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TenHaken, Powers, Other Rounds Cronies Revealed in 2013 Plot to Unmask Twitter Critic

The advent of Russian election hacking reinforces my long-standing position that we have a duty as patriots and critical thinkers to ignore anonymous online squawkers. (Heck, I even ignore some nymous trolls who’ve made clear their uselessness to intelligent public discourse.)

But as Jonathan Ellis reports, the always front-running but hypersensitive Mike Rounds Senate campaign in 2013 was so hell-bent on rooting out an unknown online critic that Team Rounds web guru, now Sioux Falls mayoral candidate Paul TenHaken cooked up a scheme to trick users into surrendering their data and transferring that data to Dakota State University for analysis and exposure.

Though Rounds, a former two-term governor, was heavily favored in the upcoming Republican primary for U.S. Senate, his campaign was rattled. It was being battered by a continuous stream of abusive attacks on Twitter. The people behind the Twitter accounts were anonymous. The most prominent, @RinoMikeSD, sent out a daily stream of messages attacking Rounds for being a liberal, or a Republican in name only. The account had also gotten personal with attacks against Rounds staffers.

The Rounds team, which included current Sioux Falls mayoral candidate Paul TenHaken and Jason Glodt, the manager of Marty Jackley’s 2018 campaign for governor, wanted to know who was behind the Twitter accounts. They devised a scheme to bait the users into unwittingly divulging their identities. The scheme also included a team from Dakota State University, which has a top cybersecurity program that feeds graduates to national intelligence agencies [Jonathan Ellis, “Under Attack, Emails Show Rounds Senate Campaign Sought to Out Anonymous Twitter Trolls,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2018.03.22].

Let’s take a look at the emails that circulated among Team Rounds, including TenHaken, Glodt, Mitch Krebs, Scott Erickson, Rob Skjonsberg, and SDGOP spin blogger Pat Powers as they tried to root out the oh-so-dangerous @RINOMike (I’ve deactivated the links, because who knows what data TenHaken and Team Rounds would try to harvest from our clicks!):

On Nov 3, 2013, at 11:39 AM, Paul Ten Haken <> wrote:

Good points. It looks like he uses Tweetdeck fo maintaining the account, and usually responds pretty quickly in the afternoons. I think we should try for the afternoon. Tomorrow?


Paul Ten Haken

President, Click Rain, Inc.


Twitter | LinkedIn | Check out my new book!


———- Forwarded message ———-
From: pat powers <>
Date: Sun, Nov 3, 2013 at 11:44 AM
Subject: Re: Baiting Rinomike
To: Paul Ten Haken <>

Do I need a neutral URL to put the images in? As opposed to under SDWC.

Sent from an iPhone


From: Paul Ten Haken []
Sent: Sunday, November 3, 2013 2:30 PM
To: Jason Glodt; Mitch Krebs; Scott Erickson; Rob Skjonsberg; Julie Hoyer
Subject: Fwd: Baiting Rinomike

FYI….Pat and I are working on a plan to bait RinoMike into giving up is IP address. Details are below, and we hope to carry it out this week. Will keep you in the loop.


Paul Ten Haken

President, Click Rain, Inc.


Twitter | LinkedIn | Check out my new book!


On Mon, Nov 4, 2013 at 8:22 AM, Jason Glodt <> wrote:

I recommend something that doesn’t sound like a threat. How about something like…

“Is this RinoMike?”

“RinoMike can’t handle the truth…”

“What would RinoMike say about this?”

“RinoMike will like this…”


From: Paul Ten Haken []
Sent: Tuesday, November 5, 2013 8:44 AM
To: Jason Glodt
Cc: Mitch Krebs; Scott Erickson; Rob Skjonsberg; Julie Hoyer
Subject: Re: Baiting Rinomike

OK….we have all the pieces in place now. Today, we are going to bait @rinomikesd, @standwithstace, and @rinowarcollege into giving up their IPs. The key will be getting them to click our links from their desktop computers and not from their mobile (which we cannot track). So, we are going to send out the link bait at times when we see them active today. I will let you know what we come up with.


