Daugaard Evades Corruption Questions with Republican Propaganda

Governor Dennis Daugaard stares unblinkingly at corruption. Screen cap, KELO-TV, 2015.11.12.
Governor Dennis Daugaard stares unblinkingly at corruption. Screen cap, KELO-TV, 2015.11.12.

Angela Kennecke did not spotlight the most significant text from her 33-minute interview with Governor Dennis Daugaard and Secretary of Education Melody Schopp this week. Right out of the gate, Governor Daugaard evaded Kennecke’s opening question, about whether the GEAR UP, GOED, and Gant scandals and our new third-worst ranking for preventing corruption are products of one-party rule and what he will do to regain his constituents’ confidence. Yes, the question was unwieldly, but even the best reporter can’t fit everything that’s going wrong in South Dakota government right now into one neat five-second pitch.

Governor Daugaard dodged thus:

I don’t think it’s the result of a one-party rule, nor do I give much credence to that report. I think if you look at that report, virtually all but a handful of the states in the nation were given a D or an F. It’s really a measure not of how much corruption exists within a state. It’s a measure of how many laws and regulations exist within a state [Governor Dennis Daugaard, video interview with Angela Kennecke, “The Dust Up over GEAR UP,” KELO-TV, 2015.11.12, timestamp 00:50].

Note the attempt to turn fair reporting about the low grade South Dakota gets on fighting corruption into an opportunity for ideological slogan reinforcement. Kennecke ably described the Center for Public Integrity’s analysis as a rating of the strength of institutions for fighting corruption. Governor Dennis Daugaard tries to make South Dakotans think that guarding against corruption with accountability, access to information, and oversight is just more “laws and regulations.”

Translation: Fighting corruption is a liberal plot to grow government.

The Governor resorts to a similar slogan-dig to Kennecke’s question about why we have so many scandals happening all at once. He contests the premise, saying there aren’t lots of bad things happening all at once; it’s just investigations dragging on, because…

…when government is involved, particularly the federal  government is involved, things proceed pretty slowly [Daugaard, in Kennecke, 2015.11.12, timestamp 02:52].

Translation: Keep voting Republican, because the federal government is slow and shouldn’t spend so much time investigating our corruption.

The Governor also tries to deflect assignation of blame for corruption in Pierre by portraying the corruption investigations and scorecards as attacks on the good people of South Dakota:

I think in all walks of life, in all occupations of life, you’re going to have situations where someone has been susceptible to greed or to their own self-interest. I think that’s very much the exception in South Dakota business and south dakota politics. I think the rule in South Dakota that I’ve seen, public employees are the vast majority of them hard-working, honest, intelligent, and doing the best they can for compensation that’s generally below what their peers in the private sector are being paid. So I think to paint South Dakota as somehow corrupt is a mispainting of our state [Daugaard, in Kennecke, 2015.11.12, timestamp 01:29].

Translation: [Cue Mom, Legion baseball, and apple kuchen]—anyone saying there’s corruption in state government is really attacking you, the exceptionally good and moral people of South Dakota! How dare they!

Governor Daugaard just can’t call corruption in Pierre and efforts to fight it what they are. He can’t take responsibility for losing public confidence in their government. He can only take Republican cheap shots, with appeals to parochialism and tired, distracting slogans.

Reaching for one more Republican moldy-oldy, Daugaard resorts to this gratuitous and ill-phrased dig at his old college chums in Chicago:

I think it’s interesting that South Dakota got a grade that was lower than Illinois and two out of the last three governors of Illinois are in prison today. So I really give no credence to that report at all [Daugaard, in Kennecke, 2015.11.12, timestamp 01:15].

Yes, Governor Daugaard, it’s very interesting that a state with more laws and regulations puts corrupt governors behind bars, while a state with fewer laws and regulations puts them in Congress.

Related Reading: The spin offensive (or should I say offensive spin?) is on. Talking with Seth Tupper, Governor Daugaard says it’s “laughable to say that these events arose out of a consequence of one party having a larger representation in the political arena than the other…. I don’t know how one could lead from one to the other.”

