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Holwegner Issued Gag Memo to Staff Right Before Noem’s GOP National Convention Speech

Reed Holwegner really doesn’t like communicating with the public. The director of the Legislative Research Council unnecessarily withheld the Ravnsborg investigation file last fall, participated in hiding the names of House members who called for a Special Session on Ravnsborg’s impeachment, and then griped this week about the “pestering” legislators and members of the public asking him to fulfill the House impeachment committee’s direction to release the Ravnsborg investigation files.

Reed Holwegner also doesn’t like his LRC staff communicating with the public, either. On August 21, 2020, four months after he was hired to lead the LRC, Holwegner issued the following gag memo to his staff, telling them not to participate in public political discourse. Holwegner issued this warning the week before Governor Kristi Noem spoke at the Republican National Convention.

Reed Holwegner, LRC director, memo to staff on "The Political Season", 2020.08.21.
Reed Holwegner, LRC director, memo to staff on “The Political Season”, 2020.08.21.
Reed Holwegner, LRC director, memo to staff on "The Political Season", 2020.08.21.
Reed Holwegner, LRC director, memo to staff on “The Political Season”, 2020.08.21.
Reed Holwegner, LRC director, memo to staff on "The Political Season", 2020.08.21.
Reed Holwegner, LRC director, memo to staff on “The Political Season”, 2020.08.21.

Also, while on the topic of political interactions and discourse, especially social media and other electronic communications, be mindful of the Four Rules I expect all staff to follow: 1) Be seen but not heard; 2) Speak when spoken to; 3) Disappear in a crowd of two; and 4) Cast no shadow [Reed Holwegner, LRC director, memo to staff on “The Political Season”, 2020.08.21].

Holwegner’s Four Rules (he capitalizes them, so he must be serious about them) sound like The Handmaid’s Tale. At least Holwegner appears to be silencing everyone under him equally, not just women. And his timing of this memo with the Governor’s national media splash seems suspicious: the LRC does not work for the Governor, and the Governor’s 2020 GOP convention speech had little if anything to do with specific legislation the LRC works on and far more to do with Noem’s craving for celebrity and a position on the 2024 ballot. Holwegner’s political radar here seems to be directed beyond the immediate purview of his office.

The LRC reasonably prohibits staff from noodling about on social media during work hours. It also reasonably expects that the staff in charge of drafting and analyzing Legislative proposals conduct themselves professionally and without partisan bias in their public activities. But Holwegner’s Four Rules go beyond those reasonable expectations to an authoritarian demand that LRC staff surrender their voices and their existence.

So whether you work for LRC director Holwegner or he works for you, Holwegner doesn’t want to hear a peep from you.


  1. John 2022-03-31 09:26

    Holwegner certainly is a card-carrying member in good standing of the Putin apologist authoritarian party.

  2. 96Tears 2022-03-31 13:53

    Gone are the days and professionalism of Terry Anderson, who preceded the fool who is the subject of this post. There has always been a decorum of professionalism within the LRC, but without the heavy hand of extremism that now infects all of the State Capitol’s third floor. The LRC prior to the fool’s tenure was a respected resource where members from each political party could request legislation and amendments to be drafted and researched. There was a safe confidentiality between staff and legislators and their aides, and a strong current of fairness that prevented partisan hacks from derailing legislative agendas before bills were put into the hopper. The National Council of State Legislatures was the primary resource outside the LRC where legislators also found a safe haven for exchanging ideas and experiences and where reasonableness was the standard.

    In at least the last decade or so as the GOP influence grew in numbers and radicalization, a hack organization like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has replaced the NCSL as the go-to organization for the majority party’s legislative ideas. I find it interesting that ALEC started out as a more reasonable resource for largely GOP politicos, but it has followed the trail of The Party of Trump into the gutters of tasteless hackery. What’s worse, is our taxes have been used to bankroll memberships from South Dakota legislators who seem inclined to never turn down a free ride.

    Dr. William O. Farber (Doc Farber) from USD is credited as the father of the LRC in South Dakota. Doc was a Republican and proud of it. Sadly, he died before the bastardization of the South Dakota Legislature and the LRC took root. If he were to visit Pierre today, he’d waste no time in switching parties.

  3. Dicta 2022-03-31 16:47

    I don’t like this guy at all after his recent whining, but I don’t have a problem with this. The LRC is supposed to be a non-partisan, is it not? If so, why would he allow its members to publicly participate in punditry, which is damn near always tied to political leanings?

    Feels like a reach.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-03-31 17:34

    DIcta, I’m considering what 96 said and thinking LRC staff already had a long tradition of professionalism and nonpartisanship. Holwegner’s advice seems to be the overreach. The timing of that advice with the Governor’s impending propaganda appearance at the convention also signals a certain favor-currying and maybe a concern not so much with LRC nonpartisanship as not wanting any leaks that might poop on the Governor’s political pageant.

  5. Dicta 2022-03-31 18:02

    There’s several dots to connect there. I certainly don’t want to give him too much credit given his recent behavior, but this doesn’t strike me as nefarious. I’m far more bothered by his anger at being asked to do his job.

  6. DaveFN 2022-03-31 21:26

    Thanks, 96Tears, for that invaluable historical information.

    Appears we’ve devolved to “another day, just another doofus” in the State of South Dakota.

  7. Arlo Blundt 2022-03-31 21:52

    Doc Farber not only created the LRC as a concept and as an agency he was a long time institutional advisor to state government and his students and graduates served throughout the system…while a Republican, he was extremely respectful of the political system and very supportive of young Democrats. I recall that he placed several students in internships with the McGovern, Humphrey, and McCarthy campaigns back in 68. He believed the LRC could provide a veneer of professionalism to the citizen legislature as well as a sense of institutional history. He was a wonderful person who served South Dakota for over 50 years, from the New Deal to the 90’s.

  8. Mark Anderson 2022-03-31 22:04

    His favorite song is the Whos, “See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me.” Everything in fours.

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