Press "Enter" to skip to content

Lobbyist Says Unfair Not to Let Lobbyists Pick Interim Committee Members

According to Bob Mercer’s headline, municipal electric lobbyists say “Different legislators should have been chosen.”

A couple hundred thousand voters across South Dakota express their surprise that it took municipal electric lobbyists this long to figure that out, and several dozen brave souls welcome those lobbyists’ help in the next election.

Ah, but no, the municipal electric lobby isn’t having an epiphany about the ills of the ongoing Republican majority. They’re huffing and puffing that they didn’t get the legislators they wanted on the interim committee that’s looking at the conflict between municipal electrical providers and rural electric cooperatives:

The complaint Tuesday came from Drew Duncan of Sioux Falls, who represents Heartland Consumers Power District based in Madison, and Larry Nelson of Canton, who lobbies for South Dakota Municipal Electric Association and Missouri River Energy Services.

Duncan said the original agreement reached at a private meeting in Greenfield’s office called for three legislators from a list provided by the municipal interests, three legislators off a list from the cooperatives and three legislators who hadn’t aligned with either side.

Duncan said Senator Lee Schoenbeck, a Republican from Watertown, and a lobbyist for the cooperatives took part in the meeting too.

Nelson, a Democratic former legislator, said he was sitting outside Greenfield’s office during the meeting.

Duncan said he was surprised when the Executive Board appointed five of the bill’s co-sponsors to the study panel. They are Senator Susan Wismer, D-Britton, and House members Thomas Brunner, R-Nisland; Kirk Chaffee, R-Whitewood; Spencer Gosch, R-Glenham; and Shawn Bordeaux, D-Mission.

“I can tell you the perception will be the committee was set up unfairly,” Duncan told board members. He said the way the selection process worked out “was fundamentally unfair” [Bob Mercer, “Different Legislators Should Have Been Chosen, Lobbyists Tell South Dakota Lawmakers,” KELO-TV, 2019.05.21].

The Legislature hoghoused 2019 Senate Bill 66 in March to empanel this summer study and at least delay if not avert a death match between the munis and the rural coops over whether cities can continue to annex territory and take customers away from rural coops. SB 66 specifies that the Legislature’s Executive Board shall select the nine members of the interim committee. Lobbyist Duncan appears to find it unfair that the Executive Board did not cede its power to unelected lobbyists and let them pick the interim committee members at a private meeting.

I’ll roll with poor, wronged Drew Duncan and Heartland Consumers Power District (what? Heartland? You didn’t send my friend Russ Olson to straighten the E-Board out? Come on, bring the big gun!) in that the Legislature makes and is filled with bad choices. I am unconvinced that lobbyists can make better, fairer choices.


  1. Debbo 2019-05-24 20:15

    All this done in a “private” (read “secret”) meeting. SOP for the GOP.

  2. grudznick 2019-05-25 09:05

    It really depends on which lobbyists get to pick, now, doesn’t it? Young Mr. Duncan would pick the same fellows that Mr. Duncan, the elder, would. Mr. Pankratz would pick a whole different set. I think you would need to let all the lobbyists vote to make it work.

  3. Porter Lansing 2019-05-25 10:57

    grudznick wants to be able to vote? Lobbyists don’t vote. Voting is for others. Lobbyists bribe the uninformed to steal their votes and sell those stolen votes for personal profit. No doubt the most despicable weasels on the river bank.

  4. Drew Duncan 2019-05-25 11:04

    Thank you for bringing additional exposure to this issue and your support of affordable public power in South Dakota. While I could certainly have done without the personal dig on my birthday of all days, I do appreciate that this important issue is getting more attention. Have a great day and don’t hesitate to call me if you want to help the cause.

    Also thank you to those in the comment section calling me “young”. While I didn’t feel “young” this morning, it now appears that a close reading of the comment section says I am.

  5. Donald Pay 2019-05-25 12:19

    It’s an interesting issue, and very difficult to solve that will keep every one happy. Minnesota has dealt with the issue in the past, though I think the big issue involved NSP (or Xcel) and the co-ops.

