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Jackley Wants to Butt Political Heads; Sutton and Hawley Want to Root out Corruption

Attorney General Marty Jackley
Attorney General Marty Jackley

Attorney General Marty Jackley issued a curious response Monday to Democratic minority leaders Senator Billie Sutton (D-21/Burke) and Rep. Spence Hawley (D-7/Brookings). The minority leaders had issued a response last week to the Attorney General’s curious (or should we say not curious enough?) November 3 press conference in Platte on the killings of the Westerhuis family and immolation of their expensive home.

AG Jackley says he is responding to “the State Senate and House Minority Leaders request for a statement from the Attorney General on the State Gear-up Program.” But I don’t recall Senator Sutton or Rep. Hawley asking for a “statement” on GEAR UP, the now scandal-plagued grant program taken away from the Mid-Central Educational Cooperative for which Scott and Nicole Westerhuis worked. Their November 4 statement notes that AG Jackley had “refused to comment” on the financial investigation into GEAR UP and MCEC. They “encourage the Attorney General to conduct a more thorough investigation into the GEAR UP grant and provide more answers to the public than were provided with EB-5.”

AG Jackley then picks the same karaoke disc that Education Secretary Schopp has been playing:

As part of the legislative oversight, the Office of Legislative Audit conducted an Audit for fiscal year ending June 30th, 2014.  At no time during the process did any individual or entity bring concerns of potential state criminal law violations to the Attorney General [Office of the Attorney General, press release, 2015.11.09].

Really? Somebody has to break the law before state officials do something? And, as with concerns about petition violations, the Attorney General and South Dakota law enforcement in general have to wait for someone else (who? private citizens? bloggers? Magnum P.I.?) to point out suspicious behavior before they say, “Something smells fishy—we’d better take a look”?

Rep. Spence Hawley
Rep. Spence Hawley

Besides, Senator Sutton and Rep. Hawley didn’t mention criminal activity. Their November 4 release speaks of conflicts of interest, self-dealing, accountability, and checks and balances. Is there no such thing as corruption that doesn’t rise to criminality but still ought to alarm the Attorney General right along with the rest of us?

By his own words, the Attorney General makes clear that even he is not focused exclusively, Vulcanly, on statute and criminal behavior. He turns his response into a political argument about who authorized GEAR UP:

…I respect that other governmental bodies have the authority and decision making over spending in legislative programs,” said Jackley.

During the 2007 legislative session, the State Legislature approved significant increases in the State budget for the Gear-Up Program and with the support of both Minority Leaders authorized continued appropriations for the Gear-Up Program (2011- HB1251, Sutton yea, Joint Appropriations Committee; 2012 -HB197, Sutton yea, Joint Appropriations Committee; 2013-HB1185, Hawley yea, Sutton yea; 2014-HB187, Sutton yea; 2015-HB1208, Hawley yea, Sutton yea) [links added; Attorney General, 2015.11.09].

Senator Bille Sutton
Senator Bille Sutton

Sutton, Hawley, and the rest of us aren’t talking about 2007 (although send me MCEC’s offline minutes from 2007 through 2011, and I will). Neither Sutton nor Hawley was in the Legislature of 2007. The Attorney General took the time to dig up a scattering of Sutton’s and Hawley’s votes on later budget bills (what, did someone bring concerns of potential state criminal law violations in the House and Senate chambers to the Attorney General?) The first two are general appropriations bills on which Jackley cites committee votes but ignores the final votes, in which both Sutton and Hawley both voted against those appropriations. He can’t pin Yeas on Sutton and Hawley until he gets to the final appropriations vote in 2013.

Jackley implies that by voting or the general state budget, legislators bear moral culpability for the corruption by an educational cooperative running a federal grant under a contract with the Department of Education. I won’t just ignore that implication; I might embrace it and quote the Attorney General when I go hunting for incumbents next year.

If Attorney General Marty Jackley can read me back the line in the Joint Appropriations testimony or floor debate in any of the years he cites where Sutton, Hawley, or any other legislator says, “I am cognizant of incompetence at Mid-Central, so I’m going to vote to keep sending Mid-Central money and add some technical support” (you know, the way Secretary Schopp did), I will cede the point and shine Marty’s shoes with Billie Sutton’s hat.

The point escaping our Attorney General is that Democratic leaders aren’t trying to score political points (although if Marty wants that game, his party will lose). Senator Sutton (who represents Charles Mix County, where the Westerhuis deaths occurred and where Mid-Central screwed an as-yet untallied number of pooches) and Rep. Hawley asked, quite sensibly, for answers and accountability for corruption.  Even from the political perspective of a guy angling to be Governor, the proper response to concerns about corruption is not, “Nobody told me, and you guys voted for it!” The proper response is, “I agree completely. We will find the devils and string ’em up!”

And we are going to string ’em up, regardless of what party they’re in, right, Marty?


