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Podcast #19: Lance Russell Running for Attorney General

Senator Lance Russell speaks to Dakota Free Press, Aberdeen, SD 2017.07.12.
Senator Lance Russell speaks to Dakota Free Press, Aberdeen, SD 2017.07.12.

Senator Lance Russell (R-30/Hot Springs), one of South Dakota’s most conservative legislators, sat down today for a one-on-one interview with Dakota Free Press, South Dakota’s most liberal blog, to discuss his bid for the Republican nomination for attorney general.

Two of Senator Russell’s comments stand out in the context of how he will attempt to distinguish himself in what is now a four-way race among legal pals for the Republican A.G. nomination.

First, Senator Russell says the big criminal justice reform bill of 2013 (that year’s Senate Bill 70, Governor Daugaard’s 83-section beastie now known as the Public Safety Improvement Act) has actually made work harder for the Attorney General and all law enforcement. Senator Russell says the PSIA hasn’t saved money so much as shift costs from the state to counties, which now must warehouse more prisoners who used to go to the state pen. Senator Russell blames the statewide increase in crime, especially violent crimes, what he sees as caps on jail sentences that release drug-using convicts before they can get treatment, meaning they return to the streets sooner and commit more crimes to get their fixes. Senator Russell joined six other hard-conservative House Republicans in voting against SB 70 in 2013; he says we need to remove the presumptive probation that ties judges’ hands and results in too many offenders released from county jails too soon without treatment for drug addiction.

Second, Senator Russell noted that the Attorney General lacks the tools to prosecute public corruption that could have allowed A.G. Marty Jackley to sniff out the EB-5 and GEAR UP corruption scandals sooner. Senator Russell supports this year’s Senate Bill 27, one of the Attorney General’s bills, which clearly defines public corruption as theft. However, Senator Russell points to a bill he offered in 2009, House Bill 1288, which he says would have gone further in helping the Attorney General tackle public corruption. That bill, proposed during the Rounds Administration before any corruption in the Rounds-approved EB-5 or GEAR UP came to light, was killed in House State Affairs.

A programming note: my co-host for seventeen episodes of the Dakota Free Press Podcast, Spencer Dobson, is stepping away from our political podcast to focus on his other projects. Spencer provided excellent commentary and good balance to my often arcane Legislative wonkiness. Thanks for your hard work on the podcast, Spencer!

Absent Spencer’s weekly buoyant conversations, I will focus less on producing weekly audio commentary and instead work on occasional interviews like today’s conversation with Senator Russell and my April talk with Bob Mercer, as well as audio from events like my speech to the District 22 Democratic Forum last week.


  1. DR 2017-07-12 17:13

    Sounds like you need a conservative to counteract your liberalness.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-07-12 18:52

    Care to join me for a podcast, DR? Care to line up some local conservatives for a podcast conversation?

    And tell me, DR, just what unchecked liberalness did you hear in this interview with Senator Russell?

  3. grudznick 2017-07-12 19:12

    Like they always say, that Mr. Russell, he’s one handsome devil.

  4. The lowly independent 2017-07-12 20:01

    At least hes willing to talk with dakota free press, most of these SD republicans wont even do that! Jerks

  5. Porter Lansing 2017-07-12 20:32

    Another great interview. Cory’s verbal communication skills are unrivaled. Thanks for being so journalistic.
    Mr. Russell didn’t mention the opioid crisis that’s rampant. Is that because so many females are messed up on pain pills? Or is that because junkies don’t make loud problems? Or, is that because he’s just a couple years behind?
    Either way. The voters will choose.

  6. grudznick 2017-07-12 20:49

    Who are the fellows young Mr. Russell is running against? I assume we have Mr. Volesky on the Democrat side of things but there must be a primary first. We have no Chad Haber this time around do we?

  7. grudznick 2017-07-12 21:23

    Nevermind, I found Mr. H’s blogging about the 4 fellows. One of them is that bull-frogged fellow Mr. Roundsborg. That will be very interesting indeed. A part-time volunteer vs. a fellow chastised by the Supreme Court for unlawyerly behaviors. Again, I ask, where is Mr. Volesky when you need him?

