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How Do Seiler & Means Compare on Courtroom Experience and EB-5/GEAR UP Knowledge?

Republicans have another eleven days to argue about whom they should nominate for Attorney General. We Democrats have to make up our minds in four days: our convention session to nominate candidates for Attorney General and the six other non-primaried statewide offices starts at 1 p.m. Friday in Sioux Falls.

Republican A.G. contender John Fitzgerald is making hay of the charge that one of his opponents, Jason Ravnsborg, has never tried a criminal case before a jury. On the Democratic side, A.G. hopefuls Tatewin Means and Randy Seiler have avoided attacking each other and have both expressed broader visions of the role of the Attorney General beyond cuffing and stuffing bad guys. Nonetheless, Seiler’s campaign bio notes that he was “lead counsel on more than 70 federal felony jury trials and more than 500 criminal cases” during his time as Assistant United States Attorney for the District of South Dakota. Means’s campaign bio lists her experience as Attorney General for the Oglala Sioux Tribe and Deputy State’s Attorney for Oglala Lakota County and in many important projects, but the bio does not list or tally prosecutions or jury trials.

Along with courtroom records, Democratic delegates may also want to ask our Attorney General candidates about their interactions with two of South Dakota’s biggest corruption scandals. Seiler inherited the federal EB-5 investigation when Brendan Johnson resigned and closed the investigation in 2015 after finding insufficient evidence to press federal charges. Way back in the 1990s, Means participated as a student in the School of Mines and Technology’s Scientific Knowledge for Indian Learning & Leadership program, which eventually became the ill-fated South Dakota GEAR UP program. Means provided the keynote address to the 2014 GEAR UP class. And one document in my GEAR UP files, the 2013 SDGEARUP School Site Coordinator Application for Employment, shows Tatewin Means as the document creator. Tatewin Means doesn’t pop up in any of the other GEAR UP documents in my files, but that one application suggests Means did at least a little work related to GEAR UP for her uncle Stacy Phelps, one of the GEAR UP figures whom Attorney General Marty Jackley is prosecuting.

There is no evidence that either Seiler or Means was involved in either scandal. But Seiler and Means each have connections to the biggest South Dakota scandals of this decade that could help us understand what happened and will surely inform their approach to corruption in South Dakota government.


  1. leslie 2018-06-11

    Let ‘s not hurt either candidates chances from the left. let’s determine how to get the independent vote. EB5 is owned lot/stock and barrel by the SD GOP Republican parties and cronies it rewards. An AG with 5 years experience and a lifetime of SD politics, and a seasoned US prosecutor, are both formidable. A white guy or an Indian woman. Pretty heady stuff. we are lucky to have such a choice to make. Thank you both Tatewin and Randy for their willingness to take on/over the state of SD government!!

  2. Spike 2018-06-11

    No Leslie

    Seiler could have pursued Keith Moore and others on federal charges of theft, fraud or other charges for their ‘consulting fees.’ Seiler and friends have charged and/or convicted natives from the rez’s for a lot less believe me.

    I hope he wins. But he’s got mud on his hands for letting people get away with stealing from native kids futures too.

  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-11

    Hold on, Spike—Keith Moore is a GEAR UP character. Did the U.S. Attorney’s office have anything to do with investigating GEAR UP after the scandal broke in fall 2015?

  4. Michael L. Wyland 2018-06-12


    The feds seldom acknowledge the existence of a federal investigation until and unless charges are brought. Officially, no federal charges have been brought, so we don’t know – officially – whether there was an investigation or investigations by the FBI, U.S. Attorney, U.S. Dept. of Ed. inspector general, etc.

    There was one report in late 2017 about the end of an Interior Dept. OIG investigation into GEAR UP, but that investigation addressed a very small sliver of GEAR UP-related activity. As the Argus reported:

    “Law enforcement officials cautioned that the Interior Department’s investigation was focused on a narrow portion of the overall Gear Up [sic] program. Other agencies with additional jurisdictions might also be investigating.” See:

  5. Nick Reid 2018-06-13

    It seems to me that if the Dems want to have any chance at statewide elections, they are going to need to get out the Native American vote. I would think that Means could help a lot with that.

    As well, she would certainly shake up a DOJ that desperately needs some shaking. I don’t know who I will support, but Tatewin Means would certainly make for a fun campaign.

  6. leslie 2018-06-15

    Delegates: ask Seiler whether EB5 lack of evidence was result of Republican cover up?

    Spike I hear u man. That investigation too smells to high heaven according to the word on the street. Republicans have buried the truth.

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