Shall we educate the Governor?

In Chicago, corruption persisted, to some degree because the city never had the benefit of a reformist mayor like New York City’s Fiorello LaGuardia, who had political ties to FDR. Instead, Chicago moved towards a one-party system that made it even more vulnerable to corruption: The city’s last Republican mayor left office in 1931. Today, not even the Democratic primaries are competitive—for the most part, once you’re in office, you stay there. The weak campaign finance laws in Illinois probably helped to stave off competition in recent years [Daniel Engber, “Why Is Chicago So Corrupt?Slate, 2006.09.08].


Senator Scott Brown said yesterday that the federal corruption trial of former House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi highlights the dangers of one-party dominance in Massachusetts and a go-along-to-get-along political culture.

Injecting politics into a normally celebratory moment, Brown said in remarks delivered at the Lasell College commencement ceremony: “I don’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican — just as one political party can’t be right 100 percent of the time, it shouldn’t have 100 percent of the power. Unchallenged power grows arrogant over time. It is what has given us one case of graft after another” [Glen Johnson, “One-Party Dominance Can Lead to Corruption,” Boston Globe, 2011.05.16].

See also Brezhnev, Putin, Chavez, Saddam Hussein, and China. We’re not laughing, Dennis.

45 Responses to Daugaard Evades Corruption Questions with Republican Propaganda

  1. The state penitentiary is filled with crooks who wouldn’t be there if not for “laws and regulations,” Gov. Daugaard. You sir are the dumbest person to ever serve as Governor in South Dakota.

  2. larry kurtz

    Don’t expect Marty to do anything. Daugaard has executive immunity from state law so the feds would have to prosecute him for violations of federal law.

  3. mike from iowa

    Federal Gubmint-Scotus-run by activist RWNJ
    Congress-run by activist RWNJ
    Senate-run by activist RWNJ
    Yup,it is all Obama’s fault.

    Pretty sure Dakota’s wingnut agenda for the next session includes adding laws that make charging wingnuts with any crime illegal. Wisconsin is working on that.

  4. Paul Seamans

    Gov. Daugaard says, “two out of three of Illinois’ last governors are in prison”. South Dakota may beat that with two out of the last two governors in prison”.

  5. mike from iowa

    Ceasar Martyllius- Jackoffsky ejaculated upon entering the corrupt kingdom- “Vini,Vidi,Unde Nec Reputavimus”

  6. 90 Schilling

    Yes, Paul. Our last two governors are not put of the woods yet. Dusty Johnson pulling stakes and running from the mess is telling.

  7. If he had been given a chance to deal with this corruption two years before it started to explode and rejected that chance to be the savior and instead chose to bury his head in the sand by ignoring the overtures and hoping it would never blow up, then he should be allowed to [figuratively] “swing from the yardarms” like the rest of the pirates…

  8. Donald Pay

    Aren’t these measure really necessary for adequate accountability for our political class, nor matter what party they belong to?

    Look, corruption is nonpartisan, but when one party has complete power, accountability tends to be overlooked or hampered, and the crooks naturally tend to concentrate their corrupting activities with the help of the party in power. It only makes sense from the crooks’ points of view.

    There’s nothing inherently evil about Republicans or Democrats. It’s the fact that once they become a powerful ruling elite they see efforts to root out corruption as a political “gotcha,” rather than a necessary part of government. They tend to be paid quite well to ignore or look to closely. They tend to give people a pass, or extra time to get things right. They tend to let things slide. Because they do this, they get campaign donations. They tend to morph into the evil they weren’t before they got so much power.

    In Wisconsin, we’ve seen how one-party Republican control here (Governor, Legislative and Judicial) has vastly increased the criminality of the political class recently, but it was still a problem before one party rule. Both Democrat and Republican leaders here were corrupt. Instead of rat each other out, they collude to both get rich campaign donations as they finagled deals on the budget and other legislation. Eventually, some honest district attorneys investigated, and the press woke up, and some powerful politicians were sent to prison.

