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After Seven-Month Delay, Ravnsborg Forwards Nesiba’s Complaint About Noem’s Political Flights to Gov’t Accountability Board

Back in February, when Governor Kristi Noem was raining leaks and impeachment hellfire on killer Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, Senator Reynold Nesiba offered the A.G. a chance to fight back by doing his job and investigating the Governor’s possibly illegal use of the state plane for her national campaigning:

Senator Reynold Nesiba, letter to Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, 2021.02.24.
Senator Reynold Nesiba, letter to Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, 2021.02.24.

For over seven months, the Attorney General did not respond. But Tuesday, the same day that he said he is “actively reviewing” concerns about Noem’s nepotism in favor of her real-estate-appraising daughter, Ravnsborg got back to Senator Nesiba and said he is passing (punting?) Nesiba’s concerns about Noem’s state plane abuse to the Government Accountability Board:

Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, letter to Senator Reynold Nesiba, 2021.09.28, p.1.
Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, letter to Senator Reynold Nesiba, 2021.09.28, p.1.
Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, letter to Senator Reynold Nesiba, 2021.09.28, p.2.
Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, letter to Senator Reynold Nesiba, 2021.09.28, p.2.

In a letter dated Tuesday, Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg said he referred the request to the Government Accountability Board. If the four retired judges who sit on the board determine state laws were violated, they can request a criminal investigation.

Ravnsborg said in the letter that laws on state airplane use apply to the governor [Stephen Groves, “South Dakota AG Passes Plane Inquiry to Accountability Board,” AP, 2021.09.30].

Ravnsborg still sounds incompetent when he says he’s passing this matter to the GAB because handling Senator Nesiba’s questions “would require considerable resources and investigation.” The GAB, a Legislatively watered-down version of the 2016-voter-approved ethics panel that terrified legislators into a hasty repeal in 2017, is four retired judges appointed by the Governor and one assistant from the AG’s office. One would think, as Senator Nesiba suggests, that an independently elected state prosector with a whole team of lawyers and the Division of Criminal Investigation would have considerably more resources to bring to bear on an investigation of Executive Branch corruption than a panel that meets every few months and has apparently not once in the four years of its existence called any state official into a public hearing to investigate corruption.

But this is Jason Ravnsborg we’re talking about, an A.G. who has the time to attack his own citizens’ initiative rights but needs seven months just to take a pass on a request for an investigation of violations of state law.

Ravnsborg’s sitting on Nesiba’s request until this week stinks of headline opportunism. It doesn’t take seven months to read Nesiba’s request, determine that the statute that Nesiba cited (and sponsored and helped campaign for in 2006!) says exactly what it says, and decide to avoid the heat and hand the matter to the GAB. It seems more plausible that Ravnsborg sat on this issue until it became clear that he would face impeachment and that he might be able to take some heat off himself by stoking the firestorm of scandal that has engulfed the Governor this week. The action also comes in tandem with his swift settlement of the wrongful death lawsuit, which would have kept his name in ugly headlines right through the impeachment proceedings into the 2022 convention season, when Ravnsborg hopes absurdly to still be standing for the Republican nomination for a second term. Ravnsborg’s spasm of action this week signals no newfound commitment to justice but merely a fight for his political life.

That said, Ravnsborg has at least shown some political acumen in seizing the moment. When better to launch Nesiba’s complaint about Noem’s frequent travel back into the headlines than a week when she visited five states in five days? (The timing almost makes you think the Republican Attorney General is still reading this blog… which is great, Jason, as long as you aren’t doing so behind the wheel.)

Regardless of the calculations leading to the Attorney General’s referral, the Government Accountability Board has a real case in its hands, the Governor’s possible misappropriation of public funds (item #5 of the GAB’s jurisdiction under SDCL 3-24-3) and use of public money not authorized by law (item #9 under SDCL 3-24-3). Get to work, GAB!

8 Comments

  1. Guy 2021-10-01

    This is great and welcome news! The South Dakota taxpayers deserve to have a thorough investigation of how their tax dollars were spent on the Governor’s travel.

  2. sx123 2021-10-01

    There’s little reason to travel anywhere anymore for actual meetings. Microsoft Teams, Slack, Google Meet, Zoom, etc. take care of that problem and greatly reduce the need for jet fuel.
    Is campaigning official state business? I dunno. Doesn’t seem like it to me.

  3. Guy 2021-10-01

    sx123, Kristi calls those trips: “being an ambassador of the state.” Basically, it’s as you said, it was “campaigning” at partisan political events. I wonder if the Government Accountability Board will see it that way? We will have to wait and see….time will tell.

  4. Eve Fisher 2021-10-01

    I have a feeling that this comes from the Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold school of South Dakota politics.

  5. larry kurtz 2021-10-01

    The worm turns.

    This is truly the evil of two lessers. Give one political party absolute power then expect it destroy itself from within.Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg is holding the South Dakota Republican Party for ransom.

    Think about it. If Governor Kristi Noem had any power whatsoever killer and incel Ravnsborg would be in jail.

    There is certainly no doubt in my mind Jason Ravnsborg is a sociopath so he must have dirt on every Republican in South Dakota and making Joe Boever a martyr was just another parade of horribles in Pierre’s culture of corruption.

  6. RST Tribal Member 2021-10-01

    South Dakota inbred Republicans proving the state’s Republican leadership and legislators are following the theme of; too many lying faces with corruption in too many places.

    Might be time for a social and moral reboot in 2022. Or, the inbreds will continue to soil themselves publicly for another term.

  7. Jack Billion 2021-10-02

    Ahh, the silence of Jason Ravnsborg is quietly broken. Reluctantly the AG is prompted to respond to the continual battering he has received at

    the hands of the self-serving Director of Nepotism in South Dakota, Governor Christy Noem. Silence in the matter of Joe Boever was not enough,

    Even a few of the staunchest Republicans recognized that you can’t make senseless manslaughter disappear for the AG. You can follow the tracks by

    Highmore Jason, Even Republicans realize deer don’t wear glasses, let alone leave them on the passenger side your personal vehicle. So let’s see how this

    one can be buried! Will the inopportune conduct of this Governor cause any recognition of the sad state of South Dakota’s government? Probably not,

    Let’s move on to something the average Republican voter can understand ——– how about gerrymandering, there’s some real chancee for government

    abuse there. Go Christy Go!

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