  1. Straight outta ridge 2015-11-11 14:36

    He would say that!!!
    Jackely has kept his name in the news on a weekly basis, thru press releases and press conferences with his eye on the prize and then some!

  2. Roger Cornelius 2015-11-11 15:03

    Does Jackley really want to open the doors of corruption in South Dakota by blaming legislators for appropriation bills? That Mr. Attorney General would be called a Pandora’s Box with far reaching impacts. Okay, let’s go for it, whether it is political or not.

  3. mike from iowa 2015-11-11 16:21

    Jackley’s a political butthead. There,I fixed it for you.

  4. Flipper 2015-11-11 16:30

    That’s straight out of the Bill Janklow school of attacking anyone who criticized him instead of responding to the actual criticism.

  5. Donald Pay 2015-11-11 16:43

    Flipper makes an apt comparison. I think we can now call the AG “Jankley,” just to drive home the point that this kind of blame shifting to escape personal responsibility has a long history in South Dakota.

  6. grudznick 2015-11-11 17:10

    You should not promise to shine anybody’s shoes with Mr. Sutton’s hat unless you are very confident you can get said hat away from him. Mr. Sutton is a cowboy and likely would not give up his hat without a bit of a scuffle. I’m just sayin…

  7. mike from iowa 2015-11-11 17:53

    Long about July of next year we should get word that there was an arrest warrant for various and sundry John/Jane Does for incompetent embezzling of federal funds from various and sundry federal funds under the watchful,but morally accountable various and sundry Democrat’s eyes who voted for the budget last time.some time this fall. Got that?

  8. leslie 2015-11-11 18:30

    kind of like the attack on kathy tyler after EB5?

    wow, jackley. did you read what you wrote?

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-11-11 18:52

    AG tries to parlay law-and-order cred, stand against Indians (well, the pot thing, at least though that pales in comparison to fighting Means, Banks, and AIM), and political attacks into the Governorship. But does Jackley have Janklow’s charisma and extemporaneous speaking skills?

  10. Travis Wicks 2015-11-11 19:05

    Boy, Cory, I’m a little uneasy with throwing around words like “charisma” and “speaking skills” to describe our former governor. That’s like calling an Adam Sandler movie “subtle” and “high brow” comedy. :-D

  11. 96Tears 2015-11-11 20:52

    Jackley is corrupt. He’s also in a box between Gear Up and EB-5. The Gant lawlessness doesn’t help. It’s getting harder and harder to stay in the box and protect the jerks who gave him the job as AG or to create an image worthy of winning the GOP nomination for Governor.

    What Marty doesn’t see is he’s Mike Rounds’ errand boy. He’s Dennis Daugaard’s errand boy. He’s like a weasel whose leg is snared in a trap. Does he stay in the trap? Or does he chew off the leg and leave the trap? And what good is a three-legged weasel going to be in a primary against the grandson of Gov. George T. Mickelson and son of the beloved Gov. George S. Mickelson?

    Jackley. Go back to Rapid City. The sooner, the better. You are in way over your head.

  12. Spike 2015-11-11 21:37

    That is one amazing press release from Jackley. Hell, yes the Democrats voted for it.

    Crazy crazy crazy

    Duncan on Board for 20 years and just couldn’t keep her hands out of the cash register could she.

    Anybody heard from Daugaard?

    Cripes I can’t complain to Thune Rounds or Noem either…

    Geez I would hope Jackley has a “team” on this. N I’m getting paranoid after Johnson “recuses” on EB-5 , Seiler worked for Jackley, etc.

    How long do we have to wait to give Mickelson a try?

    Frankly people, it appals this native that the board and director of Mud-central are complicit in this thievery. The states weak to propose “hiring a person to oversee Gear-up full time” like Schopps lame solution is.

    We all know these people and their consulting jobs within organizations they have ties to are conflicts of interest. But as Schopp N Jackley have stated …no crimes here.. I want to throw up.

    Oh I forgot Obama did it. Case closed.

  13. Rorschach 2015-11-11 22:34

    Fact is, about all that part-time legislators know about what goes on in state agencies (especially Democratic legislators) is the little bit of information those agencies spoon-feed them. In fact it seems like Sutton and Hawley learned about this Gear Up MCEC fiasco from the news and not even from the Department of Education – an Executive Branch (not legislative branch) agency under the control of the Governor.

    So whose job was it to alert AG Jackley to conflicts of interest, self-dealing, missing money, etc. in a program operating on massive amounts of federal money and run by the Department of Education? That question answers itself.

    Melody Schopp has admitted she knew of accounting irregularities for 3 years. Did she alert AG Jackley? I haven’t heard Jackley criticize Melody Schopp for withholding information she actually had about wrongdoing within a program run by her own department. The only people he can find to criticize are legislators who want a real investigation instead of another coverup.

