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].
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:
- A purpose related to a candidate’s campaign;
- Expenses incident to being a public official or former public official; or
- 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:
- 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.
- Pushing impeachment does not seem to be an expense incident to being a public official. The governor has no constitutional role in impeachment.
- 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.