Paul Ten Haken

President, Click Rain, Inc.


Twitter | LinkedIn | Check out my new book!


On Tue, Nov 5, 2013 at 8:51 AM, Jason Glodt <> wrote:

I would be very surprised if they used their desktop, but they may have gotten careless since they have been doing it for so long.


On Nov 5, 2013, at 8:53 AM, Paul Ten Haken <> wrote:

The analytics I see shows they regularly tweet from Tweetdeck and a desktop web client, so we just need to catch them on the latter. It’s a long shot, but we will see!


Paul Ten Haken

President, Click Rain, Inc.


Twitter | LinkedIn | Check out my new book!


On Wed, Nov 6, 2013 at 8:15 AM, Mitch Krebs <> wrote:

Did we catch our rat?

Mitch Krebs

Communications Director



From: Paul Ten Haken []
Sent: Wednesday, November 6, 2013 8:18 AM
To: Mitch Krebs
Cc: Jason Glodt; Scott Erickson; Rob Skjonsberg; Julie Hoyer
Subject: Re: Baiting Rinomike

We got the list of 7-8 possible IPs, but I don’t think it is going to be enough to pinpoint him. It appears he is using a proxy server, which will make “standard” IP tracking nearly impossible.

Our next step is to turn over all the intel we have to the DSU team and turn them loose. I have a call with them next week to discuss.


Paul Ten Haken

President, Click Rain, Inc.


Twitter | LinkedIn | Check out my new book!


From: Jason Glodt []
Sent: Wednesday, November 06, 2013 9:29 AM
To: ‘Paul Ten Haken’; ‘Mitch Krebs’
Cc: ‘Scott Erickson’; ‘Rob Skjonsberg’;
Subject: RE: Baiting Rinomike

If Paul can’t get it done, I will personally sue RinoMike for slander which should allow me to subpoena twitter records. He crossed the line with his post this morning. I will also sue on behalf of Pat Powers [emphasis mine; Rounds for Senate emails, November 2013].

Notice TenHaken’s November 6, 2013, 08:18 e-mail: when his IP trap didn’t produce conclusive data, he said it was time to call the cybersecurity experts at DSU. “Our next step is to turn over all the intel we have to the DSU team and turn them loose. I have a call with them next week to discuss.”

All DSU tells Ellis for today’s article is that the current dean wasn’t in charge in 2013 and that, according to that relatively new and certainly innocent dean of the Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences, Richard Hanson, “Our office has heard nothing of such an effort and no one has mentioned such an event to me.”

So let’s get clear about what’s cool here and what’s not.

There’s no problem with a political campaign trying to figure what anonymous cowards are throwing mud at their guy. Campaigns and voters have a right to know who’s trying to sway public opinion and elections, especially when, as we see all too clearly now, it could be part of an effort by a hostile foreign power to influence our politics. If you’re anonymous, you’re assumed Russian until proven otherwise.

Rounds chief of staff Rob Skjonsberg makes that exact point in his response to Ellis:

“The problem is, you don’t know if the person on the other side is next door or across the Pacific,” he said.

“There’s a reason this stuff is going on,” he added. “It’s to change opinions through anonymous attacks” [Ellis, 2018.03.22].

For once, Rob, I’m with you. Anonymi? Don’t trust ’em.

There is a problem with a Skjonsberg’s boss enlisting a public university to perform work for his political campaign. That problem is also known as South Dakota Codified Laws 12-27-20 and 12-27-21:

12-27-20. Expenditure of public funds to influence election outcome prohibited. The state, an agency of the state, and the governing body of any county, municipality, or other political subdivision of the state may not expend or permit the expenditure of public funds for the purpose of influencing the nomination or election of any candidate, or for the petitioning of a ballot question on the ballot or the adoption or defeat of any ballot question. This section may not be construed to limit the freedom of speech of any officer or employee of the state or any political subdivision who is speaking in the officer’s or employee’s personal capacity. This section does not prohibit the state, its agencies, or the governing body of any political subdivision of the state from presenting factual information solely for the purpose of educating the voters on a ballot question.