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-07-13 07:24

    To be clear, LTS’s link is to the SD Supreme Court’s 2011 censure of Russell for abusing the grand jury process and slagging Judge Jeff Davis in a press release. It will be interesting to see whether Ravnsborg, McGuigan, and/or Fitzgerald feel the need to bring up this censure to beat Russell in the contest for the GOP nomination… and whether Russell will rally a Trumpist base that doesn’t care about facts, record, or signs of malfeasance and just sticks with the brash character who affirms their own beliefs.

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-07-13 07:26

    Grudz, I think I saw Mr. Volesky downtown in Huron last week.

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-07-13 07:36

    Porter, thanks! As I told Senator Russell when he sat down with me, I have plenty of opportunity to do commentary and throw partisan mud; when I get the chance to sit down with a candidate or other newsmaker, I’m happy to put on the regular journalist hat, ask questions, and give the subject the chance to say his piece.

    So who’s next?

  11. Porter Lansing 2017-07-13 08:00

    @LongTall … Thanks for the information. Since Russell hasn’t shied away from becoming public against his enemies, I’ll do the same. What a nasty fellow!!!

  12. Ken Cooper 2017-07-13 09:19

    C. [Russell’s] misconduct is mitigated by the absence of a prior disciplinary record, a cooperative attitude toward the Board in its proceedings, his relative inexperience in the practice of law, and his willingness to concede that his conduct was improper and that he made mistakes. [Russell] who intends to complete a masters program and principally practice law in the areas of environment and natural resources has indicated that he has no present intention of again seeking a position as a public prosecutor.

  13. Stace Nelson 2017-07-13 09:29

    The use of the state bar to attack Senator Russell should be seen for what it was. It came on the heels of his successful prosecution of local corruption by a Rounds supporter. Read the case, they punish him for the actions of the judge?!

    Lance is by far one of the most experienced and qualified of the AG candidates and has the best record as a Republican of all the candidates.

    Common tactic of the dishonest sycophant RINO herd to trump up charges to go after conservatives.

    While those on the Left have honest disagreements with Senator Russell on the issues? They still have an ally and major guard dog of their rights to ethical government. Lance has been a workhorse in SD fighting against corruption and at the forefront of leading in the legislature to check the corruption of the Daugaard administration.

    While the establishment candidate snipes from the shadows and desperately try’s to concoct prosecutorial experience while trashing Democrats in shallow partisan efforts to pander? Senator Russell reached across the aisle and supported Democratic legislators efforts to speak on issues and represent South Dakotans for the last 8 years, ask our Democratic colleagues in the Legislature.

    You want to help break the culture of corruption in Pierre? Make Lance Russell your Attorney General.

  14. Porter Lansing 2017-07-13 09:36

    Nelson endorsement? Political noose.

  15. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-07-13 10:40

    (Cooper appears to quote from the Supreme Court decision.)

  16. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-07-13 10:41

    I’m not so sure, Porter. I’d accept a Nelson endorsement for my next campaign.

  17. Ken Cooper 2017-07-13 11:15

    Mr. Russell is not practicing law. It is a toss up between Roundsborg and Russell on who is the most unqualified. They both are searching for employment. Both have not been successful in what they thought would be able employment, and both have been failures unable to establish themselves as respected lawyers in South Dakota. I no longer live in South Dakota but these men and their lack of accomplishments is astounding.

  18. Porter Lansing 2017-07-13 11:57

    Candidate Cory’s civil tolerance for things he doesn’t necessarily agree with is one of his outstanding qualities.

  19. Stace Nelson 2017-07-13 12:01

    Mr Cooper,
    I am happy to report that your “observations” (from outside of SD?!) about Senator Russell, on all fronts, are categorically wrong.

    I’ve been to his law office in Hot Springs on many occasions and from all accounts he has a flourishing practice. He has extensive prosecutorial experience and is the only candidate who has actual legislative experience.

  20. Margaret 2017-07-13 12:10

    ORDERS that the Grand Jury transcript and exhibits leading to the Indictments of Carl Oberlitner and Steve Simunek shall be considered public records open for public inspection exclusively through the Fall River County State’s Attorney’s Office; however, any information deemed by the Fall River County State’s Attorney to be unrelated to the Indictments will not be considered public records and may not be disclosed to the public.

