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Republican Legislators Approve Coronavirus Relief Spending, Then Complain About Not Getting a Piece of the Action

Some Republican crybabies in the Legislature are mad that they can’t get more welfare checks from the government.

Governor Kristi Noem is trying to give away $400 million in coronavirus relief funds to businesses around the state. It’s not going well: interest has been lower than expected (perhaps due to poorly thought-out thresholds and sloppily written guidance), prompting the Governor to extend the application deadline by a week and to note in guidance to applicants that they should apply even if they don’t meet the current criteria for grants, since the state may loosen those criteria if not enough funds are claimed.

Apparently some businesspeople in the Legislature wanted to do their civic duty and help drain that fund, so the Governor asked the South Dakota Supreme Court if that would be o.k. In an advisory opinion issued October 13, the Court said no, of course not, because legislators can’t have contracts with the state.

This isn’t even a hard question. The Court reminds us of Article 3 Section 12 of the state constitution:

No member of the Legislature shall, during the term for which he was elected, be appointed or elected to any civil office in the state which shall have been created, or the emoluments of which shall have been increased during the term for which he was elected, nor shall any member receive any civil appointment from the Governor, the Governor and senate, or from the Legislature during the term for which he shall have been elected, and all such appointments and all votes given for any such members for any such office or appointment shall be void; nor shall any member of the Legislature during the term for which he shall have been elected, or within one year thereafter, be interested, directly or indirectly, in any contract with the state or any county thereof, authorized by any law passed during the term for which he shall have been elected [emphasis mine; SD Const. Art. 3 Sec 12].

Legislators just approved the spending of the coronavirus relief funds in their Special Session on October 5. Now they turn around in the same month and ask for contracts from those funds? Come on, legislators: this is Constitution and Oath of Office 101: you serve in the Legislature, you don’t get state contracts.

Crying publicly about not being able to cash in are Representative Arch Beal (R-12/Sioux Falls) and Senator Lee Schoenbeck (R-5/Watertown):

Representative Arch Beal, a Sioux Falls Republican, said the court’s decision was “a travesty” for some lawmakers whose businesses could have qualified.

Senator Lee Schoenbeck, a Watertown Republican, wrote on an email listserv, “This is a big deal. There are several that have businesses seriously affected, that will forgo six figure grants due to their $12,000 legislator gig. New spin on public service. Hope it doesn’t prove to be a detriment for future candidate recruitment” [Bob Mercer, “S.D. Governor Extends Time, Broadens Eligibility for COVID Grants, Opens Housing Aid Program,” KELO-TV, 2020.10.22].

Actually, Lee, I hope this advisory opinion does have an effect on candidate recruitment. If state contracts are that important to your business, you shouldn’t run for Legislature to pass laws authorizing those contracts. (You also shouldn’t be running as anti-government Republicans, but that’s for your caucus and your conscience to sort out.)


  1. Donald Pay 2020-10-27 08:15

    You can never underestimate the avarice of the average South Dakota legislator. A travesty? The decision is a textual reading of the Constitution. Don’t like it, Arch and Lee? Give up your lucretive government jobs.

  2. o 2020-10-27 08:28

    When the head of the GOP crime family, President Trump, is propping up his personal fortune through the government budget, that is the signal that antiquated crony capitalism needs to give way to absolute self-enrichment. Eliminate the middle man.

  3. mike from iowa 2020-10-27 10:54

    Pretty obvious to me, wingnuts control every aspect of one party rule in Northern Mississippi, just change the rules you don’t like. Make grift or graft and/or bribery legal by statute law.

    Fixed it for you. Worried about supremacy of federal laws on gubmint grants? The scotus will likely take care of that for you.

  4. YesBut 2020-10-27 12:27

    Was once told that the Republican way of life is “Use the rules to your advantage. Don’t like them, change them.”

  5. jerry 2020-10-27 13:39

    Wonder how Little Al from Aberdeen will make out with this giveaway. Probably pretty good. He will find a way to get a sloppy drink at the money trough. Pretty confident that Lee will find a way to get’r done as well.

  6. grudznick 2020-10-27 18:04

    Mr. jerry with his keen and focused brain has a good question, as usual. Mr. Novstrup, the elder, probably took it in the shorts with the covid bugs wrecking his summer carnivals. He is a true patriot, taking it in the shorts for many hundreds of thousands of lost income to make his $150 dollars a day and $15,000 for the sessions. If they give Mr. Novstrup a pile of this money he should frame it up in a glass case and display it as a monument to his statesmanship. This is why the people of the Aberdeen City keep electing him.

  7. Debbo 2020-10-28 00:08

    Schonbeck calls this a “new spin on public service?” It’s part of the original constitution, not an amendment. This is as old as South Dakota.

  8. o 2020-10-28 09:25

    Senator Schoenbeck’s remarks reminded me of what a friend who worked in Daschle’s SD office once told me about Democratic and GOP candidates. He said that when Democrats want to go into public service, they take jobs in public service, (teaching, social work . . .) something to directly help the community. When Republicans want to go into public service, they run for office; being an elected official is how they see public service.

    The question about emoluments seems to bring the focus back to a basic question of if an elected official is in office for the public good or for the lining of their own pocket. I do know MANY excellent candidates who pass on running BECAUSE they have financial ties (or full-time public service employment) that prohibit them from running. Let’s not default to the Trump dynasty of this moral and practical issue.

  9. JORDAN DAVIS MASON 2020-10-31 02:04

    Cory – We disagree on a lot – but I am in full agreement on this. Nepotism, crony capitalism, and the level of corruption in South Dakota are disgusting. And frankly Sen. Schoenbeck has shown his power-hungry colors this last year – and I hope he continues to expose himself for who he truly is.

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