12-27-21. Acceptance of contributions from public entities prohibited–Misdemeanor. No candidate or political committee may accept any contribution from any state, state agency, political subdivision of the state, foreign government, Indian tribal entity as defined in the Federal Register Vol. 72, No. 55 as of March 22, 2007, federal agency, or the federal government. A violation of this section is a Class 2 misdemeanor. A subsequent offense within a calendar year is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Dakota State University cannot contribute in any way to any political campaign, not even (or especially not?) the campaign of a guy who, as Governor, oversaw the creation of doctoral programs at DSU that now bring in lots of research grant dollars and who, since winning his Senate seat in 2014, has worked to direct millions of federal dollars to DSU’s cybersecurity program. If by “the DSU team” TenHaken meant some DSU profs who worked side gigs as computer forensic investigators, then Team Rounds skirts the law, but the engagement of moonlighting DSU personnel still raises questions of conflict of interest that warrant further discussion.

There may also be a problem with TenHaken’s data collection. TenHaken wasn’t just snaring the infamous and never surely identified RINOMike. He was collecting data from anyone who might have been interested in finding out who RINOMike was. He was going to hand that information over to “the DSU team.” He may still have the data he collected for Rounds. He could be using that data to enhance the services he offers to his Republican clients. He could be using that data to boost his own campaign for Sioux Falls mayor.

From the emails above and from Ellis’s report, it appears TenHaken was snaring nothing but the usual IP and browser information that every Web server can capture from every Web browser accessing its pages. IP addresses are unreliable information unlikely to win a court case alone, but they can provide clues that can narrow down the identity of online pains in the neck. Some savvy users may not want to surrender even that tenuous information to certain parties.

Thus (and here’s the important point), TenHaken used deception to obtain information that some users might not otherwise have provided to TenHaken, Powers, and other members of the Rounds campaign. At that point, securing individual information through subterfuge, without informed consent, TenHaken smells a little like Cambridge Analytica… and no mayoral candidate wants to smell like Cambridge Analytica less than a week before early voting starts in the Sioux Falls election.

And if nothing else, TenHaken’s involvement in the hyper-defensive Rounds campaign’s internal dirty tricks should dispel any misconception that TenHaken is just a nice nonpartisan guy looking to serve his city. He’s a long-time, well-connected Republican hack, a shade more technically adept but no less partisan than Pat Powers. His involvement in RINOMike-gate could show that, if he succeeds Mike Huether as mayor, he be just as brittle about criticism of his administration, and he’ll be willing to deploy his technical skills to root out his perceived enemies.

So to review:

  1. Rounds campaign tries to identify anonymous online troll: no big deal.
  2. Rounds campaign enlists “the DSU team” to help with campaign: big deal.
  3. Rounds man TenHaken tricking people into surrendering online data to whack one anonymous online squawker who never posed a real threat to the Rounds campaign: kinda big deal.

I welcome your requantifications of those deals. Just make sure you leave your name in the comment section when you do. I promise not to surrender your data to Mike Rounds or Paul TenHaken.


  1. owen reitzel 2018-03-22 14:38

    Why did Dakota State go along with this? If I was being harassed can I get DSU to help me?

    What would happen if they did find out who was doing it? Russia lite

  2. Nick Nemec 2018-03-22 16:23

    There are obvious campaign finance law violations here. I am not one bit surprised, the Republican Party has long run South Dakota like their private fiefdom and Mike Rounds has been one of the biggest violators.

  3. David Newquist 2018-03-22 16:49

    During my time in higher education, some college presidents, deans, and professors lost their jobs when they allowed academic programs to get involved in partisan politics. And some politicians got outed and reporters earned recognition and awards for revealing the shenanigans. i am reminded of the case of Jon Lauck who practiced his character assassinations of Tom Daschle from his office on the SDSU campus. i have heard a range of tales about the result. Some professors claim he received the boot. Some administrators have a milder version of his leaving, but they would not be inclined to admit that a violation of the law was taking place under their noses. I hope at some point to have a definitive account. At any rate it marked the point at which politics became the grade school playground brawls that we witness everyday now.

