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Gosch Wants Attorney General to Defend Him in Special Session Secrecy Lawsuit, But Ravnsborg Has Conflict of Interest

Two sure signs that Speaker Spencer Gosch (R-23/Glenham) is a couple shells short of  a six-shooter: he says Senate President Pro Tempore Lee Schoenbeck “is just wrong on everything”, and he’d rather have Jason Ravnsborg defend him in court than hire competent counsel.

Such is the conclusion I draw from Stephen Groves’s report that Gosch expects the Attorney General to represent him in his misguided fight to keep secret the names of the Representatives who called for the Special Session to impeach Ravnsborg:

Sen. Lee Schoenbeck — who as pro tempore oversees the Senate’s conduct — asserted in an email to legislators last week that House Speaker Spencer Gosch, a fellow Republican, should personally foot the legal bill to avoid expense to taxpayers. Gosch has replied that South Dakota statute calls for the attorney general to come to his legal defense if the state Supreme Court considers the lawsuit.

…Schoenbeck, who had released the names of senators who petitioned for the session, emailed fellow legislators last week to press for a meeting of the Legislature’s executive committee if Gosch intended to involve the Legislature in the legal battle.

“There is no legal basis for the Speaker’s actions and I will not support any expenditure of taxpayer funds on this behavior,” he wrote in the email obtained by The Associated Press.

Gosch replied by asserting that he was acting in his official capacity as speaker when he made the decision not to release the names and he expected the attorney general to represent him if the state Supreme Court considers the lawsuit. He added that a meeting of the Legislature’s Executive Board “would not be appropriate at this time” because the court has not yet indicated whether it will hear the lawsuit.

Gosch said Monday that Schoenbeck “basically is just wrong on everything” in the matter [Stephen Groves, “South Dakota Lawmakers Split over Records Lawsuit Payment,” AP, 2021.10.18].

I agree with Schoenbeck in spirit: there is no legal basis for Gosch to withhold the proof that the November 9 Special Session has been called properly by the constitutionally required written assent of two-thirds of the members of each chamber. I agree that we taxpayers should take umbrage at having to pay for yet another lawsuit triggered by our elected officials doing dumb, illegal things.

But if we keep electing dumb people who do illegal things in office, well, darn, then we’re stuck having to pay for their representation in court.

However, I suggest there is a bigger problem here than taxpayers footing the bill for Gosch’s unjustifiable secrecy about the Special Session call. Bringing the Attorney General’s office into this lawsuit creates an unacceptable conflict of interest. At least 47 House members allegedly called this Special Session to consider impeaching Attorney General Ravnsborg. The plaintiffs in this lawsuit—that Sioux Falls paper and the South Dakota Newspaper Association—are asking the Supreme Court to suspend the Special Session until it resolves the lawsuit. Representing the Speaker in this lawsuit thus offers the Attorney General the opportunity to delay his impeachment by prolonging the litigation.

Gosch decided to withhold the names of Special Session-callers in his capacity as Speaker of the House. We thus are likely stuck with having to pay Gosch’s legal bills in his losing fight against the Constitution and open government. But because this litigation could delay the Attorney General’s impeachment, we cannot allow the Attorney General any role in this open-records trial.


  1. larry kurtz 2021-10-19

    Jason Ravnsborg is holding the South Dakota Republican Party for ransom. There is certainly no doubt in my mind that Ravnsborg is a sociopath so he must have dirt on every Republican in South Dakota and making Joe Boever a martyr is just the latest horror in Pierre’s culture of corruption on parade.

    $20 sez virgin Ravnsborg will defeat divorcee Marty Jackley at the SDGOP convention and be elected again.

  2. O 2021-10-19

    I don’t understand Gosh’s want to keep the names secret. I would think the AG’s first duty would be to render an official legal opinion on if that secrecy was appropriate — then and only after affirming the secrecy would he need to defend the action. Lawyers should advise before they sue.