    Russell did not notify any of the defendants or their counsel that he secured this order. Russell also did not advise them when he made the transcripts available to the public and provided copies to the Rapid City Journal and Hot Springs Star newspapers. The order improperly opened grand jury proceedings beyond any legitimate needs of a prosecutor contrary to SDCL 23A–5–16 and also improperly delegated authority to the State’s Attorney.

  21. Margaret 2017-07-13 12:16


    [¶ 29.] In ultimately recommending the public censure of Russell, the Referee concluded:

    A. [Russell] exercised poor judgment and violated the Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 3.8 concerning special responsibilities of prosecutors; Rule 4.4(a) concerning respect for rights of third persons; Rule 8.2(a) concerning judicial officials; and Rule 8.4(a)(d) concerning professional misconduct. He used his office as State’s Attorney: (a) to further local political aims of his associate and advisor, Schjodt and others who shared opposition to the golf course project; (b) to enhance and/or defend his own political career; and (c) by failing to use his independent professional judgment in the conduct of the investigation of the golf course project.

    B. [Russell’s] misconduct (1) in publicizing and putting the grand jury transcript on his web site and (2) in preparing and in issuing the press release criticizing Judge Davis for the delay in the trial of the Fast Horse case, standing alone, warrant the discipline that this Referee is recommending.

  22. John W. 2017-07-13 15:26

    Anybody that deliberately denigrates Judge Jeff Davis in a public forum is unworthy of serving the public in any capacity. Judge Davis and I go back 40 or more years and never once, in all those years, has anyone found cause to question his personal or professional integrity or judicial accumen. The man’s credentials, ethical and moral foundations are impeccable and yet some people who have no knowledge of him or his background are quick to lend credibility to an individual that rose to political notoriety on the bruised backs of honest and genuine people trying to do the right thing. Let’s not forget that Mr. Russel was also censured by the Republican Caucus in the legislature for his covert, reactionary, irrational demeanor. He is neither a friend of the law or the general public with his self styled personal agenda that has accomplished little for South Dakota.

    The Fall River County political landscape is a complete, dysfunctional mess and Mr. Russell is by no means a reputable vacuum cleaner and neither is he meticulously skilled in his craft. Stace Nelson’s endorsement should be a 5 siren fire alarm as well as ample testimony that turmoil and confusion are qualifications necessary to hold public office. Interesting how someone who lives in far eastern SD is allegedly well versed on a candidate living in SW South Dakota. Nelson wasn’t even around when Mr. Russell upended the apple cart in Hot Springs. Then there is the Power Tech mess that continues to linger with Mr. Russell’s support. Any legislator that promotes corporate operations in SD that has a .04 cents per share value is either reckless or on the dole. Mr. Russell was amongst the manipulative GOP gang that gutted much of SD regulatory authority over In Situ mining to grease the skids for Power Tech to further slime and compromise the Fall River/Custer County landscape with permanent pollution.

    I’ve been priviledged to serve with and observe Charlie McGuigan for many years and it will be difficult for this state to find a more well qualified, astute, legally dedicated and responsible person to fill the office of the AG. He should be the GOP’s leading candidate, hands down……. Russell doesn’t and can’t even come close to playing in the same league.

  23. Stace Nelson 2017-07-13 15:58

    Hilarious seeing people without intestinal fortitude attacking Senator Russell for his zealous service as an attorney general.

    Let’s not forget that his censure, for an order issued by a sitting judge, occurred after Senator Russell was in the legislature for two years. A censure for informing the public of illegal activities by Round’s supporters and payback for political efforts in the legislature.

    John W. is a perfect example of establishment cowardice and corruption.

    Obviously Senator Russell has the establishment corrupt political machine worried.

    While John W., Margaret, etc., snivel, whine, slime, & snipe from the shadows online? I’ll be out publicly supporting Senator Russell. 😉 🇺🇸

  24. Patrick D. 2017-07-13 16:30

    I would take McGuigan or Fitzgerald over the other two for AG. The most determined of the two is Fitzgerald. There have been discussions that McGuigan is not excited about running, and would rather stay in his current position. Fitzgerald is the toughest state’s attorney in South Dakota. It only makes sense that he would be an excellent AG. I went to law school with Fitz, and personally know he would be a great AG.