  4. Anne Beal 2018-03-22 16:58

    I read the Argus account of this and thought the most interesting part of it was that David Montgomery was the one who cracked the case. Maybe.
    Otherwise, the fact that it was happening, or the fact that it annoyed the Rounds campaign, is a big whatever.

  5. Roger Cornelius 2018-03-22 17:14

    Was Rounds ever able to identify Rino Mike?

  6. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr. 2018-03-22 17:16

    But it’s not “a big whatever.” Once they identified the troller, what were they planning to do with this information? Were they planning to intimidate the troller and/or have his employer fire him hopefully?

    And where is the AG’s office on this? Doesn’t DSU’s involvement encourage a possible investigation into this matter because State resources may have been used for partisan reasons?

  7. grudznick 2018-03-22 17:39

    It is also interesting to note that the Rhoden Rhangers were able to smite the trolls away from their candidate and that Mr. Nelson, with whom the trolls stood, still ended up as Third Place Stace.

  8. grudznick 2018-03-22 17:49

    Three other questions come to the mind of grudznick:

    Could the “DSU team” be the Trojan Football Team?
    Could it be a group of young nerdy fellows who are just friends and volunteers in Mr. Rounds’ organization who may happen to attend DSU but who can do whatever they want on their own free time with their nerdy skills and, as I’m told the young people say these days, mad skillz?
    Would the DSU people like professors and such be responsible or breaking the laws Mr. H points out if the young men, and perhaps one young lady, were to do Mr. Ten Haken’s bidding after school and at their off-campus housing unit?

  9. Anne Beal 2018-03-22 18:30

    I figured the “DSU team” consisted of students in their pajamas. There were a lot of volunteers that year.

  10. owen reitzel 2018-03-22 18:33

    doesn’t make it right.

    The DSU connection surprised me. It didn’t surprise me Rounds would be upset. He tends to be a snowflake

  11. Anne Beal 2018-03-22 18:36

    As for what the Rounds campaign was going to do to the trolls, if you subscribe to conspiracy theories, they planned assassinations staged to look like suicides.
    Because that’s what they do you know.

  12. mike from iowa 2018-03-22 19:09

    Rounds lucked out when the voters who preferred his cardboard cut out were forced to write in Rounds name and that is how Cardboard Mike got elected.

    After Rounds was annointed, Cardboard Mike was burnt in effigy.

  13. grudznick 2018-03-22 20:03

    Cardboard Mike was prolly burnt in effigy in Iowa. By that Lederman fellow.

  14. Rich 2018-03-22 20:07

    Since TenHaken entered the public arena a few years ago, there was something about him that I didn’t like. But I didn’t know why. Now, I know why.

  15. Lora Hubbel 2018-03-22 20:07

    Anne Beal, as for staged suicides nothing like that happens in SD where Rounds, Jackley and the rest of the SD Republican elites control the DSU sensitive government data base to get back at a twitter guy …Not even when a guy gets dressed up in a hunting outfit…goes to Charles Mix county and shoots himself with a shotgun from 18 inches away…then stands the gun nicely up against a tree before he lays down to die without spilling ANY BLOOD! Then the AG gets an non-certified coroner to say Benda committed suicide by putting the shot gun in a tree while activating the trigger with a stick (read it – that is what the death cert says!).There were 2 other full county coroners who could have legally written the death cert but Marty picks Chad Peters …AND then the AG refuses my 2 FOIA requests to see the public record autopsy (when I called the pathologist, Dr Snell, about the autopsy he preformed his voice raised an octave and told me to talk to the Gregory county sheriff)…OH and BTW the same Chad Peters who was NOT certified to write death certs OR investigate death scenes was ALSO the hand-picked coroner for the Westerhuis murders….No staging here though…not in innocent SD.