  6. Debbo 2019-05-25 12:31

    Porter, I’m sure there are some decent lobbyists. And there is Grudz….

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-05-25 16:05

    Grudz makes me think we really need to gerrymander the lobbyists. Give them all a vote on who gets to sit on committees, but divide them up into ten little “lobby lobbies.” Stick Duncan in with the homeschool lobbyists. Separate the Family Heritage Alliance, the Concerned Women of America, and Leslee Unruh into lobby lobbies dominated by other big players so the faux-pro-lifers don’t ever get to pick anyone for committees. Divide the NRA and SDGO, too, dilute their power by sticking one in with the environmental lobby and the other in with the education lobby.

    I could get to like this.

  8. Debbo 2019-05-25 16:13

    I like your plan Cory.

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-05-25 16:36

    Drew, you can’t believe everything you read in the comment section. But I had no idea it was your birthday! Happy birthday! I hope you get a card from Senator Greenfield. :-D

    All ribbing and anti-democratic-lobbyist-entitlement-mindset aside (yeah, I’m not setting it that far aside—this is why I don’t get invited to birthday parties), Mr. Duncan is right: this issue of rural vs. municipal electrics is a huge public policy issue that deserves all the open meetings and press it can get. Rural electric cooperatives made lots of economic development possible in this state. Rural electric cooperatives remain vital to the livelihood of lots of South Dakotans. If cities scoop up big populous chunks of the coops and leave them saddled with the farther-flung, more expensive customers, I imagine the coops could have a hard time surviving, which would mean lots of rural folks would either have to put in wind and solar generators or move to town. (Dang: if more urban annexation drove a rural self-sufficiency revolution, maybe I’d advocate that crash course… but that sounds too radical too hope for.)

    On the flip side, the munis say they are annexing those adjoining turfs for today’s wave of economic development, drawing big manufacturers and other corporations to their outskirt industrial parks by offering them power at cheaper rates than the rural coops can (please correct me if I’m getting the main points wrong here, Drew). Take that annexing power away, and sure, the coops will keep the power flowing to the rural customers at reasonable costs, but the nearby towns won’t be able to draw more business, and those shackled towns and the surrounding rural populations will continue to dwindle as farms keep consolidating and more people move to places where opportunities are growing.

    Really if I did just a quick ledger read, a Greatest Good for the Greatest Number analysis, I might initially take a half-step across the line to Drew’s and Russell’s side, as I’m tempted to say that the munis can make a better case for offering 21st-century economic development prospects (not to mention cheaper power for more customers) than the rural electrics.

    But even without my friend Scott Parsley coming to wring my neck (he wouldn’t do that; he would simply make the case with a gleam in his eye that says I am royally full of crap and need to rectify my thinking) the rural electrics built those places that the munis now want to annex. The rural electrics put in those power lines and substations. They built a whole network; it doesn’t seem fair that the munis can just scoop up big chunks of that network.

    And is a new factory on the edge of Madison really more important than keeping my mom and dad’s Sioux Valley Electric bill on Lake Herman down to reasonable rates?

    There’s a huge debate to be had here, a huge discussion that goes right to the soul of South Dakota’s future, rural vs. urban (or, maybe, rural versus somewhat less rural). I still don’t think the lobbyists should be in the back rooms dickering for the right to pick who serves on the interim committee. Forget that. If I’m a lobbyist with lots of powerful clients (a.k.a. campaign donors), I take whoever Brock picks for the committee, friends and lunkheads alike, and I jawbone them all summer. I call every day all summer, and I have my boss, my other boss, and their boss calling, too. I make them wish they’d never been picked for this committee, and I make clear the only way they get out of this committee, the 2020 Session, and the next election alive is if they push that committee bill toward my people’s interest.

    If I were a lobbyist, I wouldn’t need to pick my legislators to win. I’d win ’em all over.

    Come on, Drew! You get paid for this stuff, and you’re a whole year older, wiser, richer, and meaner. You can do it—go kick some butt!

