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At Least 60 Legislators Conducting State Business on Private E-Mail

We all know that “one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency” is to conduct government business via a private e-mail server. One of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s first acts was to ban the use of private e-mail accounts for state business:

Records released by the state in the wake of the Flint drinking water crisis and other events have shown state officials have sometimes used private email accounts to communicate about state business — possibly as a way of trying to avoid disclosure of those communications under Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act.

…“State government must be open, transparent and accountable to Michigan taxpayers,” Whitmer said in a news release.

“To continue to earn public confidence, we must set good examples and act ethically at all times. This series of executive directives underscores the high expectations and integrity Michiganders should expect from the dedicated public servants who serve in state government” [Paul Egan, “Whitmer Bans Use of Private Email Accounts for State Business,” Detroit Free Press, 2019.01.03].

Guess who’s conducting state business via private e-mail here in South Dakota? A majority of the Legislature:

  • Sen. Al Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen):
  • Sen. Alan Solano (R-32/Rapid City):
  • Rep. Bob Glanzer (R-22/Huron):
  • Sen. Bob Ewing (R-31/Spearfish):
  • Sen. Brock Greenfield (R-2/Clark):
  • Rep. Carl Perry (R-3/Aberdeen):
  • Rep. Chris Karr (R-11/Sioux Falls):
  • Rep. Dayle Hammock (R-31/Spearfish):
  • Rep. Doug Post (R-7/Volga):
  • Rep. Drew Dennert (R-3/Aberdeen):
  • Sen. Ernie Otten (R-6/Tea):
  • Sen. Gary Cammack (R-29/Union Center):
  • Rep. Herman Otten (R-6/Lennox):
  • Sen. Jack Kolbeck (R-13/Sioux Falls):
  • Rep. Jamie Smith (D-15/Sioux Falls):
  • Rep. Jean Hunhoff (R-18/Yankton):
  • Sen. Jeff Monroe (R-24/Pierre):
  • Sen. Jeff Partridge (R-34/Rapid City):
  • Sen. Jim Stalzer (R-11/Sioux Falls):
  • Sen. Jim White (R-22/Huron):
  • Sen. Jim Bolin (R-16/Canton):
  • Rep. John Lake (R-23/Gettysburg):
  • Rep. John Mills (R-4/Volga):
  • Sen. John Wiik (R-4/Big Stone City):
  • Sen. Jordan Youngberg (R-8/Madison):
  • Sen. Justin Cronin (R-23/Gettysburg):
  • Rep. Kent Peterson (R-19/Salem):
  • Rep. Kevin Jensen (R-16/Canton):
  • Rep. Kyle Schoenfish (R-19/Scotland):
  • Rep. Lance Koth (R-20/Mitchell):
  • Rep. Larry Zikmund (R-14/Sioux Falls):
  • Sen. Lee Schoenbeck (R-5/Watertown):
  • Rep. Lee Qualm (R-21/Platte):
  • Rep. Linda Duba (D-15/Sioux Falls):
  • Rep. Manny Steele (R-12/Sioux Falls):
  • Rep. Mary Duvall (R-24/Pierre):
  • Rep. Michael Saba (D-9/Hartford):
  • Rep. Nancy York (R-5/Watertown):
  • Rep. Paul Miskimins (R-20/Mitchell):
  • Sen. R. Blake Curd (R-12/Sioux Falls):
  • Rep. Ray Ring (D-17/Vermillion):
  • Rep. Rebecca Reimer (R-26B/Chamberlain):
  • Sen. Rocky Blare (R-21/Ideal):
  • Rep. Roger Chase (R-22/Huron):
  • Sen. Ryan Maher (R-28/Isabel):
  • Rep. Ryan Cwach (D-18/Yankton):
  • Rep. Sam Marty (R-28B/Prairie City):
  • Rep. Scyller Borglum (R-32/Rapid City):
  • Rep. Shawn Bordeaux (D-26A/Mission):
  • Rep. Steve Livermont (R-27/Martin):
  • Rep. Steven Haugaard (R-10/Sioux Falls):
  • Rep. Steven McCleerey (D-1/Sisseton):
  • Rep. Taffy Howard (R-33/Rapid City):
  • Rep. Tamara St. John (R-1/Sisseton):
  • Rep. Tim Rounds (R-24/Pierre):
  • Rep. Tim Reed (R-7/Brookings):
  • Rep. Timothy Johns (R-31/Lead):
  • Rep. Tina Mulally (R-35/Rapid City):
  • Rep. Tom Pischke (R-25/Dell Rapids):
  • Sen. V. J. Smith (R-7/Brookings):

An interested constituent got hold of the South Dakota Retailers’ Legislative Lineup, a publication the Retailers give free to their member businesses and sell to other folks for $4.25 a pop. The constituent found that voting majorities of both chambers—20 members of the Senate, 40 members of the House—invite constituents to conduct state business on private e-mail servers.

60% of the Republican caucus and 44% of the Democratic caucus commit this e-faux pas (formally, that should be faux pas-é).

The standard public e-mail address assigned to every legislator is

Every full-time employer, public and private, that I’ve had since e-mail became a thing has assigned me an organizational e-mail and required me to use it exclusively. I even enforce that policy (a little loosely; I need to improve) on myself at home: I have separate e-mail accounts for this blog, my occasional political campaigns, and other affairs. I’m not going to fire myself from Dakota Free Press for sending a friendly note via my blog account, but my blog, campaign, and personal communication streams separate helps me organize my messages.

