Attorney General Marty Jackley put out a press release yesterday to announce “preliminary” results of the investigation into Sioux Falls mayoral candidate Jolene Loetscher’s hacking complaint. Jackley says his Division of Criminal Investigation and the Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office have found “no evidence at this time that either a bank account or a website have been compromised.”
The GOP spin machine that Jackley sponsors heaves a sigh of relief on behalf of its preferred candidate, Republican Web-trickster Paul TenHaken. Sioux Falls blogger Scott Ehrisman heaves the double-standard flag at Jackley, comparing Jackley’s swift announcement of investigation results before the final vote for mayor to Jackley’s restraint in commenting on investigations during the 2014 U.S. Senate primary:
The timing of this press release is questionable.
Remember when Marty’s buddy Rounds was running for Senate and they couldn’t comment on an ‘ongoing’ investigation into EB-5 during a campaign? But it seems for some reason it is OK for the AG to say they have essentially ‘found nothing’ because, well they have ‘nothing’ a couple days before an election who just happens to have a Republican VS a Democrat [Scott Ehrisman, “AG Has a Double Standard on Interfering with an Election,” South DaCola, 2018.04.25].
There are a couple angles to Ehrisman’s charge.
First, recall Jackley’s public statements in May 2015 about the U.S. Department of Justice’s handling of its investigation of South Dakota’s EB-5 scandal. Among Jackley’s weak and poorly founded implications that the DOJ politicized the EB-5 investigation during the 2014 election, Jackley claimed that the DOJ misbehaved by commenting on an ongoing investigation. DOJ didn’t, but Jackley cites a proper principle of law enforcement conduct that he himself fails to uphold in the Loetscher complaint. “This investigation is ongoing,” says Jackley’s Wednesday press release. “Investigators are still awaiting records from other social media entities.”
Second, recall Jackley’s investigation of Annette Bosworth’s petition fraud in 2014. Jackley received information about Bosworth’s criminal activity in early April 2014. In early May 2014 he announced, cautiously, that he would “review several petitions submitted by candidates for United States Senate” but withheld details because “any investigation into potential violations should not affect this election as the voters not prosecutors should determine the election outcome.” I took umbrage to that position at the time, contending that being on the ballot should not render a candidate immune from arrest and prosecution until after the election.
These two investigations differ: In Bosworth’s case, members of the public (including me) presented evidence that a candidate had broken the law. That evidence was publicly available and pretty clear. In the current case, a candidate has filed a complaint about possible criminal hacking, but none of the evidence has been made public, and while speculators can point out that TenHaken has the motive and means, there’s no hard public evidence or even a formal public accusation that Loetscher’s opponent broke the law.
Still, Jackley’s statements on the federal EB-5 investigation and his own conduct of the 2014 Bosworth investigation show a greater caution about commenting on investigations affecting active political candidates than his premature expostulation about the Sioux Falls hacking investigation.
Amidst all the media attention the Loetscher/TenHaken election contest is getting, there is probably nothing Jackley can say about the Loetscher complaint that won’t influence the Sioux Falls mayoral election. Thus, Jackley should keep his fat out of any Comey fire and say nothing, at least until the investigation is done. If Jackley and Sheriff Milstead, really find nothing, then they should say, “Found nothing, case closed.” If they do find something, their next announcement should be, “Knock, knock—you’re under arrest.” Either way, that investigation should come when the investigation is done, without regard to whether the election is done.