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Spokesman for Anti-Ravnsborg Telemarketer Has Notable Connections to Koch Brothers, Dark Money, and National Republicans

In the reporting on those phone calls that some as yet unnamed Governor was involved in to urge legislators to impeach killer Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, one Jonathan Petrea speaking for the Ohio telemarketing squad that ran the show:

Angel Kane and Ciero Johnson II, are listed as the incorporators of Grand Solutions Inc., according to Open Corporates. Kane is listed as Grand Solution’s registrant with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office.

Jonathan Petrea, who identified himself as a spokesperson for Kane, said that the portion of the call that identifies the governor was nothing more than a motivation tactic by her to get the most out of her workers.

“She was trying to move her workers,” Petrea said. “She uses that tactic to increase productivity.”

Petrea said that no “politician, political campaign, party, or political organization” facilitated the robocalls, but refused to disclose who did [Austin Goss, “Voice Recording Raises Questions over Origin of Ravnsborg Telemarketing Campaign,” KSFY, 2022.01.28].

Political consultant and heart attack survivor Jonathan Petrea doesn’t work for Grand Solutons Inc. The Cleveland man has his own gig presiding over Ascendant Communications and senior partnering at Ascendant Public Policy Group. His firm has donated big money to the Republican Party of Cuyahoga County and to back Marsy’s Law in Ohio.

Jonathan Petrea, FB photo, posted 2020.12.17
This guy looks familiar Jonathan Petrea, FB photo, posted 2020.12.17.

Petrea is a former Koch Brothers flunky who had trouble paying petitioners he hired to get signatures for Cleveland mayoral candidate Tony Madalone in 2017:

Jonathon Petrea, senior partner of the Ascendant Public Policy Group, which was hired to help collect signatures, told me Tuesday that he experienced a “cash-flow problem” and that workers will be paid Wednesday. He said that he paid Ventura some money from his pocket to show her a sign of good faith.

“I feel horrible,” he said, and promised to deliver on all commitments. He said that collecting the signatures was more expensive than he anticipated.

“I’m not a shifty guy,” he said.

Petrea is a former Ohio “grassroots director” for Americans for Prosperity, an advocacy group funded by the conservative billionaire brothers David H. and Charles G. Koch. Petrea also was district office director and campaign manager in 2006 through 2008 for then-State Representative Josh Mandel, who is now state treasurer [Mark Maymik, “Tony Madalone Consultant Failed to Pay People Promised Money for Collecting Mayoral Signatures,”, 2017.07.11].

Petrea ran a big phone-banking operation for a 2009 casino ballot measure in Ohio. He campaigned for Newt Gingrich in Ohio in the 2012 Presidential cycle. Last May, Petrea organized a “star-studded roster” of right-wing radicals (Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, Candace Owens) to speak at the Ohio Political Summit. So he’s definitely Kristi Noem’s kind of guy.

Petrea also has some experience in shady campaign finance in Ohio, helping the non-profit Government Integrity Fund move over $1 million in 2012 into dark-money ads backing his pal, anti-gay climate-change denier Republican challenger Josh Mandel, and attacking Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown. The Fund told the IRS it doesn’t spend money to influence the election of candidates:

The Fund’s IRS application did provide other clues about its intentions. In one section of the form, the Fund said its budget for 2011 was $78,000. It then projected a budget of $6.7 million for 2012, an election year, before going back down to $50,000 for 2013, a nonelection year.

…The Fund’s application for tax-exempt status also sheds a bit more light on who is running the group. It names four men as board members, including Norris. Another of the board members, Jeffrey L. Dean, referred questions to Jonathan Petrea, who was campaign manager and district director for Mandel when he ran for the state legislature.

Petrea told ProPublica he had no official role in the Fund, but helped Norris find potential board members.

“I was just doing a guy a favor by putting him in touch with people who might be interested,” Petrea said.

Norris and the Mandel campaign did not respond to questions about Petrea’s relationship to the Fund or the candidate [Justin Elliott, “Dark Money Group Told IRS It Wouldn’t Be Political—Then Spent $1 Million on Campaign Ads,” ProPublica, 2012.10.04].

Petrea is not known to have worked for Kristi Noem before. But that an Ohio political operator with national connections shows up at an Ohio call center and speaks to the press to assure us that no political committee was involved in making some significantly political calls to South Dakotans signals that some important right-wing Republican is connected to this telemarketing.


  1. Dana P 2022-02-04 08:36

    Ian T Fury, out-of-state hire and Noem’s attack dog, has major Ohio connections. Was once the communications director for Congressman Jim Jordan.

    He also once worked for/with Kansas governor, Sam Brownback. When Brownback resigned as governor, Fury left the governor’s office to become a “Field Director for the Americans for Prosperity in Topeka, Kansas. Americans for Prosperity is the political action committee founded by Charles and David Koch to support libertarian and conservative causes.” (source: Rapid City Journal article, dated May 6, 2020 — reporting Noem’s hire of Fury)


  2. 96Tears 2022-02-04 09:25

    Dear Dana P,


    Your pal,

    P.S. – Noem and her flunkies in Pierre are lying through their teeth.

