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Would Telemarketing Push Against Ravnsborg Serve Legitimate Campaign Purpose for Noem?

Donald Trump likes killer Jason Ravnsborg, so impeachment is off for another three weeks. But what about those phone calls?

Last week an Ohio telemarketing firm annoyed legislators investigating Jason Ravnsborg by encouraging citizens to call them and urge them to impeach our killer and liar Attorney General. We have the head of that telemarketing firm on tape saying “the governor is actually involved” in these phone calls. The House impeachment committee says it wants those calls investigated by professionals—i.e., not by Ravnsborg:

However, the committee opted instead to request a federal or out-of-state law enforcement agency to look into the origins of the calls and formally requested “that Ravnsborg recuse himself from any such investigation.”

“We’ve asked the attorney general to find somebody else to investigate that, so it’s not necessarily something we’re doing right now,” Gosch said. “We’re going to kick it over to the professionals. They’ve got the resources to be able to investigate” [Joe Sneve, “Prosecutors, Chief of Staff Summoned to Testify in Attorney general Jason Ravnsborg Impeachment Probe,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader via Yahoo, 2022.01.31].

Larry Rhoden and Kristi Noem in prison stripes.
Maybe Kristi made Larry pay for the calls from his campaign fund?

I remain dubious about the legal case the committee and the cops may find against the telemarketers and whoever paid them to rouse public passion against Ravnsborg. But if the committee is confident that Governor Kristi Noem paid for these calls against Ravnsborg from her fat campaign fund, it might want to scroll to the bottom of our South Dakota Codified Law chapter on campaign finance and review SDCL 12-27-50, a tiny little provision tucked into 2017 SB 54 to limit how candidates spend their campaign funds:

Contributions received by a candidate campaign committee may only be used for:

  1. A purpose related to a candidate’s campaign;
  2. Expenses incident to being a public official or former public official; or
  3. Donations to any other candidate, political committee, or nonprofit charitable organization [SDCL 12-27-50, enacted 2017].

Suppose (and that’s still a big, undocumented suppose) Noem paid for the anti-Ravnsborg calls from her gubernatorial campaign fund. For that payment to be legal, the calls had to meet one of those three criteria:

  1. Trying to oust Ravnsborg had to relate to her campaign for Governor. That point seems tenuous, since Ravnsborg isn’t running against Noem. Noem would have to argue that having Ravnsborg in office and on the ballot hurts her campaign. That argument would be accurate: Ravnsborg is a liability for every Republican on the ballot with him (though let’s see if Trump’s shout-out reverses that liability). But I want to hear Kristi Noem say that.
  2. Pushing impeachment does not seem to be an expense incident to being a public official. The governor has no constitutional role in impeachment.
  3. The payment to Grand Solutions Inc. is no charitable donation. It might be deemed a contribution to, or at least an independent communication on behalf of, anybody running against Ravnsborg, but the only candidate declared against Ravnsborg is Marty Jackley. If Kristi Noem is donating to Marty Jackley, another corner of heck has some slippery road conditions.

Again, even if we get receipts showing “$100,000 received from Kristi for Governor by Grand Solutions Inc. 1/20/2021,” I’m not sure legislators or law enforcement are going to find really solid grounds for putting Noem in stripes. But we can document the money trail, Noem may at least face some questions about how well her campaign spending complies with South Dakota law.


  1. larry kurtz 2022-02-02 08:25

    Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg is holding the South Dakota Republican Party for ransom. He is an incel and serial lawbreaker having been cited eight times for breaking speed limit laws in five South Dakota counties and in two Iowa counties. Mrs. Noem nearly lost in 2010 following revelations of a 20-year driving record fraught with recklessness resulting in numerous arrest warrants for failure to appear. Both enjoy the protections of Pierre’s culture of corruption where anything goes.

    Homelessness in the state is rampant; drunk driving, meth use and teen binge drinking are off the charts. Only 30% of the electorate turn out to vote. There are no checks on executive power and the governor’s cronies routinely raid the state’s general fund. The state is second in addiction to gambling and teachers’ salaries surf the bottom of the US. Wage slavery is the state’s biggest claim to fame and South Dakota dairies are wreaking habitat havoc.

    Infrastructure is crumbling and the state’s bureaucracy is overbearing and unwieldy. Ag groups want federally subsidized crop insurance and the right to pollute. Corruption and graft have become ordinary. Hatred of immigrants threatens the state’s already hurting tourism economy. Pollution from industrial agriculture has made waterways poisonous, the state has no modern statute addressing financial assurances for pipeline leaks. Trophy fishing for threatened species is a tourist activity. East River, South Dakota is a dead zone.