    There was a 5 year period were things were relatively clean, because (1) the crooked politicians faced justice, and (2) laws and regulations were passed to increase the accountability of the political class.

    What’s happening recently with one-party Republican rule? Most of those accountability measures, and the agency which was tasked to enforce them, were repealed and replaced with the same measures that were in place before. Further, political corruption now cannot be regulated under our “John Doe” laws. Republicans carved out a special exemption to criminal investigation that applies only to themselves. Unless they murder someone, they can skate for campaign finance and ethics violations.

    Why was this done? Hey, everyone here knows how corrupt the system has become under one party Republican rule. Scott Walker is a crook, and a lot of the Republican Party, dominated as it is by the billionaire class, has become a criminal syndicate here. Hey, it’s not quite that bad in South Dakota, but it’s getting there.

  9. owen reitzel

    We can talk until the cows come home. Nothing is going to change until the people of South Dakota wake up.
    We’re never going to change the hard-core Republicans but we have to talk to our friends that are more moderate or who just don’t pay attention like we do.
    We have to ask them if all of these scandals happening now are coincidences or is there more to them?

  10. Donald, you are telling us obvious truths: power corrupts, we need accountability. Such truths are now so obvious to South Dakotans and so damning to the South Dakota Republican Party that Governor Dennis Daugaard has to resort to nakedly denying them: Power doesn’t corrupt! Accountability is big government! The media are accusing your Uncle Ole of corruption, not me! We can’t even have an intelligent conversation with a Governor who says things like this. We can only fire him… or at least cut him off at the knees by electing a majority of Democrats to one house of the Legislature in 2016. Which will be easier: electing 24 more Dems in the House or 10 more Dems in the Senate?

  11. mike from iowa

    Donald Pay,it has only taken Fitzwalkerstan five piddlin’ years to nearly match Dakota’s 2 generations of graft. Kansas and Chokelahoma are headed that way. Alaska had it’s Corrupt Bastards Club and then tried it all again under Exxon Parnell. Alaska’s last guv was a former attorney who helped get the Exxon Valdez judgment overturned and reduced to a pittance-which still hasn’t been paid after nearly 30 years.

    Both parties may have corrupt members,but it seems like wingnuts take the prize for the depths of their depravities.

  12. mike from iowa

    Ken Starr wasn’t interested in getting the truth about Whitewater or any so called Clinton scandal. He was after Clinton’s hide and was willing to push legal ethics trying to get him. He failed-miserably.

  13. One now wonders if the reason for the institutionally enshrined fetish of the shotgun-cult in Pierre, the Governor’s Hunt, is simply to provide the training and practice to the administration’s flock, to know how to properly commit suicide once they are publicly caught redistributing the funds that trickle down from the federal government programs they were tasked to distribute. One wonders if the tallest of Pierrians would be frightened by the thought of an appointee or employee who has no idea how to operate a gun at all.

  14. South Dakota’s best grade was B- in the report card from the Center for Public Integrity. It was for “Internal Auditing,” which is hilarious considering the GOAC’s white wash of the EB-5 racketeering scam this year. Daugaard is technically correct in saying the report doesn’t declare the state is corrupt or that one-party rule has been corrupt. It measures the many functions of the institution of state government in comparison with others, function by function.

    All of this comparison means nothing when a state, like Republican-ruled South Dakota, refuses to respond to criminal or incompetent or unethical behavior. South Dakota has the 17th best internal auditing capability. But when your Attorney General protects corruption from prosecution and when your news media won’t dig up the truth and editorialize against corrupt office holders, the people are screwed.

    Owen is right. People in this state need to remove the power from the crooks in Pierre. The fact Mike Rounds is in the U.S. Senate after all we learned about his racketeering scam is the fault of the people of South Dakota.

  15. Well, first of all, I would suggest Illinois having more former governors in prison than South Dakota is just further proof that they have better oversight than us.

