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Noem/Jackley 2022: Why Marty Was Defending Drunks on Friday

Kristi Noem and Marty Jackley on horses.
Kristi could use a better horseman at her side….

The simple and obvious reason that former Attorney General Marty Jackley would take on two drunk legislators as clients in a mere Senate investigatory hearing—not an actual disciplinary hearing with the power to boot them from the Legislature and certainly not a criminal trial—is that he’s a good lawyer who recognizes the right of every miscreant and innocent alike to good counsel

That and there aren’t enough drunks out tipping cows in Jones County to keep Marty’s life interesting.

The simple and obvious political explanation is that Senate Majority Leader Kris Langer and Senate President Pro-Tem Brock Greenfield realized they’d stepped in the sort of political cowpie that ends political careers in normal states with a healthy body politic—showing up obviously drunk to lawmakers and reporters alike, then, in Greenfield’s case, lying about it—and that escaping the incestuous insider long-knifing invited by their errors required enlisting the biggest legal gun they could afford. Who is bigger legally in the eyes of the Republicans who held Langer and Greenfield’s fate in their hands than South Dakota’s last effective Attorney General, a litigator who looms even larger in every legislator’s esteem compared to the bumbling idiot they nominated to mumble skew-tied through committee hearings and lose cases to Cory Allen Heidelberger?

But simple is no fun, and connivance is an obvious feature of the ingrown toenail we know as the South Dakota Republican Party, a pack of small-town opportunists who view principles as mere rungs on the ladder to the handful of decent, secure jobs for themselves and their kin with state government and its crony capitalists amidst a perennially sparse economy that can’t sustain the politically unconnected masses without outside assistance. What was Jackley really doing in that committee room in Pierre last week?

Making himself our next Lieutenant Governor and our next Governor, of course.

Greenfield’s and Langer’s drunkenness and the recorded spectacle of Greenfield’s lies and clownish statements the last night of Session didn’t pose a major threat to the SDGOP’s fortunes. 99% of South Dakotans wouldn’t recognize Greenfield or Langer on the street. Greenfield and Langer have risen to their Peter Principles and will rise no further in politics. Jackley talked his fellow Republicans down to merely admonishing Langer and Greenfield, but censure, expulsion, or tarring and feathering of these two intemperate drinkers would not by itself have damaged the SDGOP’s long-term fortunes.

The prospect for greater damage lay in what the committee feared to discuss: Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden’s involvement in the drunken revels of his subordinates. The testimony given to the interim committee makes clear that Rhoden, acting as President of the Senate, knew full well that Langer and Greenfield were drunk on the job:

Greenfield, sometime after 3 a.m. March 31, had disputed an allegation by another senator, Republican Phil Jensen of Rapid City, that Langer was intoxicated.

Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden, in his role as Senate president, ruled Jensen’s motion for an investigation was out of order. Senators voted 26-4 to support Rhoden.

…Jensen said Friday that Langer’s behavior was disruptive and Greenfield lied by saying they hadn’t indulged.

Jensen said one of the committee members, Senator Margaret Sutton, a Sioux Falls Republican, had later called him and accused him of turning on “family.” Jensen noted that Rhoden had to “shush” Langer twice in open view of the Senate.

…Among those testifying Friday was House Speaker Steve Haugaard of Sioux Falls. He said Langer “wasn’t able to communicate” a sensible thought when she and Greenfield returned to the Capitol after 1:15 a.m. Haugaard said she was obviously intoxicated and was struggling to make sense.

Haugaard said he met a few minutes later with Lt. Gov. Rhoden and House Republican leader Lee Qualm of Platte, along with Langer and Greenfield, in room 499. There was no video available from the room.

Haugaard said Langer and Greenfield weren’t able to engage in conversation with the three in 499 to any significant extent. “His speech was thick and slurred,” Haugaard said about Greenfield, adding that Greenfield seemed unaware of what was happening.

Haugaard said Greenfield kept bringing up SB 191 that had been killed hours earlier by the House. Rhoden finally told Greenfield the bill was done, according to Haugaard. He said Langer didn’t seem physically capable at that point of being more involved in the discussion.

Haugaard said he later spoke to Greenfield, on April 1, “after he sobered up.” Haugaard said Greenfield told him the drinking occurred at a house near the Capitol that lobbyist Dean Krogman of Brookings keeps for use when in Pierre.

Haugaard said Greenfield told him others who were present at the Krogman house included Lt. Gov. Rhoden, National Rifle Association lobbyist Brian Gosch of Rapid City, and lobbyists Justin Bell and Katie Sieverding of Pierre.