  3. marvin kammerer 2022-02-04 09:30

    sam brownback was not a good peoples govenor according to my friend & some cousins down in kansas.marvin kammerer

  4. Jenny 2022-02-04 13:09

    This just never ends for the Joe Boever family does it? Only in South Dakota would they make this negligent tragedy a sick political soap opera. So glad we have a competent AG in MN with Keith Ellison.

  5. mike from iowa 2022-02-04 14:19

    Brownback and his brother weren’t good human beings.

  6. Arlo Blundt 2022-02-04 17:53

    Yep…roll over a rock and out crawl these Republican scammers and thieves who have found ways to make a dishonest living on the underside of American Politics. Governor Noem is tooth and jaw with them, in fact, she’s a creature of their making. A tragedy for the good people of South Dakota and exactly what the greedy, self serving leadership of the Republican Party deserves.

  7. DC 2022-02-04 19:42

    Rest assured, Maggie Seidel, Noems former comm director, Furry and others all worked or trained by Koch Industries and or attended Hillsdale College(Pat Sajack, Pres) Dark money and all, certainly ties to Gnoem!

  8. DC 2022-02-04 19:47

    Forgot to mention, Americans for Prosperity, Koch Brothers, check the Hundreds of Thousans, perhaps Millions they have spent to sway political causes, and nearly forget good old ALEC, which funded by Koch and most all SD Repub belong or attend thisBS

  9. RST Tribal Member 2022-02-05 05:47

    The state of democracy is approaching a point where the frail constitutions, federal and state, based on the acts of most good people with a civil and moral consciousness are slipping into questionable state of mind and mindlessness.

    Keeping a bunch of the people from voting, to scaring another bunch their whiteness is endangered, and/or using various methods to misinform a group of emotional and unlearned is a ploy of the two ruling parties. Following the money leads to the core of intentions.

    As Natives have learned, the words of misguided people in political power is the power of misguided people with no concerns of the past with little care of the future. The driving guidance is the financial benefits of today.

    Back in the day it was the democrats. Today the republicans. Tomorrow is anyone’s guess. The written documents, titled constitutions, guiding the state and country are in simple words. Words for over 200 years that have legislated, judicialized and bend to the ruling party in charge for the moment. For example, the three-fifths clause (Article I, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution of 1787) declaring non whites 3/5 of a white person. Or, how the US Supreme Court in 2009 stated for Indians the word “now” means back then not today. Simple words.

    Follow the money.

  10. 96Tears 2022-02-05 09:57

    Larry – Thanks for posting the link to businessman Brad Johnson’s very well written column in today’s Watertown Public Opinion. Unfortunately, the P.O. is a paywall, so here is the full column for those who want to avoid the rent to have access to this important article that really deserves to be shared in every newspaper.
    Brad Johnson: Jason Ravnsborg’s attorney general re-election bid should end
    Watertown Public Opinion
    By Brad Johnson, Local Columnist
    February 5, 2022

    Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg’s apparent decision to run for re-election is contemptible.

    Apparently, there is no shame, remorse or moral responsibility when it comes to Ravnsborg’s politics.

    As South Dakota House members conducted impeachment proceedings against him, Ravnsborg flew off to Texas and attended a rally where former President Donald Trump gave him a shout out last Saturday night.

    “They like you in Texas,” Trump said. That is no surprise since Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is under indictment for securities fraud. Birds of a feather, stick together.

    Ravnsborg, a first-term attorney general, effectively ended his career Sept. 12, 2020, when he killed 55-year-old Joe Boever. The state’s top law enforcement officer was reading news on his cell phone while driving home from a political event in Redfield. Ravnsborg said he thought he hit a deer just west of Highmore even though the investigation says Boever’s glasses ended up in his back seat.

    Then four days before his scheduled trial, Ravnsborg was ticketed for speeding 57 mph in a 35-mph zone in Pierre on Aug. 22, his seventh speeding ticket in as many years. Apparently, traffic laws are for little people.

    The attorney general eventually pleaded no contest in Boever’s death to two misdemeanors of illegal lane change and using a cell phone while driving. He was fined but served no jail time. He later settled a civil suit with Boever’s wife.

    The evidence was quite clear. Ravnsborg broke traffic laws and an innocent man was left for dead in a ditch.

    Reasonable people would have resigned a high-profile political office and worked to make amends. But Ravnsborg refused, even though a late October poll shows nearly 67% think he should be removed from office.

    “It’s fairly obvious that a strong majority of South Dakotans are in some way, shape or form in favor of removing the attorney general from office, and I don’t think that’s all that surprising,” said Jon Schaff, government professor at Northern State University in Aberdeen in a Nov. 2, 2021, South Dakota News Watch story.

    “When a high-ranking government official, especially the chief law enforcement official of the state, hits and kills somebody, whatever the legal liability may be, it sort of damages your credibility as you represent the state in a court of law, and one big question is, ‘How can this guy operate effectively moving forward?’” Schaff said.

    Michael Card, political science professor at USD added in that same story, ”It looked like he didn’t even get slapped on the wrist. And certainly, the post-accident behavior also fails the smell test.”