  10. Porter Lansing 2019-05-25 16:57

    Heidelberger says, “If I were a lobbyist, I wouldn’t need to pick my legislators to win. I’d win ’em all over.” WTF? He’s drifting to the dark side, Obi Wan. Grudznick’s telling him he can get him in the clique? My, my my.

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-05-26 18:14

    Porter, I’m just saying that if I were a lobbyist, I’d go in with the conviction that I can win over anyone with the rightness of my clients’ causes. And I only work for people who are right.

  12. Porter Lansing 2019-05-26 19:37

    Cory, I fully believe in your salesmanship and ability to win over Republican legislators. Huh? That’s an interesting concept. Only working for people who are right. You sound like a fresh, newly graduated attorney who vows only to defend people who are innocent. However, one may ask, are these people Cory would lobby for right because the majority of South Dakota believes they’re right? Are they right because Cory believes they’re right? Or, are these people right because they’ve chosen Cory to lobby for them? It appears you believe that unlike in a court, where everyone deserves a good lawyer not every issue deserves a good lobbyist.

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-05-27 07:04

    Porter, I won’t plunge into relativism. Right is right. If my clients and I agree, we sally forth.

    We may be able to distinguish legal practice from lobbying. Lawyers swear an oath which includes these two relevant clauses (see SDCL 16-16-18):

    “I will not counsel or maintain any suit or proceeding which shall appear to me to be unjust, nor any defense except such as I believe to be honestly debatable under the law of the land;”

    “I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed, or delay any person’s cause for lucre or malice.”

    That oath binds lawyers not to participate in unjust actions unless they can come up with an honest, debatable arguments to support their clients. How hard that oath requires lawyers to work their creativity to overcome their conscience is unclear. But even lawyers appear to have an out from actions they strongly feel are wrong.

    At the same time, the attorney’s oath requires lawyers to defend the defenseless, without regard to personal consideration. I’m unclear on whether “consideration” here means just money or more broadly conscience (bearcreekbat! help?), but that part of the oath seems to compel lawyers to take up causes that no one else will defend and support the Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

    Lobbyists take no oath. Bills and issues have no Sixth Amendment rights. Citizens and special interest groups have no Sixth Amendment right to counsel in Legislative hearings. Lobbyists appear entirely free to accept or reject clients on merit or on whim.

    I have taken the position that no ballot question should go without either a pro or con statement in the statewide ballot question pamphlet. But I’ve also mocked the Pro statements of corporate fascists and GOP flacks for being so transparently bad that they’d have been better off not writing anything.

    I generally encourage debate and invite an honest hearing of honest arguments on both sides of an issue so honest policymakers can synthesize viewpoints into the best position. But that commitment to debate does not oblige me make stuff up for the side of a debate that’s got nothing to win on, just because they want to pay me lots of money. I can pass up a check every now and then; I cannot afford to say things I don’t believe in public.

  14. sdslim 2019-05-27 13:07

    Wouldn’t putting the muni’s, REC’s and the IOU’s under the PUC be the answer —- not just the IOU portion of the industry? They are all interconnected on the grid. Most of them have contracts with each other about issues of “wheeling” energy and if they don’t, I can tell you their supplier does. The PUC set territories for the REA’s and IOU’s back in the 70’s. I have been in this industry since 1971. I have never understood why only one segment of the energy industry is regulated.

  15. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-05-29 19:03

    SDSlim, don’t those utilities have to answer to the PUC, too? Tell me more how that separation works.

  16. leslie 2019-06-01 08:56

    Most lobbyists have codes of conduct.

    “senior editor Lee Siegel, who had maintained a blog on the TNR site dedicated primarily to art and culture, was revealed by an investigation to have collaborated in posting comments to his own blog under an alias aggressively praising Siegel, attacking his critics and claiming not to be Lee Siegel when challenged”.

    Oh grdz??

  17. Debbo 2019-06-01 10:30


    Leslie is the man!

Comments are closed.