    Melody Schopp has also admitted that she failed to notice conflicts of interest and self-dealing within the GearUp program and MCEC. That’s malfeasance or nonfeasance in office. It appears that the same can be said for the AG’s Office. Thank you Sen. Sutton and Rep. Hawley, and thank you federal government, and thank you slow-to-awaken SD press, for calling attention to the systematic malfeasance and nonfeasance in SD’s entrenched one-party government.

  14. daleb 2015-11-11 22:42

    State higher ups read these blogs and browse social media. The legislators he quotes were just kinda pawns, he was responding to the blogosphere and political malcontents in general. Im not sure if its a good thing that state higher ups are responding ad hominem to the blogoshpere and malcontents. I do know what the correct response to the attacks is… ratchet up the criticism. Its not really criticism though. Our state is messed up and if the higher ups think that suspicious hunting accidents and suspicious murder suicides that strangely tie up multi-million dollar scandals fixes anything they need to step down so people that can fix this state can be put into positions that can do something about it. At the end of the day these bizarre events happened under Daugaard and Jackley and republican majority rule, they cant claim they are not responsible, they are the ones in charge. The problem with all this is with how the reform will come about. South Dakota does not want the corrupt people in charge deciding what the new anti-corruption laws will be. Which is exactly what is going to happen.

  15. Rorschach 2015-11-11 22:43

    Once again, if there weren’t dead bodies nobody would have ever found out about problems with GearUp/MCEC. The canceled Gear Up contract would have been given to somebody else or even to MCEC again. There never would have been a press release. The Department of Education would not even spoon-feed any information to Sutton and Hawley. It would have been business as usual, nothing to see here – move along.

    What we need is an independent Office of Inspector General with subpoena powers.

  16. larry kurtz 2015-11-12 05:56

    Creating an independent commission to oversee ethics or elections or campaign finance is no guarantee of an improvement in the integrity of the process. The national Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity report found that in most states, the bodies that oversee ethics don’t have enough money to be effective.So there are no silver bullets. Oversight and enforcement take commitment, political will and hard work.

  17. Rich 2015-11-12 06:35

    This type of press release from smarmy Marty isn’t surprising. He’s working hard to get in that governor’s chair and live in the govs mansion.

  18. larry kurtz 2015-11-12 06:46

    Jackley is a partisan first and a public servant second: anyone who is surprised by his actions is an idiot.

  19. mike from iowa 2015-11-12 07:27

    Never underestimate wingnut voters. Jackley’s image may be just what voters are looking for because he has that registered trademark letter behind his name.

  20. Eve Fisher 2015-11-12 08:53

    A few years ago, I e-mailed Mr. Jackley about the crap (you remember that Cory!), and he wrote me back “let his office know when I find evidence of a crime.” So yeah, it’s up to us to find the crime, prove it, and let the AG know. Then they MIGHT do something. Or they might not.

  21. mike from iowa 2015-11-12 11:54

    We skipped the law fandango
    As dead bodies hit the floor
    We are running out of largesse
    Where we hoped to steal some more
    But dead bodies do no talking
    Oh what stories they could tell
    If only there was a paper trail
    Where’s the safe,no one can tell

    And so it was that latter
    The AG said it’s up to him
    We place blame on the dead guys
    and we also blame the Dems

    It don’t require reason
    When the evidence is gone
    And those in higher places
    Want to hastily move on
    And all those other scandals
    Lack evidence of crime
    But if you really want to
    Call the AG and waste a dime

    And so it was that later
    When the body count hit seven
    Will murdered children matter?
    Will they find their way to heaven?

  22. Rorschach 2015-11-12 12:47

    Well done, Mike!

  23. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-11-12 14:31

    Travis, I know there are perhaps other words that fit Janklow better, but he had Jackley beat in those categories.

  24. mike from iowa 2015-11-12 14:32

    Thanks,Rorschach. :) I owe a deep debt of gratitude to Keith Reid of Procol Harum for wrecking an outstanding classic rock tune.

  25. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-11-12 14:35

    Hang on, Dale: If Rick and Don’s Anti-Corruption Act makes the ballot, then we the voters get to decide what the anti-corruption laws will be. If we vote for the Farmers Union redistricting plan, the we the voters get a better shot at deciding who our legislators will be to draw subsequent reforms. And if we vote for all new legislators in 2016, then we put those legislators under the onus of knowing that we really will vote their keesters right back out of office if they don’t get serious about corruption.

  26. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-11-12 14:38

    Eve—arrgghh! We obviously need more detectives around here.

    Our elected leaders need a bit more blog sense. I don’t sit around waiting to write articles exclusively about criminal behavior. I spotlight all sorts of folks who have followed the law to the letter but have done wrong by the public.

    Isn’t there some kind of professional code of ethics that MCEC officials had to take, just like the teachers’ professional code of ethics to which I am bound in the classroom, that essential allows any unprofessional conduct to be used as grounds for legal action against the unprofessional conductor?

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