The committee didn’t seek testimony from Rhoden, who had been a long-time Republican legislator when then-U.S. Representative Kristi Noem chose him as her running mate during her successful 2018 campaign for governor [Bob Mercer, “Panel Admonishes S.D. Senate Republican Leaders Langer, Greenfield for Intoxication,” KELO-TV, 2020.04.24].

Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden, reacting to Senator Greenfield's lies, March 31, 2020.
Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden, presiding while Sen. Brock Greenfield lied to the Senate about Greenfield’s and Langer’s indulgence in alcohol, screen cap from SDPB video, March 31, 2020.

Rhoden was present at the lobbyist’s house where the drinking took place. Was he the designated driver (in which case he went with Langer and Greenfield knowing they intended to return to Session unfit to drive, let alone vote), or was he a participant in the revels? Why did Rhoden not intervene in Langer’s and Greenfield’s drinking before it reached the level of poor reflection on the Legislature? If Rhoden knew Jensen’s complaint had merit, why did he manufacture a reason to sideline it?

Even if Rhoden didn’t touch a drop at Krogman’s house, he showed himself unfit that night either to preside over the Senate or to sit one heartbeat or one Trump appointment away from the Governor’s chair. Two surrounded Senators likely saw their way out of this standoff was to take a bigger poobah hostage. Deprive Greenfield and Langer of their titles and sinecures, and they go to court, where they put all the witnesses to the lobbyist party on the stand, including Larry Rhoden. Rhoden’s testimony in that trial doesn’t just kill his career (because he, too is Petered out: South Dakota will elect a bully, but it won’t elect an oafish bully who lacks Bill Janklow’s keen intellect); it weakens Governor Kristi Noem’s tenuous grasp on power and her Palinesque aspirations for a lifeline back to the Beltway. Show her choice of a right-hand man to be incapable of reining in a couple of drunks, and she loses the case she can make to Trump to Calgon-take-me-away from the prairie that so stifles her dreams and to a riven and embarrassed party could easily be persuaded not to give her a second term as a consolation prize.

South Dakota Republicans are used to defending a lot of indefensible behavior, but something in this drunken revel rattled them. (Why else, 48 hours after the admonition, would the SDGOP spin blog have posted nothing on Friday’s hearing and vote?) There were too many witnesses, too much obvious misbehavior, too blatant dereliction of duty not just by two Legislative nincompoops but by the Lieutenant Governor, proving his real unfitness for party bossery and ascent to the throne.

Marty Jackley could exploit that fear and division to bare-kunckle his way to revenge in 2022. He could seize on Rhoden’s failure as Noem’s failure, rally his disheartened troops, and call for a primary rematch in which he would ice the cake of Kristi’s Snow Queen vanity and nepotism and pandemic pandering with her Lieutenant Governor’s covering for drunks on the job.

But Jackley has more faith in honey than vinegar. Rather than compound division with division, he rides into the Greenfield-Langer-Rhoden affair as the great uniter. Jackley hears Senator Margaret Sutton cry to Senator Phil Jensen that accusing their leaders of bad behavior is a betrayal of “family”, and Jackley rides in as the real big papa to pat her shoulder and settle all the kids down. He gets Greenfield and Langer to “apologize”—and my foot that he counseled them not to but couldn’t stop them; he incorporated their quasi-admission into his arguments:

Jackley said the committee didn’t have blood tests or preliminary breath tests showing whether Langer or Greenfield were drunk. Jackley said they were up-front by admitting they were drinking away from the Capitol [Mercer, 2020.04.24].

Jackley minimizes the offense and steers everyone away from looking any further into who else might have been naughty. He reinforces tearful Maggie’s assertion of family betrayal by suggesting that the “charges” were really just a fabricated attack on the Governor:

Jackley said Langer and Greenfield were pushing the governor’s agenda and the House didn’t like it. He said their behavior didn’t rise above a reprimand or at most an admonition [Mercer, 2020.04.24].

Jackley plays the selfless hero here. Jackley defends his clients by showing them to be loyal supporters of the Governor who unleashed brutal negative attacks to destroy him in the 2018 primary. He shuts down the scandal that Rhoden failed to manage before it can catch fire and burn Noem. What a mensch! cries every single loyal party member who was stocking up ammo and canned goods for the civil war this intra-party fight could have caused. Larry almost got us in trouble, and Marty got us out! Boy, it sure would be nice to have him back in Pierre!