    It is the post-accident behavior that infuriates many, especially those in the law enforcement community. It prompted the House of Representatives to consider impeachment.

    But Ravnsborg apparently thinks like Trump and sees impeachment as a springboard to re-election.

    Political insiders say he is recruiting delegates in Minnehaha and Brookings counties and recently attended a gathering of delegates in Pierre.

    He has not officially announced, but signs point to him challenging former Attorney General Marty Jackley who has declared his candidacy.

    Some 500-600 delegates will converge June 23-25 in Watertown at the Republican State Convention where state candidates will be selected.

    The one person who should be sent packing is Ravnsborg who has done more to damage the attorney general’s office than any other person in modern history.

    Past attorneys general, Larry Long, Mark Barnett, Mark Meierhenry and Marty Jackley all earned great respect from law enforcement and the general public.

    The opposite is true of Ravnsborg.

    Unfortunately, the damage he is doing continues each day impeachment proceedings continue.

    Next up before the impeachment committee may be Ravnsborg’s chief of staff Tim Bormann and Division of Criminal Investigation director David Natvig as well as Hyde County deputy state’s attorney Emily Sovell and Beadle County state’s attorney Michael Moore.

    Particularly damaging to the future integrity of the attorney general’s office is the potential testimony of Bormann and Natvig. Those two are key advisors to an attorney general, and low profiles and confidential advice are important.

    But Ravnsborg is focused only on himself, and that is despicable.

    Brad Johnson is a Watertown businessman and journalist who is active in state and local affairs.

  11. larry kurtz 2022-02-05 10:25

    It’s impossible to know how much worse it will get before voters say enough is enough then come to find out Republican secretaries of state have been monkey-wrenching election results in my home state for decades.

  12. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-02-05 13:52

    Dana, 96 and I share your interest in the possibility of an Ohio connection between the governor’s spokesboy, and this well-connected political operative.

  13. 96Tears 2022-02-06 10:04

    Interesting wrap-up of the Noem/Gosch feud and the pressure calls from the Warren, Ohio, phone bank, written for The Daily Beast by veteran South Dakota journalist Tom Lawrence.

    Put all of it into perspective, Noem and her campaign lackeys are clearly lying about their role in the calls. This pivotal player, Jonathan Petrea, is a big fish in Ohio politics and not a small player in national politics. Definitely a key master if you’re wanting to woo big donors and most likely GOP national convention delegates from Ohio, a major national election swing state.

    Team Noem’s denials are an insult to our intelligence. Who else could have possibly have a motive and the cash to swing a phone bank intended to pressure impeachment committee members? Answer: Nobody.

  14. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-02-06 13:43

    96, can we get Jamie Smith to say Noem is lying, and can we get voters to care that she is lying?

  15. 96Tears 2022-02-06 16:48

    Right now, Cory, that job belongs to Randy Seiler and Nikki Gronli. This is not the time to be wallflowers. Maybe to the executive director Berk Ehrmantraut if the SDDP Chair and Vice Chair lack the spine to plainly and bluntly criticize Noem’s neglect, corruption and incompetence as governor. Wake up, folks. Politics is a contact sport. I don’t know what has held the party leadership from their roles when their number 1 job is to W-I-N elections.

    It also belongs to any of the few elected Democrats in the S.D. Legislature because they have legal standing in the affairs of the 2nd and 3rd floors of our State Capitol. Heck, it belongs to any Republican office holders in South Dakota who are sick of being shoved out of the way of Noem’s D.C. agenda. It also belongs to the press, but they seem unengaged as investigative reporters. The lines between Noem’s presidential hopes and the phonebank campaign to oust Ravnsborg are simple to connect. There is no other rational probability.

    Seiler and the party leadership need to put the clown car in Pierre on the record: Do you disagree with Donald Trump’s assertion that storming the U.S. Capitol and rioting to stop the peaceful transfer of power is “legitimate political discourse?” Yes or no?

    Right now, Mr. Smith needs to establish himself with voters as a serious and better alternative to Noem. I doubt more than 3 percent of registered voters know his name. Voters need to know now why Jamie wants to be governor and the benefits of having a pro-active chief executive on the 2nd floor for the first time since Bill Janklow. He needs to get his petitions filed and some serious money in the door. He needs to assemble the best people in his campaign staff and network.

    Noem is forcing a growing number of Republicans to start shopping for someone better. Jamie Smith looks like a blue collar South Dakotan. He speaks plainly. He relates to regular folks and Main Street businesspeople. He reminds me a lot of an early version of Montana’s Brian Schweitzer and Jon Tester. His top priority is swiftly getting a set of wheels under his campaign and getting his name and credibility established.

  16. grudznick 2022-02-06 18:46

    As Mr. 96tears says, Mr. Smith seems a swell enough fellow.
    Let us hope he does not screw that up by going full libbie or name-caller.

  17. John Dale 2022-02-08 16:25

    This is the deep state.

    We’re fighting the deep state.

    We are also fighting for free markets, and dignified opportunities for future-proof work.

    Join us.

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