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Kloucek, Billion Call for Suggestions to Fight State Corruption

Former Democratic legislators Frank Kloucek and Jack Billion are trying to revive public attention to the GEAR UP scandal, which padded the pockets of prominent Republican education consultant Rick Melmer’s old hometown cronies in Platte before leading to the murder-suicide of two of the scam’s principals, one limp plea bargain, and zero successful convictions by the last somewhat competent Attorney General of South Dakota. In an open letter, the two politicos call for suggestions for reform to prevent such fraud in state government from recurring:

In the wake of the GEAR UP tragedy, no one has ever come forward with an honest, accurate number of deserving Native American kids who actually went to college. This is despite our state government blowing through about $60 million of our state and federal tax dollars. High-placed bureaucrats claimed preposterous conflicts of interest were “business as usual.” Auditors failed their professional and ethical obligations. Politicians suddenly came down with amnesia. Consultants laughed all the way to the bank with their ill-gotten millions. While thousands of our young people got cheated out of a chance for a better future, no one ever spent a single night in jail. It was convenient to blame it all on the dead guy and move on.

Will our state’s Native American children and our taxpayers suffer again from such scandals? Yes they will, unless we find ways to prevent such abuses of public trust from happening again. If you have suggestions for meaningful changes—in rules, laws, or oversight procedures—please consider sharing them with us before November 10. If you wish, we will keep your identity confidential. We will not attribute your comments to you in any way. We will present our findings and proposals to legislators and other public officials for their review and action in the 2020 legislative session.

Frank Kloucek

Email: • 29966 423rd Avenue • Scotland, SD 57059 • 605-660-0254

Jack Billion

Email: • 400 E. 21st Street • Sioux Falls, SD 57105 • 605-212-2084 [Frank Kloucek and Jack Billion, open letter, South Dacola, 2019.10.21]

Sioux Falls non-profits expert Michael Wyland proposed a new Legislative panel with toothier investigatory powers last year that would answer Kloucek and Billion’s call nicely. The 2019 Legislature took no notice of Wyland’s proposal; the same crowd will likely ignore this renewed call for action against corruption. When legislators like Senate Majority Whip Al Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen) make a point of fighting anti-corruption measures at the local level, we should them to resist efforts to check the corruption of the even bigger, more powerful fish of the Pierre establishment.


  1. Caitlin 2019-10-25 14:55

    OMG! How many governors ago? Can we try to focus on the present? They don’t even have a functioning party! You wanna do something to stop corruption in SD? Look at now! Look at the state economy. Look at education. Look at the drug laws that NO other state has! Do something about those issues but don’t do history lessons now when we are in deep trouble.

  2. Donald Pay 2019-10-25 15:44

    Caitlin has a point. Sometimes it pays to look ahead to what the next atrocity might be. My feeling is the use of state bribe money to county governments to favor some elite ag producers to the detriment of others might be one that would be of interest. Picking winners and losers is not a great place for state government to be in, especially when the state government has to regulate those CAFOs. Anyone think the state is going to fairly evaluate various permits after sinking money in a project? Hell, no, they aren’t.

    I think Caitlin should be concerned with history in this regard, because it tends to repeat a lot in South Dakota. I’ve seen it for 40 years. It’s not the same cast of characters, maybe, or the exact same screenplay, but there’s a sort of thread that goes through a lot of the scandals.

    The thread is this: the elite and politically-connected tilt the regulatory and economic framework to their advantage, then pay off the elected leaders who provide them the tilt. I’ve seen it happen over and over. The people of South Dakota are complicit in this. They think they are getting a good deal if they scarf up some crumbs from the elites’ table. They have little hope for a good life, and they know it, but they can’t see a way out. If you look at the history of organized crime, it takes a corrupt leadership and a cowed and gutless citizenry to allow such syndicates to emerge and prosper. The question is how do you get South Dakotans to get some courage.

  3. paul harens 2019-10-25 21:29

    It isn’t too late – GEAR UP was one scandal, notice the other one, EB 5, isn’t mentioned at all. Maybe because many of those politicians are still around and want it hidden! I, for one, am happy that Frank & Jack aren’t afraid to come forward to try and change the Status Quo. Instead of yelling at them, help them. Send them ideas.

  4. grudznick 2019-10-25 22:14

    Mr. harens, the GEAR UPping, the scandalous one, has all the information right in the legislatures laps but yet they choose to not talk about it or bring it out, so I think we should all let it go.