  16. grudznick 2018-03-22 20:09

    If that Mr. Ten Haken fellow is the mayor of eastern South Dakota and Mr. Rounds is the Senator for all of South Dakota, how much will they really control, will it extend to Rapid City, and will the most angry whiners be from outside South Dakota?

  17. grudznick 2018-03-22 20:28

    Ms. Hubbel, are you surprised that Mr. Rounds is the very same gentleman who created that experiment at Homestake that is tied up in the opening of the demonic portals to other worlds, probably as part of some plan to let pernicious beings from another dimension here to attack those who think themselves the most righteous and overgodding?

  18. Lora Hubbel 2018-03-22 20:43

    Grudz….you can’t disprove my comment so you use a Logically Fallacious argument tactic commonly called a “Red Herring”…bringing up a totally different topic when you cannot refute the information at hand

  19. grudznick 2018-03-22 20:57

    Ms. Hubbel, you misunderstand grudznick. I approve of your comment.
    And demonic portals seem pretty dangerous, so I also appreciate your concerns about them. I know I don’t want one in my back yard. If you can successfully keep there from being any demonic portal to the 5th dimension from being in my back yard, I will definitely vote for you.

  20. owen reitzel 2018-03-22 20:58

    Don’t really know what you’re trying to get at Ann but I don’t think DSU should have been involved.

  21. Roger Cornelius 2018-03-22 21:00

    Owen, looks like another case of follow the money.

  22. John 2018-03-22 22:05

    Your position to ignore/minimize unanimous commenters flies in the face of the nation’s founding and the nation’s founding fathers. From Poor Richard to the Federalist Papers to countless other pamphlets and papers and articles a strident minority of patriots overcame the greater-numbered Tories and no-nothings to create this nation – at grave risk to their lives, families, livelihoods, or spouse’s livelihood. We are not all independently wealthy. Instead you should champion the unsung heroes. This is doubly the case in this one-party state and the age of trumpism where retribution is a fine art. Instead, consider taking the comment at its merits and historical context. Few things are as dangerous as is an idea with merit, regardless of its source. Few things are as dangerous as groundless propaganda.

  23. chris 2018-03-23 00:35

    Rounds should never have been elected senator after McVay was paroled. Nor should he even have run for the office.

  24. 96Tears 2018-03-23 13:24

    … and yet, chris, they elected Rounds anyway by a big margin.

    It worries me that a bright politico like TenHaken stands a decent chance of being elected mayor of South Dakota’s largest city. While his talents qualify him as a tireless political hatchet man, digital guru and hacker and business owner, his team record of misusing a state university to hunt someone online for the petty sake of retribution proves to me he would be much more ruthless, vindictive and power hungry if he were ever given the keys to a large government. Say what you will about Heuther, Dave Munson, Gary Hanson and Jack White, all of them added together would be a small fraction of the kind of threat young Mr. TenHaken seems able to release on an unsuspecting public and business community.

    If I were a candidate for office and wanted a data monster and ruthless tactician to rub out my critics large and small, I’d hire TenHaken in a New York minute. But he’d be last on my list of people I want close to public records, deep pocketed deal makers and the keys to City Hall and all of its employees. There appears to be a crop of political operatives in the state Republican network who are far more dangerous and stealthy than their predecessors.

  25. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-03-23 13:27

    Even if “the DSU team” was undergrads in PJs, if they used the school’s computers, network, or other resources in assisting the Rounds campaign, they broke state law.

  26. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-03-23 13:30

    John, “RINOMike” was not Alexander Hamilton or any other Founding Father. He/she was not risking his/her life. Our current political context of foriegn agents manipulating public opinion while masquerading as loyal Americans matter at least as much as the example of “Publius” et al.

    And you know, pretty much anything substantive about Mike Rounds’s record and RINOism, I would have said (and probably did say) by name, and I’m still alive, hale and hearty.

  27. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-03-23 13:33

    We also need to take a look at potential violations of the Hatch Act and other federal rules.