    But lets get back to the interview. When the police detain suspects they always separate them for questioning to see if they can tell the same story of facts or to find the truth through a process of elimination. What does it say when two politicos who head a program under scrutiny only want to be interviewed together?

  16. mikeyc, that's me!

    I love the “deer in the headlights” photo.

  17. Daugaard in the interview reminded me of a college student who had just been handed a test to take which he had stayed up all night before cramming for…. with no clue of the subject matter to be tested on prior to his all night cramming…. (Not that I can relate to this or anything… ;-) )

  18. happy camper

    When I see pics like that makes me so glad I’m an anonymous nobody. Who would want to enter Gotcha Politics???

  19. Roger Cornelius

    This governor and his advisors are so politically naïve it is pathetic.

    What a true leader would have done if he had no culpability in a scandal or misappropriations of funds. would have immediately owned the mess, fired those involved, and called for an investigation and prosecution of the culprits.
    The governor choose not take the correct political action, instead he has been covering up since the EB-5 exposure and that now includes the SoS’s office and his Department of Education.
    Why he has chosen to protect those that have served him so poorly indicates that he has more of an active role in the cover up of these scandals.
    This governor has had opportunity after opportunity to rid his administration of “bad apples” and has refused to do so, instead telling them, “good job Brownie”.
    Political leaders caught up in scandals have an easy choice, they can chop off the head of the snake, or they can make sure the head stays attached.

    Governor Daugaard is no leader.

  20. happy camper

    In case you haven’t noticed South Dakota is not the most sophisticated state. Better cut all of us who still reside here some slack. That said I don’t see a cover up on his part. The real problem are the stupid big money programs that attract people that are very clever at extracting the most dollars for themselves. Government should just get out of what they shouldn’t be doing and let people take care of themselves.

  21. mike from iowa

    HC-you mean privatize and then the graft and corruption gets infinitely worse because the same people that steal now will be handed a license to steal from pathetic,incompetent RWNJ like Daugaard. EB-5 should be exhibit 1 in why you don’t privatize gubmint programs. Cut you some slack? You sound like you are a part of the problem.

    If EB-5 doesn’t ring your bell,how about Halliburton,KBR,Blackwater and other friends of Cheney and dumbass dubya getting no-bid contracts and zero oversight from nutter co-conspirators in congress?

  22. happy camper

    I’m saying it’s not the government’s role. We shouldn’t have been messing in the middle east, we shouldn’t be offering incentives, and we shouldn’t be gearing anybody up.

  23. Roger Elgersma

    We already had the gag law so that any crooked official would know that he or she would be safe from good honest people who are called whistle blowers. Now the crooks also have proof that the administration is not looking either. When Melody S. said that when the complaints first came in she assumed that the problem was federal regulations. With the mind set that regulations are a problem she seems to think that no one has to watch what is going on. That is why she did not watch either. She has been promoted beyond her competence. She may be a good person that knows education but management and responsibility is not her forte. These people are obviously not like Harry Truman and his ‘the buck stops here’ type of people. The problems at GEAR UP may have been there for a decade and two administrations before those ‘bad federal regulations’ found it. But they all learned from Reagan that if you act like you know nothing that you will have Teflon coating and not ever have to take responsibility for your subordinates actions. Jackley not checking the most important telephone message till two weeks later is so absurd that it makes him look like the ultimate liar or massively incompetent. I do not really believe that he is that professionally incompetent.

  24. Somebody was shot and killed near Wagner on Tribal Lands today. Hopefully that person was not involved in GEAR UP!

  25. Sorry, it was Saturday, not today.

  26. Hap, that screen cap accurately captures an impression I got from the video. At no point in the video did Governor Daugaard come across as pleasant to be with. I understand he’s dealing with a difficult issue, but as he listened and responded to Kennecke’s questions, his facial expression was consistently uninviting, defensive, off-putting. I would think an executive could come forward in a difficult time and express a sense of shared disappointment, a shared desire to get to the bottom of things.

    Winston, bingo.