  5. Debbo 2019-10-26 00:12

    SD is right on top of it! They arrested 3 women for welfare fraud. The highest amount was about $110,000. The other two were 5 figure amounts.

    Hey, the SDGOP may rip us all off for many millions of dollars, but they got those 3 women, so I guess everything is just peachy. Priorities, baby.

  6. Clyde 2019-10-26 06:30

    Donald Pay is right on the money. The current county money for CAFO’s scheme is a major conflict of interest that ought to be stopped with a lawsuit right now. The only way to resolve past crookedness is to stop re-electing the same crooks that brought it in the first place. These elites that bring us this stuff need to be locked up and that isn’t going to happen as long as you have the good ol boy anything goes R party in charge. The idiot electorate needs to wake up and that is unlikely.
    As Debbo points out….we’re after the little people but 60 M here 60 M there is no big deal.

  7. Robert Kolbe 2019-10-26 08:40

    Wouldn’t a National T V program that deals with suspicious deaths find this a real field to dig into?
    Screwed Infians
    Major Money
    Killing of a family
    Prominent political$ $cam
    Political friends ignore
    Legislature chooses Ignorence

    Should be worth 3 hours of
    Prime Time.

  8. Adam 2019-10-26 09:13

    The only way to get at the heart of corruption in South Dakota is to double rural education funding (so that rurals get less dumb in the future) and fortify their mental health care services (in order to address their mental illnesses) and then get farmers and ranchers out of state government all together.

  9. Donald Pay 2019-10-26 12:08

    I sense Adam is frustrated with rural voters. Rural voters were once the backbone of the South Dakota Democratic Party, at least in a large chunk of East River and a few spots in West River. Even in a Republican stronghold, Frank Kloucek got elected and reelected because he addressed rural concerns in a progressive way. Kloucek and many of the rural Democrats are pro-life. I remember when the SD Democratic Party took a tolerant approach on the abortion issue. The Party welcomed all approaches on this issue. I know it frustrated a lot of people, but it did allow rural Democrats to be competitive.

  10. Adam 2019-10-26 16:00

    The hang up they used to have on abortion has developed into ‘city people don’t respect them,’ and this attitude has led to many specific feral behaviors and beliefs via encouraging them to live in a full-on imaginary fantasy land – which, today, makes them hard-impossible to love.

    How many more times, in life, do we have to listen to a broken English white trash mofo say things like, “lower taxes will actually increase tax revenue”? Why should our country put up with idiots pushing fake math like this for even just one more day?

    When people live in a fantasy land, you’ve got jar them out of it with the truth because gently nudging does not usually work.

  11. Porter Lansing 2019-10-26 18:01

    My research into the beginnings of what you call “feral behaviors and beliefs” began with the inception of FoxNews and satellite dishes and/or cable to rural citizens. These great folks are alone a lot and have too much time to stew and get teed off about the lies on FoxNews.
    *Remember when FoxNews used to do disclaimers and the end of the news, citing mistakes they’d made? It took about three minutes, sometimes. Wonder why they don’t do that anymore? heh HEH ho!

  12. Robin Friday 2019-10-26 18:56

    Thanks for calling us “great folks” Porter, but we “rural citizens” are not all that isolated and uneducated, nor are we to blame for Donald Trump any more than suburban and urban folks. And yes, I did see that post from a Dakota Rural Action member (can’t remember if he was a leader) who said he voted for Trump and plans to again because “at least Trump’s trying”. (Translation: I’m a faithful, loyal, patriotic Republican and I’ll be damned if I’ll vote for anyone else, no matter how I’ve been screwed by the Repubs.) Any farmer who votes for Trump after the last three years is more intellectually challenged than he is farmer.

  13. Adam 2019-10-26 22:18

    For whatever it’s worth, David Axelrod used term “feral strategies” to describe a rather large sub-sect of Republican politics – approximately 3 months after I thought I was only one who EVER used the word “feral” to describe the same group of people.

    When will the country catch up with understanding reality? – it’s just a matter of time.

  14. Debbo 2019-10-27 00:30

    “Feral strategies” is very apt Adam. What we’re seeing now is the cornered animal response.

    When Waddling Walrus goes, he’s taking everyone he can with him and that’s the top half of the GOP, elected and otherwise. Hence their feral behavior intensifies. They’re staring in the face of long prison sentences.