  25. grudznick 2017-07-13 18:02

    It is sad that Mr. Russell, said by many to be one of the most corrupt in the legislatures, is from District 30 and gives an already corrupt district an even worse corruption score on the scorecards because of his unethical behaviors as a lawyer.

  26. John W. 2017-07-13 22:24

    Knock yourself out Stace!!! Your endorsement and carnival campaigning will help Russell just like it helped you in the last Senatorial race. You finished in what place?

  27. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-07-14 18:14

    John W., tell McGuigan next time you see him that he needs to do an interview with Dakota Free Press!

  28. leslie 2017-07-15 15:08

    Here is an illustration of what a REAL Attorney General can do. Marty Jackley’s replacement, and his election as Governor in 2018 will doom South Dakota to great losses.
    Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson challenged President Trump’s aggressive travel ban targeting people from Muslim-majority countries. Within a week Ferguson’s lawsuit stopped Trump’s Executive Order nationwide.
    Can you imagine Jackley performing such a service? Yet Jackley is a member of RAGA, the republican attorneys general association which newly appointed EPA Director Scott Pruitt used to such effectiveness for the fossil fuel industry.
    The travel ban was un-vetted by Trump’s own effected agencies, thus sloppy and rushed. By moving the battlefield from the political forum to the courtroom, Trump’s aggression was put off balance. It is the constitution, not the loudest voice that prevails before a federal judge. Trump’s own words, “Muslim Ban”, were used against him. Trump tweeted “SEE YOU IN COURT” but Ferguson had already faced him there and defeated him twice. The third defeat, in Hawaii, was coming but only on the fourth try did Trump have some limited success.
    Trump’s reckless aggression will be his undoing. Firing FBI Director Comey is a recent egregious example. To restore the rule of law, can you see Jackley or his inevitable republican replacement in South Dakota meet weekly with a legal team to anticipate Trump’s next moves? That is why it is imperative we must de-horse the Republican machine in our state. Why do you think the Koch Brothers, principal beneficiaries of Scot Pruitt’s current emasculation of the EPA, have opened an office and hired a prominent republican director in South Dakota?

    Recently Trump threatened our National Monuments, contrary to federal precedent dating back to Theodore Roosevelt. This will result in legal action by Ferguson’s office, and other Democratic Attorneys General. Can you imagine Marty Jackley doing this?
    The President also recently restarted a coal-leasing program on federal land, despite his refusal to update the environmental assessment required by law. Ferguson and others from New York, New Mexico and California have challenged this in federal court.
    recent Time Editorial

  29. jerry 2017-07-15 15:11

    Will Lance Russell get on the cult republican bandwagon to do those loosing lawsuit thingy’s that Jackboot consistently did and consistently lost? That grandstanding cost the taxpayers of this state money, what will he do?

  30. leslie 2017-07-15 16:25

    [IMO], roughly speaking, the largest law firms in small red states are Attorney General offices-perhaps 100 publically paid lawyers per state. That is powerful public funded Pro-Republican adversarial horsepower that Governors like Daugaard are free to wield. Nothing in a state can stand up to such power. RAGA is the only national organization whose mission is electing Republicans to the Office of State Attorney General. RAGA supports our 29 current Republican attorneys general and recruits outstanding candidates, providing them with research and financial support as well as assisting in message development.

    Republican attorneys general led the fight against President Obama’s overreaching, illegal EPA regulations, resulting in the Supreme Court to halt implementation of Obama’s signature climate change initiative, the Clean Power Plan.
    Republican attorneys general won an injunction against the Department of Labor’s overtime rule, a victory for taxpayers, employers and workers.
    Republican attorneys general led the fight against President Obama’s unlawful immigration plan, successfully securing an injunction against implementation of the President’s program, known as DAPA.

