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GOP Leaders Resist Investigations of Bad Behavior in Pierre

One-party corruption is so bad in South Dakota that even honest Republicans can’t investigate it.

Reps. Dan Kaiser and Elizabeth May tried to get the House to investigate Rep. David Johnson’s now-infamous heated exchange with Rep. Lynne DiSanto. The House empaneled a Select Committee on Discipline and Expulsion, then disbanded that committee before any action was taken, after Johnson apologized and DiSanto accepted.

House Republican leaders apparently think Kaiser and May also need to apologize:

…Reps. Dan Kaiser, R-Aberdeen, and Elizabeth May, R-Kyle, said they were asked to apologize to Johnson on Monday for bringing a motion to form a Select Committee on Discipline and Expulsion to review his conduct.

Both said they declined to apologize and maintained the argument between Johnson and DiSanto hadn’t been appropriately investigated.

“They squashed it. It’s over and done with,” Kaiser said. “They made it clear that they don’t want to hear about it anymore.”

House Majority Leader Lee Qualm, R-Platte, on Tuesday confirmed that GOP leaders met with Kaiser and May on Monday, but declined to comment on the subject of those meetings.

Kaiser said the meeting included Qualm, Assistant Majority Leader Kent Peterson, R-Salem, House Speaker Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls, and House Speaker Pro Tempore Steven Haugaard, R-Sioux Falls.

Kaiser exaggerated the Johnson/DiSanto encounter a bit, but 45 members of the House found the charges serious enough to vote to empanel the Select Committee. Johnson himself welcomed the committee’s investigation. Asking the House to look into admitted bad behavior requires no apology… unless you are an honest Republican rocking the leadership’s boat.

The same squashing of inquiry into bad behavior manifested itself in the passage of Senate Bill 125. After years shirking its investigative authority and duty by saying it lacks the power to subpoena witnesses, the Government Operations and Audit Committee got an Attorney General’s opinion last December affirming its statutory subpoena power. GOAC chair Senator Deb Peters brought Senate Bill 125 to “clarify” that subpoena power.

On the Senate floor Wednesday, she flatly denied that the Attorney General’s opinion says what it says. Senator Troy Heinert’s plain reading of the Attorney General’s plain language unnerved enough of his colleagues to send SB 125 back to conference committee. There SB 125 only got worse. Already carrying a House amendment subjecting GOAC’s subpoena power to approval by the Executive Board (a remarkable and, as far as I know, unprecedenting subordination of one statutory committee to another), SB 125 emerged with additional conditions to exercising its subpoena:

Before a subpoena may be issued by the Government Operations and Audit Committee, the committee shall determine that:

  1. A legislative purpose exists pursuant to §§ 2-6-2 and 2-6-4;
  2. The subpoenaed person or documents are relevant and material to accomplish the legislative purpose; and
  3. The information sought is not otherwise practically available.

It is not a legislative purpose to subpoena a person or documents to collect information that may be used for a criminal proceeding or to legislatively determine guilt or inflict punishment upon an identifiable person [Senate Bill 125, Section 2, added by conference committee, 2018.03.09].

That final line is the killer: in the last two major scandals, EB-5 and GEAR UP, in which GOAC only gently requested testimony and shrugged at uncooperative witnesses who spat in their heavy-lidded eye, almost any relevant documents or testimony that GOAC could have subpoenaed had the potential to be used in criminal proceedings against principals in each of those scandals. Senator Peters didn’t clarify her committee’s power; she neutered it, making sure that even if Speaker-in-waiting Steven Haugaard appoints watchdogs like May to GOAC next year, GOP machinators can still firewall any toothy investigative impulses with an Executive Board veto.

SB 125’s defanging of GOAC almost failed Friday, with Senator Heinert’s motion to kill SB 125 falling short by just one vote. The Senate then passed SB 125 19–16.

Add the remarkable brushing-off of further discussion of sexual harassment during the Session, and we see an ongoing pattern of Republican Legislative leadership shoving matters under the rug and making it harder for honest legislators of either party to blow the whistle and investigate wrongdoing in our one-party state government.

The one-party corruption in Pierre is so bad that even honest members of that one party get in trouble when they try to shed some light on bad behavior. Fixing that one-party corruption will require a lot of South Dakota voters to alter their voting paradigm with one key phrase: An honest Democrat is better than a dishonest RINO.


  1. owen reitzel 2018-03-11 11:07

    Couldn’t agree more Cory. I’ve been saying for awhile that it’s time to vote Democrat. Some would like to place RINOS with the Democrats.
    Nothing but BS. If we want to change and if we want to really drain the swamp then it’s time to vote Democrat.
    The rest of the country is starting to move this way and it’s time for South Dakota to it as well.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-03-11 11:47

    That’s a key observation, Owen. Our friend Senator Nelson keeps trying to paint the RINOs as Democrats, but RINOs aren’t Democrats. They aren’t supporters of any consistent political ideology. They are opportunists, using their elected positions to reinforce their power and their friends’ power and, as we see in all three of the instances above, to beat back any move that might upset their power. In that selfish regard they are technically “conservatives”—they want to maintain the status quo, which privileges them. From that perspective, Stace’s honest Republicans are “liberals” who want change… just like us honest Democrats.

  3. Stace Nelson 2018-03-11 12:10

    @Owen & Cory, the political opportunists that makeup the RINO ranks are not Democrats, and they sure aren’t Republicans. Politics is more complicated than the two-dimensional R Vs. D that is used to fool voters. On matters that Republicans are concerned with? Conservative platform Republicans are in the minority & targeted by the Left leaning RINOs.

