough guy daniel.

    in the meantime, other GOP moron of the moment Kevin Mccarthy down and OUT. Remember that obstruction dinner 1.20.09? So who else from that dinner want to be speaker: Paul Ryan, and Newt Gingrich. huffpost (today)

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