Legislators have both an organizational and a public obligation to keep their Legislative communications on the public server to which they all have access. Governor Noem made e-mail transparency a campaign issue; legislators should follow her wishes and keep their Legislative communications transparent by conducting them on their public account.

Citizens, if you’d like to contact your legislators, feel free to use this complete contact list, showing the above naughty private e-mail addresses alongside the proper public e-mail address. The list also includes phone numbers and mailing addresses. I notice that 23 legislators do not give phone numbers… which I can actually live with. Spam callers have so taken over the voice lines that answering a ring is more often than not a waste of time. Besides, there are enough times when legislators should not be taking calls (committee hearings, floor debates, crackerbarrels, driving to and from Pierre) that voice communication is impractical, unwise, and unfair. I accept asynchronous communication with legislators as a sign of responsible time management. I just would prefer that, if we’re talking state business, it be on the state e-mail.


  1. mike from iowa 2019-01-24 08:44

    Watch out, lads, Miss Lindsey Graham, as chair of judiciary committee in the ewe ess sinate is going to look into HRC’s private server for the millionth time. I’m sure he will ignore everyone in the kremlin annex, including the Vitamin C skin colored bogus potus, his daughter and her hubby’s private email servers, but he may invade South Dakota.

  2. Steve Pearson 2019-01-24 10:51

    If you and all of you on the HRC bandwagon are okay with her using a private server than you cannot throw shade at small SD officials using private emails when they are doing nothing regarding National Security. Come on. Hypocrisy.

    HRC violated these Federal laws:
    U.S. Code § 798 – Disclosure of classified information
    U.S. Code § 1031 — Major fraud against the United States
    U.S. Code § 371 – Conspiracy to commit a federal offense
    U.S. Code § 1924 – Unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or material
    U.S. Code § 2071(b) — Concealment, removal, or mutilation generally
    U.S. Code § 1346 — Definition of “scheme or artifice to defraud”
    U.S. Code § 641 – Public money, property or records
    U.S. Code § 1343 – Fraud by wire, radio or television
    U.S. Code § 1505 – Obstruction of proceedings before departments, agencies, and committees
    U.S. Code § 1519 — Destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in federal investigations
    18 U.S. Code § 793 — Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information

  3. mike from iowa 2019-01-24 12:00

    Troll, all those so called violations have been hashed and rehashed and debunked. If HRC had actually violated any federal laws, wingnuts would have lynched her on the spot. They didn’t. Why was that?

  4. Porter Lansing 2019-01-24 12:03

    Clinton is small potatoes. Dick Cheney deleted 20 million e-mails and had all e-mails to and from the White House run through the RNC server. (Things you learn watching the film The Vice). He also had the morning briefing and all correspondence sent to his team before George W. got to see them. (As if George W. actually read official documents.) This is why Colin Powell used his own private server and Hillary legally didn’t trust official servers and legally set up her own. Read ’em and weep into your hanky, Lindsey.

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-01-24 12:42

    Steve Pearson apparently agrees that state legislators deserve criticism for using conducting state business and storing state-business-related messages on private servers.

    Click on the first link I offered in the original post, Steve, and you’ll see that’s the only reference to Hillary Clinton that I make. We’re not on Fox News here; we’re talking about actual bad practices by actual South Dakota legislators. Do you care about anything you aren’t taught by television? Do you care how your state is run, and what your state officials do?

    This post is not about the things we hear on national television. This post is about a bad, anti-transparency practice by a majority of South Dakota legislators.

  6. sharon 2019-01-24 14:50

    and state employees are not allowed to use state email for personal use, just another double standard.

  7. Roger Elgersma 2019-01-24 17:41

    Giving out all their personal email addresses will not reduce the problem of secret deals.

  8. Roger Elgersma 2019-01-24 17:44

    communicating with constituents by private email is substantively no different than calling them on a personal phone or private conversation. But communication between government employees can not be monitered without some restrictions.

  9. grudznick 2019-01-24 17:49

    I wonder if the legislatures have access to those email addresses when they are not in the sessions like when they are hard at work at home in Aberdeen for their constituents. I guess they do get free iPads and iPhones after they are sworn in these days and they get to take those home so the emails probably work just fine. I wonder if they get to keep those emails after they leave the legislatures or if they use them when campaigning and want to keep the same ones and if communication between consituents and the legislatures is private and secret communication. When I talk to my lawyers or accountants I want it private. When I talk to my legislatures, which I don’t because mine are all Whackies, but if I did I would want it to be private. just wondering.

  10. John Wiik 2019-01-24 18:31

    If I may comment, I was clued into this post by a colleague. In my defense, for the case of total transparency, I offer my personal email address, and usually my campaign email address as a point of first contact. I then follow up on any official business using my state email account. When not in session, I choose not to do personal business on my state provided laptop, and I don’t turn it on every day unless directed by a personal email that delivers to my cell phone.

    It was a compromise to make me more accessible to voters and avoid the temptation of keeping my state provided computer on all the time to do personal business. I avoid the co-mingling of personal and state resources as much as possible.

    Thank you,

    Senator John Wiik

Comments are closed.