    Mercury makes fish inedible. Racism is endemic and white immigrants have been accepted while displacing and disgracing American Indians. South Dakota wrongly puts thousands in nursing homes. Mass incarceration fuels the white foster home industry. The state’s relations with tribal nations trapped in South Dakota are at historic lows.

    But, applaud the nutball Republican efforts diverting attention from the party’s culture of corruption where murders and their coverups are commonplace by clogging the legislative session with christianic religionist argle-bargle.

  2. Nick Nemec 2022-02-02 08:32

    Another possibility is that in order to keep her hands clean Noem convinced some big donor to foot the bill, ala the SD National Guard to the Texas border. This would keep the payment out of her campaign finance records thereby keeping her fingerprints off everything. She just didn’t count on so much background chatter on the phone calls with someone talking about the governor (or is it senator) running for president.

    “Meth we’re on it”, mansion sauna, Custer Park campgrounds, Butte County shooting range, she really is the leader of the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.

  3. Bob Newland 2022-02-02 09:12

    Frenzy. We’re on it.

  4. Donald Pay 2022-02-02 11:57

    The campaign purpose would be to not have to have a killer on the ballot under the same party that she’s on. The “Republican corruption” issue is going to be a big hurdle for her anyway, but having a killer on the ballot who got off with a slap on the wrist is just going to be a killer of a problem. I can write the ad already.

  5. 96Tears 2022-02-02 15:09

    The beauty [tongue firmly planted in cheek] of South Dakota’s campaign finance laws is, as with our so-called open records laws, they are so vague and so purposely full of holes that they are worthless – unless you want to get away with moving money quietly. What we do know about the phone bank calls to lobby committee members is:

    Money was paid to the Warren, Ohio, phone bank to make calls. Phone bank management won’t say who paid it.

    The calls used some kind of “lead generation” software/platform. For business and fundraising, a sales person uses the phone bank operators to dial to lists of prospects to see if the prospect is available. If no, they move to the next number automatically. If yes, the operator plugs the sales person into the call when the prospect picks up the phone. In lobbying, the operator calls for the Member of Congress or their Chief of Staff after securing a constituent to make a pitch. The Member answers, and the operator plugs the constituent into the call. Bingo! Contact is completed. These are not the same as “robocalls” which are completely automated and very cheap.

    Somebody drafted a script, supplied a list of targeted voters, trained people at the Ohio phone bank and distributed talking points to people who probably can’t answer the question: What is the capital of South Dakota?

    Upon completion of the project, that “somebody” got a call receipt and a report of completed calls, wrong numbers, etc., as is common in these kinds of transactions.

    Since the Ohio staff saw Noem as a presidential candidate, they appeared gleeful at the notion they’d be getting a lot more business. Here’s Angel Kane’s recorded voice, apparently unaware she was still on a call:

    “I don’t know. I was on the phone. I just gave him an update and the governor called. They’re going to call me back. The governor is actually involved in this so that is why it is more specific. But it is nice because this person is running for president, I don’t know if they’re running for Democrat or Republican, so they have a huge… budget for the Senate race, which is coming up in a couple months. So that is why we need to do a good job, okay?”

    We know that this conversation with somebody else in the office occurred while the calls were being made, probably near the end of the project because Angel said she just gave “him” an update.

    We know the conversation between “him” and Angel was interrupted because the governor had just called “him.” [“The governor is actually involved in this so that is why it is more specific.”]

    We know that “him” had filled Angel’s mind with possibly a great deal of business, not only from Noem’s re-election, but her run for President and John Thune’s “huge budget for the Senate race.”

    “So that is why we need to do a good job, okay?”

    The “him” may be a state party employee of some sort or a campaign consultant. It appears that Noem or her staff were eagerly awaiting updates on the calls in real time.

    Let’s say the calls cost in the neighborhood of $5,000 to $10,000. My guess is the list wasn’t that long as it targeted frequent voters who are Republican, or even a campaign contributors list. If you call the right people and they become alarmed and make a lot of noise, it may have been a success even if there were only 100 completed contacts. The House committee members were already jittery about being forced to deal with a criminal Attorney General from their own party.

    Where could the money come from? What if it was bundled?

    One, two or three county Republican parties could write the checks directly to the phone bank and they would not have to report anything to the S.D. Secretary of State until the state Pre-General Finance Report which is due on October 24 – a mere 15 days before the election. In fact, since there’s a nine-month gap between the completed calls and October 24, the county parties could file a “supplemental report” to amend their Pre-General report after the election or wait and say “whoops, we meant this expenditure for phoning in the pre-general report, so we’re adding it into the Year-End Report.” The Year-End Report is due January 27, 2023.