    They were so stupid to use such an insane and pathetic vehicle as Waddling Walrus to enact their grand and greedy scheme. They’ll get no mercy from me, nor do they deserve any from anyone. Only genuine– Genuine –remorse might change my mind.

  15. Clyde 2019-10-27 08:40

    Adam, the reason this state and the other states in this nation have Initiative and Referendum is because of rural farming South Dakotan’s.

    Porter is right. I can’t visit a fast food establishment or almost any other establishment with a TV on the wall that hasn’t got Fox blaring away at me.

    I think that what ever has corrupted your mind towards farmers might just be the problem.

    Since this country elected that greatest of all Republican presidents, R Reagan it has put at least 90% of the farmers out of business and moved to completely chemical food production. Big multinationals are completely responsible for nearly all Ag decisions and farmers are coming down with six times as many cases of Non Hodgkin Lymphoma as the general public. When your food production is completely out of the hands of farmer’s what do you suppose you are going to be eating? Because that is where it is going. A tiny number of owners with illegals doing all the work and using what ever means give’s the most profit. Hell, that is where we are now!

    It is unfortunate that the farmers that are left out here are the one’s that have bought into the Republican mantra….”Greed is Good!” it used to be that only the smartest and best cold survive in this business but that has been replaced by the greediest with the most inherited wealth competing against those who have gone through chapter 12 bankruptcy.

  16. Adam 2019-10-27 12:09

    America needs to have a conversation about how we pay stupid animals grow our food and raise the other animals we eat, and about how white trash is not limited to trailer parks.

    I’m just significantly let down that I gave rural folks so much benefit of the doubt for so very long. No one ever warned me about potentially feeling this way – about rurals – if I were to try to live in a state like SD.

    Sure, 1-30% of them (depending on where you’re at) are decent and sensible people, but that is a REALLY LOW percentage compared to normal civilized Americans.

    Every state looks all red with one or more blue dots in it, and now I very much understand why.

  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-27 19:20

    The warning from Caitlin is apt. We tested GEAR UP as a campaign issue in 2016 and 2018. It apparently did not register with voting majorities anywhere as reason to change management.

    The lack of oversight to prevent corruption is a problem, and we must remain ever vigilant against it. I support Kloucek’s and Billion’s effort from a policymaking standpoint, but we should not overestimate how well voters will respond to it.

    Donald and Clyde signal that CAFOs could be a good angle policywise and politically. There are plenty fo rural folks who feel their voices are being drowned out by Pierre’s subservience to big money. Astute campaigners could tie corruption and rural values together an make some hay with the CAFO-bribe issue.

  18. grudznick 2019-10-27 19:45

    It will be most interesting, with nearly all of the Gearing Up people still in the government and having danced around the questions, how Messrs. Billion and Kloucek will effect some sort of policy making from being outside the legislatures. This could be double-dog-challenging for Mr. Kloucek, who is noted as having been the least effective, ever, in the legislatures. Can he do better from a chair in the lobbies?

  19. leslie 2019-11-15 09:45

    I would think the key to fraud, likely Republican fraud in SD, is extraordinary investigation. Corrupt that process, politically, and you have Rounds/Daugaard’s EB5 and MCEC (Gear Up-a worthy idea). They evaded accountability just like Trump is now modeling publically for all the world to see, because “MSM” and investigators like Mueller and Schiff have the character to observe ethical principles. Labor Unions, Farmer’s Unions, ect are likely the answer. Democratic or Independent leadership can likely solve these corruption problems. Money and power nearly always corrupt individual ethics. With Randy Seiler’s offer to right the little Dem sailboat, we can revive the party, take on Republican idiots like Kristi and Phil Jensen, and corrupted Rounds and Thune

  20. leslie 2019-11-15 09:58

    … and as we have learned these lessons that the Republican party has absolutely been corrupted, purple and blue states will rally and bring sanity back to politics. Unless Trump blows it all up. Thanks Republican voters.

    Perhaps now is the time for pervasive civics and ethics education from top to bottom in this country. Can you imagine McConnell’s or Thune’s leadership in this way? I can’t either.

    Biden may be a winner politically, but the old model he comes from is not what I believe in. Yet we must unite to impeach, convict, and win 2020.

    Impeach the mofos (thank you Adam) now!!!!

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