  27. MFI-denny has just been told told USCIS said what??? Joe Butler might have said in the elevator, before cross examining denny, “you feel the sweat in the crack of your ass?” laughable!

  28. Pat Duffy was Joe’s protege

  29. happy, we literally know nothing yet about GEAR UP misdeeds yet why should we not be gearing up anybody, programatically??

  30. nice spelling Roger-i have mispelled naive three different ways today and i cannot for the life of me figure out how to put that grammatical thing in the middle like you have. well done

    we engineers don’t need no english my uncle always said….

  31. that comment about governors in prison is so slipperily freudian i can’t even believe it….wow!

  32. happy-sd is not the most sophisticated state-and thats a republican excuse??-as the donald would say, “he lunged, he lunged,…give me a break, give me a break.”

    Melody is Secretary of Ed of one of 50 of the United States of America, and she is paid handsomely for it to manage BIG things, and you say she-they-sd administrators have an excuse to remain unsophisticated? because…what, pierre is a little town? she’s maybe a USD or BH grad? fake it till you make it?

  33. bush singlehandedly dumbed down red state administrators

  34. sorry mfi, i meant mikeyc “””” (deer tracks!) >^o.o^< :)

  35. don p.-it aint dark yet but its gettin there. dylan of course, as i’m sure u know

    interesting: jackley attacked a dem lawmaker who suggested more investigation, saying dems voted for it (if i have that right). daugaard attacks individual fraudulent action which thus doesn’t indict the state. melody blames the Gear Up program participants. kathy tyler is attacked for raising EB5 concerns. daugaard says the state is seeking to keep EB5 to protect 270 investors. somebody recently made a big deal about how these EB5 investments have to be very risky (instead of at risk-which is different). maybe that was just troy.

  36. a republican lawmaker suggested melody resign. has he been attacked by the daugaard administration or SDGOP?

  37. The corruption in our state’s management of these altruistic programs, was revealed by HC like a naive kid snitching on his parents: “it’s not the government’s role. We shouldn’t have been messing in the middle east, we shouldn’t be offering incentives, and we shouldn’t be gearing anybody up.” Translation. Little appetite or intention to carry out these programs. Government is always the problem, and if these (liberal) programs were to actually show success, a disaster for the party. We’ll carve this up for ourselves, instead. Our Shenanigans will remain hidden. We’d have a bigger problem if these programs worked, actually improving people’s lives. This might explain the willful incompetence.

  38. Roger Cornelius


    naïve, I use autocorrect.

  39. A question or two:

    1. Is there an inherent barrier to the “fourth branch of government” in South Dakota?
    2. Is there an inherent barrier to bringing charges against a former governor and current US Senator?
    3. Is there a local investigative media outlet West River?

  40. mike from iowa

    leslie,I believe it was Der Kommisar Daugaard that said EB-5 projects were risky and I said the loan monies have to be considered at risk. The projects aren’t necessarily risky unless they lack oversight like you have seen in South Dakota.Without knowing every detail.it is still clear that NBP was totally oversold and had problems all the way through. Warning bells had to be sounding but were ignored.

  41. Paladn:

    1. A vigorous press can exist in South Dakota. I’d ask in response whether anyone here thinks the barriers to sustaining an effective news outlet here are any different from those facing journalist-entrepreneurs other media markets/cities of 850,000 people. (One difference: the isolation of our capital has been shown to be a greater barrier to good reporting here than in many other states.)
    2. No, only the hesitance of the Attorney General that current Senator appointed.
    3. Seth Tupper and Denise Ross?

  42. what journalists live in pierre/ft. pierre, cah??

    shouldn’t a journalist be there once or more a week?? that’s the job in this state. dictate while driving. gas is a business expense. SDPR subsidize a capital reporter on this basis year around? oh, i forgot, republicans reduced PR to begging.

  43. Leslie, we’ve got Bob Mercer, then the Capital Journal staff—maybe four full-time reporters.

  44. except right wing editorialists, i dont blame the media-big job.