    Conservatives like me don’t need to play the R Vs D game as our voting record on Republican platform issues distinguishes us on the issues.

    The facts remain that RINOs vote with Democrats on key Republican issues such as taxes, spending, gun rights, etc. I can respect an honest Democrat and can respect the honest disagreements. I have no respect for RINOs who lie to get elected and vote opposite what they claim to fool the voters.

  4. owen reitzel 2018-03-11 12:19

    Question Stace. Can a Republican be a moderate or even a liberal?
    According to you the only true Republican is a conservative one.

    Democrats have moderates and conservatives in their ranks and while as a liberal I might disagree with them I still welcome them in or party.

  5. David Newquist 2018-03-11 13:00

    People who cannot deal with irony or the ambiguities of important literature like to say our culture needs heroes. So, when they read or view works such as “The Godfather,” “The Sopranos,” or “Breaking Bad,” they regard the protagonists, who are engaged in corrupt activities, as heroes. They emulate the corruption. We have a president who has an extensively documented record of corruption that makes the protagonists of those crime dramas look like novitiates. But that’s okay, because his corruption made him a billionaire, and that absolves him. He made money which makes him a success, and that is all that ultimately counts. That’s the American dream.

    The people of South Dakota overwhelming vote for corruption. EB-5 and Gear-Up made some people dead, but other people rich, and that is all that matters.

    The last thing a politician can do is confront the electorate with its moral and intellectual depravity. But there is not much chance of changing the moral status of a people who believe they are South Dakota nice and whose malignancies are just a difference of opinion.

    Someone has to show the people how rotten they are in their endorsement of corruption and how nefarious is the system they so admire and support. Some of the laws being legislated are enabling corruption and making it acceptable and lucrative. Something is rotten in the state of South Dakota, and it’s the majority of the people. But they don’t seem able to grasp that.

  6. bearcreekbat 2018-03-11 13:08

    MAGA -Make Americans Greedy Again.

  7. Stace Nelson 2018-03-11 13:14

    @Owen The GOP in fact has many liberal “Republicans.” Not one of them campaigns as such, they all claim to be “conservative” to fool the voters, then once they are in they do everything to oppose conservative issues.

    The irony is that they run liberals like you into the mud to get elected while vilifying your views, and then support your views in policy votes. So they are effectively enemies of the Democrats and Republicans.

  8. Roger Cornelius 2018-03-11 14:11

    MAGA – Mueller Ain’t Goofing Around

  9. owen reitzel 2018-03-11 14:22

    which Republicans are liberal Stace?
    If they are liberal I don’t see any that are pro-choice. I don’t see any of these “liberals” try and get rid of right-to-work laws. I don’t see any of these “liberals” come against Trump.

    I saw some Republicans a couple of years ago that saw a need to try and improve teacher pay.

    I’m sure there are some of these people who switch parties to get elected. But they sure aren’t liberals.

  10. mike from iowa 2018-03-11 14:34

    Drumpf’s campaign slogan for 2020 is Keep America Great. He says he already has made America great again. Here we go with that word chutzpah some more.

  11. Stace Nelson 2018-03-11 14:40

    @Owen Your denial not withstanding, there are proabortion “Republicans.” You acknowledge the existence of “conservative” & “moderate” Democrats, but can’t understand there are liberal “Republicans” who claim to be conservative to get elected.

  12. owen reitzel 2018-03-11 14:54

    which legislators are liberal Stace? Name the “liberal” Republicans who claim to be conservative to get elected?

  13. bearcreekbat 2018-03-11 14:54

    I thought classic Republicans and Conservatives supported Constitutional rights. Are you saying that Republicans now want to repeal or overrule an individual’s Constitutional Right of Privacy in making family planning decisions?

    Are there other Constitutional Rights that Republicans advocate taking away from the people, and further empowering government officials? Perhaps the Constitutional Right to Bear Arms unrelated to maintaining a militia?

  14. owen reitzel 2018-03-11 15:49

    well the 2nd amendment chart just shows that there a few Republicans with a conscience-not that there liberals.

    As for as the second chart are you saying Deb Peters is a liberal?

  15. grudznick 2018-03-11 18:25

    Those scorecards got an “F” for corruption and a “D+” for accuracy on the SD Scorecard of Scorecards put out by the Conservatives with Common Sense.

  16. Debbo 2018-03-11 20:51

    Roger, I love your MAGA definition!

  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-03-12 05:30

    David, I’m intrigued by your suggestion of a connection between our elevation of corrupt heroes in literature and our election of corrupt leaders, but I have some difficulty with applying it to South Dakota. Voters may effectively embrace the corruption we see on display in SB 125, the demand for apologies from Kaiser and May, and the ignoring of sexual harassment (see Abdallah, Wollmann…), but they still outwardly deny that the corruption exists. No one denies that Tony Soprano and Walter White are bad, but our local majorities hold up G. Mark Mickelson and Al Novstrup as paragons of virtue. I don’t hear voters excuse EB-5 and GEAR UP as examples of clever fellow getting rich; instead, they deny that their elected officials had anything to do with it, or they dismiss the scandals as political exaggerations by Democrats.

  18. mike from iowa 2018-03-12 18:58

    Fortunately, iowans don’t have to depend on in-charge wingnuts to allow investigations. Today, pics surfaced showing iowa Senate Majority leader, Bill Dix, with his lips locked tightly to a lobbyist of whom he wasn’t married to.

    One sentence resignation letter was all it took to say buh-bye to another “family values” wingnut politician. Chortle, guffaw, life is good.

  19. Debbo 2018-03-12 20:34

    Mike, you have some press and Minnesota has more. SD is sorely limited in regard to investigative journalists.

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