    How would you be able to distinguish these calls from all the other calls made before October 24 by county parties which are part of the SDGOP coordinated campaign to elect all Republicans, including John Thune, Noem, the constitutional officers and the GOP legislative majority? The reporting is very blurred and there is no requirement for specific vendors being named with amounts and dates of activities.

    Of course, there are other avenues to move the money by bundling big donor contributions to help our sweet, darling Governor and John Thune the embarrassment of being on the same ticket as killer/liar Jason Ravnsborg. Some avenues may violate laws, but we’re talking minor misdemeanors and an administration that has zero respect for the rule of law.

    Motive. Means. Opportunity.

  6. Arlo Blundt 2022-02-02 15:32

    I think Nick Nemec’s theory that the Ohio Call Center is being paid for by one of the Governor’s “Secret Admirers” is very plausible. Deceit and deception are hallmarks of the Governor’s everyday work. Too cute by half.

  7. Arlo Blundt 2022-02-02 16:39

    I also believe that if Mrs. Noem has pulled in 8.1 million in reportible contributions to her campaign fund, she’s also doing quite well in non reported cash donations, appearance fees, honorariums, and other cash . My guess is she’s packing those funds away. Her future is in Scottsdale.

  8. Mark Anderson 2022-02-02 18:00

    Nick’s got it down. Meth were on it is the best. Sarasota has an equal, the bus system is named Scat. Now you have to wonder if the person who came up with that was a Dizzy Gillespie fan. That it didn’t register that the term had overwhelmingly turned into something else. Oh well.
    Was Ravnsborg a killer or a liar first. I know it’s a chicken and egg question but really? As far as anyone knows he Noem is simply a liar.

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-02-02 18:09

    96, thanks for that deep analysis. You make a very good point about how this was no quick automated call; this was a high-touch operation, with lots of human activity, lots of scripting, and, it appears, lots of keen attention from the involved Governor.

    But I wonder: if they had such a well-refined list of targets to call, how did they call Democratic Representative Jamie Smith? How did they not notice that obvious potential for leakage and not strike his name? How did they end up with someone more interested in recording the audio and providing it to Speaker Gosch than in pushing Ravnsborg out?

    96, you speak like someone who knows how to run a tight ship. This operation looks like it was run by sloppy amateurs… which is one more piece of evidence that Noem could well be behind it.

  10. 96Tears 2022-02-02 19:24

    Cory, good point. I think if they called Smith’s residence, whoever put the list together knew Smith was on it. That leads me to think “him” wanted all of the House committee members to hear the footsteps. The choice of people on the committee is pretty interesting. Some big egos:

    House Majority Leader Kent Peterson, R-Salem
    Rep. Jamie Smith, D-Sioux Falls
    Rep. Ryan Cwach, D-Yankton
    Rep. Mike Stevens, R-Yankton
    Rep. Steven Haugaard, R-Sioux Falls
    Rep. Doug Barthel, R-Sioux Falls
    Rep. Kevin Jensen, R-Canton
    Rep. Jon Hansen, R-Dell Rapids

    Despite the continued dumbing down of South Dakota’s legislature, these are some of the sharper knives in the drawer. A few of the Republicans are not on Noem’s friends list which I suspect is getting shorter at the end of each legislative day. Perhaps Noem gave the calls the green light as a way to slap back at the list of defeats at the hands of the House leadership. Most recently, her heartbeat bill wasn’t even allowed a committee hearing, yet another signature proposal failing to get support from her own party’s caucus. She’s sniveling like an 8-year-old brat, calling the move “unprecedented.” Wah!

    “Overwhelmingly across South Dakota and across the country this is an issue that people care about and I’m disappointed in their action today,” Noem told reporters at the state Capitol. “I was not expecting them to deny a hearing for a bill, especially Republican leadership.” – From PRAVDA Leader today.

    The stuff’s gettin’ funky on the second and third floors. Bring back The Lew. At least he could talk Governor Godiva into not being so churlish and insubordinate.

  11. Porter Lansing 2022-02-02 19:57

    Only two deviants in SD have a history of this level of telephone persuasion tactics.
    Pat Powers and Dan Lederman.
    Both work for Kristi Noem’s campaign organization.

  12. grudznick 2022-02-02 20:01

    Don’t forget about he-who-hides-in-bathroom-stalls, Mr. Nelson, the ex-Marine.

  13. Porter Lansing 2022-02-02 20:03

    He’s so messed up on pain pills for his bad back he can barely put ten words together.

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