  3. Bob Newland 2021-10-19

    Even if Ravnsborg wasn’t at the center of this issue, thus making his interests conflicted, it’s hard to understand why Gosch would want one of the most incompetent lawyers in SoDak to represent him. But then, Gosch-darnit, Gosch is irreparably incompetent hisself.

  4. Bob Newland 2021-10-19

    I’ll take that $20 bet, Larry.

  5. Jake 2021-10-19

    And, in good old South Dakota, “THE BEAT GOES ON!” (As long as we allow this tobe a ‘one-party’ powered state.)

  6. Bob Newland 2021-10-19

    I lose if Ravnsborg is the AG nominee in the next relevant election, regardless of whether Jackley is an issue or not, right? I win if anyone else is the AG nominee, right?

    If I’m wrong, propose your own specific terms.

  7. larry kurtz 2021-10-19

    It’s important to remember the SDGOP is ethically immunocompromised.

    According to Tom Lawrence the military is reviewing Ravnsborg’s case and my sense is the commander of his division is being leaned on by higher ups in the chain of command. If they do nothing Ravnsborg will consider himself exonerated then stay in the public eye and remain a contender for the nomination.

    It’s my view his court martial is not impossible in which case he will follow Rich Benda and Scott Westerhuis on their paths into South Dakota history.

  8. John 2021-10-19

    Less than Ravnsborg holding the SDGQP hostage is the incompetent, disinterested SD legislature is holding the SDGQP (and South Dakota) hostage.
    A competent legislature could have: 1) reigned in Ravnsborg – and impeached him several times over by now; 2) could have reigned in the governess on her half-a-dozen malfeasances.

  9. Mark Anderson 2021-10-19

    Well at least Ravnsborg didn’t say he could shoot someone in the street and still be elected. He just ran over someone and got to drive the sheriff’s car home. It’s really hard to believe isn’ it? There are so many wonderful things about South Dakota and all the South Dakota news now is trashy bull. It’s unbelieveably sad.

  10. ArloBlundt 2021-10-19

    Well…the entire scenario is totally absurd and the Senator from Watertown is acting like the only sane person in the asylum. To believe that Senator Schoenbeck is the last guardian of an open, functioning democracy, may seem a stretch, but History and the tinker toys Republican leadership have placed him in that position. That Ravensborg, of all the possible characters slinking around Pierre, is to play a pivotal role in this fiasco, defies all the laws of man and nature. That Speaker Gosch’s arbitrary, capricious, and illegal decision will be defended at public expense is a trvesty of incompetence. This is how Republicans govern. And they tell us, “you can not do better than to re elect us.”

  11. grudznick 2021-10-19

    My good friend Bob is righter than right. grudznick could not agree more. We are holding hands and skipping down lollipop lane on this one.

  12. Dakota roots 2021-10-19

    Mark, what the previous looser president meant to say is… he could step out on 5th Ave and shoot EVERYONE and still get not loose any votes. the way he handelled Covid epidemic cost numerous lives and there’s no repercusions. It’s not even a topic of discussion.

  13. Mark Anderson 2021-10-19

    Dakota roots, our governor has surged us ahead of NY by about 2,000 and that was hard to do and he’s also criticized Australia for lack of freedom. Australia has 1,200 dead from covid out of 25 million. Florida is well over 57,000 of a population of 21 million and we aren’t done yet. Death means nothing to Republicans. Just freedom from masks and vaccines. I guess covid also causes brains to stop functioning.

  14. Jake 2021-10-20

    You’re so right, Mark Andersen! Covid definitely seems to have affected the mental capacity of the Republican party in America. The manner in which they have ‘sucked-up’ to their ex-president and made him into a ‘Golden Calf’ idol while calling members of their own party like Cheney and Kinzinger who disagree with the loud mouths like McConnell and Graham is so telling. A ‘viable’ 2-party system is needed in a democracy, but currently, there is no viability present in the Republican bunch. Losing credibility (along with elections) seem to be their mantra now.
    Having only won popular vote in one (2004) of the last 8 presidential elections is nothing at all to run around bragging about.

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