At some point, Marty will remind Kristi of this magnanimous favor he has done for the party and for her fortune specifically. He will suggest to her that, before she asks the party to re-elect her, if not before she leaves for Washington to cement her Fox News career with service in the last days of the Trump cabinet, she would do well to replace her current Lieutenant with someone who saved the party from an unpleasant rift and who can keep a couple dipsticks from Clark and Dell Rapids from showing up to work drunk.

And the next bumperstickers you’ll see will be “Noem/Jackley 2022.” Jackley will secure his place in the line of succession, and the bumpersticker after that will be “Jackley/Sutton 2026.” (Maggie, not Billie.)

Jackley/Sutton 2026 is neither simple nor obvious, but it accounts for all the things that were said and that were not allowed to be said Friday before the Senate Investigatory Committee [SIC]. It accounts for how a one-party regime and the schemers within deal with threats to their power. And it accounts for why Marty would have enjoyed himself so much on Friday.

21 Comments

  1. John 2020-04-26

    Once again South Dakotan’s see the legislature to incompetent to police their own, much less the executive branch. Recall the recent cries and gnashing of teeth that the taxpayers HAD to raise the pay of the drunks (er, legislators). (Maybe if the taxpayers increase legislators pay again, we’d have drug addicts running the legislature.) Sure, Marty appears as a transparent opportunist. It’s likely he’s always been. Sure, Larry apparently shows he lacks a disciplined bone in his body, no surprise; and he needs to return to cow tipping. But here even H.R. Pufnstuf could have ‘settled the kids down’ in our make-believe-world (nightmare) of single party rule.

    Cory, thanks for the erudite reporting and analysis. Your concluding paragraph is one for the ages.

  2. Donald Pay 2020-04-26

    I don’t see the point of engaging in the discussion of personal or political fights of individuals, and what their motivations are. Those are issues you are going to have no matter what people or party is in charge. John gets to the point: “…South Dakotan’s see the legislature to [be] incompetent to police their own, much less the executive branch.” First, It goes beyond just “policing.” It goes to the fact that the Legislature is incompetent in the area of lawmaking, the primary function it has under the South Dakota Constitution. Second, it’s not just a matter of incompetence, but of corruption.

    In reality Langer and Greenfield spent their time socializing and imbibing with the real power in the state: lobbyists. They tell the Legislature what to do. They, or out-of-state bill mills often provide the very language in the laws legislators introduce and pass. The public counts for little in this process. Are you invited to these private parties, where legislation and tactics are discussed? Hell, no, you aren’t. You, my friends, are largely excluded. Initiative Measure 22 made a first stab at getting some of this slimy behavior between Legislators and lobbyists under control, but the special interest lobbyists and the big shot legislators saw to it that IM 22 was ripped apart.

    This was not, in the end, about getting sloshed. It is about who was at this private meeting between legislators and lobbyists, as the legislators got sloshed. It’s about corruption.

  3. Robin Friday 2020-04-26

    I’m just so glad they slapped them down. God, what have we come to.Time to tip the balance back a bit–actually, a LOT. “not just a matter of incompetence, but of corruption. Thank you, Donald.

  4. Robin Friday 2020-04-26

    I didn’t know anything about Greenfield when we got gerrymandered into “his” district, he’s from Clark, for god’s sake. But I knew I didn’t like it. Now I know why. Yes, I know legislators have gotten drunk and conspired with lobbyists and others in smoke-filled room for centuries. Not gonna fly with me or anyone else who cares about our governance. SD people have to have some backbone and flip the legislature. And yeah, I know that’s not going to happen. Bah, humbug.

  5. jerry 2020-04-26

    Jackley wants elected. There is at least 1.25 Billion dollars…er reasons to get in the money place. These guys just do it for the money man, and there is plenty to go around.

  6. grudznick 2020-04-26

    Mr. Pay, you give too much credence to the lobbists. Half of them laze about most days doing nothing but dragging down big bucks from their ignorant employers. I, for one, blame the ignorant organizations that pay these fellows to sit on leather couches and drink lattes whilst reading one shared, printed copy of the the Rapid City Journal.

    Here is the real digger on this blogging. Why is Mr. H not the next Governor, in his fantasy, and why is it Ms. Noem and Mr. Jackley? Mr. H’s polarization sinking in to even his ownself?

    grudznick proposes a Mr. Evans/Mr. H ticket instead.