    A Texas federal judge granted an injunction barring the Obama administration’s transgender bathroom directive from the DOJ and DOE.
    10 states blocked the enforcement of the Department of Labor’s Persuader Advice Exemption Rule.
    Republican AGs have also fought against several examples of executive overreach, including: Obamacare, the EPA’s “WOTUS” rule; power plant mercury rules (Michigan v. EPA); Bureau of Land Management’s fracking rules; Expansion of background checks for firearms purchases; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prairie chicken designation; Denial of Keystone XL Pipeline permit; and the EPA “Sue and Settle” Strategy.

    RAGA works with attorneys general across the country to support the rule of law [for the 1%], limited government, cooperative [ right??] federalism, legal reform, free enterprise, aggressive crime fightinti [for the priviized prison industry], equal opportunity [for corporations and the 1%!], and the preservation of conservative values.
    Through robust candidate recruitment RAGA brings effective public servants [for the 1%] to the office of AG and deepens our Party’s talent pool from which many future Governors and U.S. Senators will be drawn. Currently, three Republican U.S. Senators, three Republican Governors, and a member of President Trump’s Cabinet once served as their state’s attorney general.

  31. Jason 2017-07-15 16:28

    Cory: do you know Fitzgerald? Interview him and ask him about his father. There’s your story. No one has a story to tell like John.

  32. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-07-15 17:43

    No, Jason, I don’t know him (I’ve had blessedly little interaction with law enforcement), but it sounds like I should. Perhaps I’ll find an interview opportunity when he comes a-courting the Brown County Republicans?

  33. bearcreekbat 2017-07-15 18:39

    Jason, wasn’t John’s dad injured in a bomb attack on him in Boston because of his work as a prosecutor of local criminal enterprises (a/k/a the “mob”)?

  34. grudznick 2017-07-15 19:10

    Mr. H is right that young Mr. McGuigan should do interviews. Maybe beat them all to the punch by debating Mr. Volesky one-on-one with Mr. H as the moderator. I bet you the Supreme Court has not sanctioned Mr. McGuigan like they did the corrupt fellow Mr. Russell.

  35. Michael 2017-07-15 22:13

    McGuigan does legal research and has never tried a case. Not exactly Attorney General Material. Unless you need research on a case.

  36. John W. 2017-07-18 22:35

    You don’t work in the AG’s office without doing litigation. Legal research is essential and mandatory in any case and it makes no sense to think that the research doesn’t produce points for oral argument. It may very well be that McGuigan didn’t sit in first chair all the time in trials and other proceedings but I know, categorically, that Charlie has done his share of litigation and preparation of oral argument. In fact, he has testified on behalf of the AG in both Senate and House Committee hearings as well as provided more than his fair share of legal counseling to State Government’s boards and Commissions. There is a lot more to being an AG than just prosecuting criminal cases on behalf of the State.

  37. Bob Newland 2017-07-19 17:09

    McGuigan is a hapless buttboy whose job it has been for 20 years to carry the AG’s message to legislative committees.

    I remember with fondness the cute little rosy-cheeked guy’s warning that cannabis contained “over 400 Carciginians.”

    I do hope he gets a chance to stick a needle in some bad guy, like his heroes, Marty and Roger and them.

  38. John W 2017-07-20 19:25

    Bob: CIVILITY!!!!! And dump the ad hominem. Charlie is a highly intelligent, resourceful, ethical and well reasoned public employee that has done yeoman’s work on behalf of the people of this state. i served with his Dad and one will never find a family with greater integrity, honest commitment to duty and principle than the McGuigans.

    Looks like Charlie pushed a few buttons that set your pants on fire. He did his job and he obviously did it with class, knowledge (best information at the time) and persuasion, which is what lawyers and Attorney’s general do. The best way to keep that trend going is to hyperbolize an individuals intent based upon a single comment and event. Because he testified in opposition to your interests doesn’t make him worthy of gutter language. What it means is that his testimony and information had greater credibility and veracity than that of your group or interests. In stead of trashing his personality, you might try working on the quality and persuasiveness of your own advocacy. It might be more effective the next time.

  39. grudznick 2017-07-20 19:40

    Mr. W, my friend Bob can get worked up when it comes to issues surrounding his own pleasure of the demon weed. Usually he “mellows out” later on and realizes his hatred is consuming his brain.

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