    DSU received lots of federal grants. Those grants probably paid some salaries. Folks paid by Uncle Sam aren’t supposed to be involved in partisan political activities. We need to know who “the DSU team” was, who wrote their paychecks, and, if they got federal paychecks, how well they observed the Hatch Act.

    There may also be some problems with a university funded by the NSA collecting domestic intelligence and using it to aid a partisan campaign. Let’s keep researching….

  28. Matthew Paulson 2018-03-23 13:40

    Cory – Nobody at DSU has used “school computers” in 15 years. Everyone has their own laptop that they pay for and they also pay for their internet connection (just as I pay Midco for Internet access). It’s been this way since I started going there in 2004. You’re just assuming because they were students that somehow they were using state resources. That’s a pretty big assumption and frankly you should provide some proof before making such a claim.

    If “Paul TenHaken was trying to help Mike Rounds uncover who was behind a troll Twitter account that was making fun of a staffer’s disabled child so they could be held accountable by the court of public opinion” is the best argument you have against a TenHaken mayoralship, I think you need to dig for some better dirt than that. This is a total non-story.

  29. South DaCola 2018-03-23 14:26

    TenHaken claiming NO one from DSU was paid is like when he told me at a forum that he is no longer collecting a paycheck from Clickrain.


    BTW, you should see the trolling going on Jolene Loetscher’s FB page after she called TenHaken out. The Fake X-Tian TenHaken army is in full force.

  30. mike from iowa 2018-03-23 14:41

    If any foreign nationals were making any decisions at DSU for the campaign it may be illegal.(at least to the extent I can understand) see example

    Cambridge Analytica employed non-American citizens to work on US election campaigns in apparent violation of federal law, despite receiving a legal warning about the risks.

    The company’s responsibilities under US law were laid out in a lawyer’s memo to the company’s vice-president, Steve Bannon, British CEO Alexander Nix and Rebekah Mercer, daughter of billionaire owner Robert Mercer, in July 2014. It made it clear that most senior and mid-level positions involving strategy, planning, fundraising or campaigning needed to be filled by US citizens.

    “Any decision maker must be a US citizen or green card holder,” the memo, seen by the Observer, warned. It also provided a brief legal history of cases involving foreign involvement in election campaigns, drawn up by a lawyer at the firm founded by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.

    “To the extent you are aware of foreign nationals providing services, including polling and marketing, it would appear that unless it is being done through US citizens, or foreign nationals with green cards, the activity would violate the law.”

  31. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-03-23 15:55

    Notice the word “if” at the start of the statement you question, Matt. I’m asking questions. Using school resources could include using the school’s servers, software, e-mail, or anything else paid for by the state.

    I recognize we don’t know if the team was students or staff. We don’t know when and where they did the work. We don’t know what DSU resources or federal resources if any were used in dealing with this data, or even if TenHaken took the step of sharing the data with “the DSU team” for analysis.

    But we could use answers to those questions to move us toward accepting that this is a non-story. We could use answers as to the conflicts of interests that could arise between a powerful political figure asking for campaign help from university folks whose programs benefited significantly from his political patronage and continue to benefit from the federal dollars he has since sent their way.

    That sounds like a story to me… and it sounds like the kind of cronyism that is worth the consideration of Sioux Falls voters in picking their next mayor.

  32. John W 2018-03-25 14:37

    We don’t seem to have a whole lot of political hacks in this state interested in running for office so they can do what is right and helpful for the state and it’s people. Rather, it seems we have a legion of nere do wells running for and serving in office for the express purpose of controlling people and policy in concert with whatever twisted whim enters their head. What ever happened to “government for the people, by the people and of the people?””” Rounds and Glodt never did impress me at all but I didn’t know anything about this Ten Haken guy until this meme showed up along with his e-mails……… What a prize he seems to be.( I learned that phrase from a former Risk Management Attorney from Brookings that was referring to a particular litigant’s propensity for frivolous and fallacious law suits against the state) Typical conservative reaction……… If you don’t like the criticism, kill the critic… or perhaps better said, if you don’t like the message, kill the messenger. Lord help us Sioux Falls can do a heck of a lot better than that.

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