  7. Caleb 2020-04-26

    Thank you for this continued story, Cory.

  8. grudznick 2020-04-26

    Ms. Friday, in reality few of the rooms are smoke filled any longer. I have heard this Mr. Greenfield, large as he is, may be some sort of athlete and you know athletes don’t smoke.

  9. Robin Friday 2020-04-26

    I know, grudz, just an expression, one that’s earned its way into history over the centuries. As for Greenie being an athlete, I’d have to see it. Maybe a shot-putter. Or a weight-lifter. Or a linebacker. I don’t really know anything about athletics.

  10. grudznick 2020-04-26

    Probably not a linebacker, Ms. Friday. Have a good evening, and hope that tomorrow they open Tally’s for breakfasting again.

  11. Donald Pay 2020-04-26

    Grudz, I think, rather, that I have a realistic view of the Legislature, and of lobbyists in particular, since I was one. As you know, there are various kinds of lobbyists, not many of whom are lazing around all the time. When they are in the lobbies, what they are doing is waiting for a particular bill their client is interested in to be taken up. They are also listening to various gossip and discussions about legislators, legislation, other lobbyists, the Governor, etc. Bill Dougherty preferred a perch in the back of the gallery and I preferred to sit in the gallery, since lobbyists couldn’t really hear the floor debates very well from the lobbies.

    The lobbyists who can buy or rent a house to use as a drinking den probably are representing very highly connected businesses or industries. Krogman used to represent the medical association and/or the hospital association. I’m not sure if he’s still has one or both of them as clients. I suppose you could get that info from the SOS office. That is a big paycheck. The paycheck amount is not something you can get from the SOS office, but it would be something I would like to see disclosed, along with the amount of money spent trying to pour booze down the craw of legislators. I would think having a requirement to disclose that information and which legislators get it, or simply putting a limit on that sort of spending would go a long way to solve this problem.

  12. Robin Friday 2020-04-26

    I don’t know where Tally’s is, grudz, but I think my breakfast will be coming out of my freezer once more. We are not done with the virus, and it’s not done with us, either.

  13. Bob Newland 2020-04-27

    And believe me, Robin, you wouldn’t want to have breakfast with the pet molester grudznsk.

  14. Dana Hanna 2020-04-27

    This has got nothing to do with the Jackley story. But there is a letter/ column today in the Washington Post website from a doctor in South Dakota about our state and the insanity of adopting a Don’t Worry, Be Happy attitude/political non-response to the C-virus. We are lucky and blessed right now in western South Dakota, but the numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths in west river counties is going to rise and spread if the State–i.e., the Governor–acts as if the pandemic is over. Why would any responsible leader advocate for loosening restrictions–i.e., exposing ourselves to greater risks–while the virus cases are still climbing?

    Dana Hanna
    Rapid City

  15. Donald Pay 2020-04-27

    Just follow the stench of old men in downtown Rapid City, SD, and you’ll find Tally’s. Grudz, is that gravy or vomit they pile on your plate? I never had breakfast there, but I did have lunch there now and then. I remember having soup. I preferred the nearby 6th Street Deli where you could get a good earthy sandwich. My daughter loved their cookies. They also had entertainment there some weekends.

  16. Bob Newland 2020-04-27

    Don, Tally’s is now a very good place to eat, with an imaginative menu. I also like Tally’s because I saw them ejecting grudzwad.

  17. Donald Pay 2020-04-27

    Bob, Glad to hear Tally’s upped their game by improving the menu and ejecting the Grudz. It used to be rather an average greasy spoon.

  18. grudznick 2020-04-27

    These days it’s one of the few breakfasts in town better than Cambell Street and the Mud Hole, Mr. Pay. When we hold the Conservatives with Common Sense breakfastings there we get some of our biggest attendence.

  19. Donald Pay 2020-04-28

    Grudz, I’m still boycotting South Dakota over, well, all sorts of things. I would like to join you at Tally’s and sit in at your meetings. I rather like conservatives, but many of them don’t have commonsense, which leads me to boycott the state. I might consider breaking my boycott to protest the Keystone Pipeline, a useless make-work project that serves China. We could put those people to work making masks and ventilators and cutting up hogs. How’s that for commonsense?

  20. John 2020-04-28

    Who is grudznick?

  21. grudznick 2020-04-28

    Mr. Pay, should you cease your boycott and return for a visit to the garden spot, I would love to treat you to a Tally’s breakfast. I think you are a swell fellow, and we could reminisce about many of the good times back in the day.

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