Far too many people are confusing the impeachment of Jason Ravnsborg with their political opposition to Kristi Noem.
Saying to reporters what he lacked the guts to say on the House floor yesterday, Representative Tony Randolph said he voted against impeaching an Attorney General who broke the law, killed a man, and lied about it because he doesn’t like Kristi Noem’s politicking:
Following the vote, Rep. Tony Randolph, R-Rapid City, told reporters he did not support impeachment, because he found the entire process to be compromised by politics unrelated to Boever’s death.
Specifically, Gov. Kristi Noem’s frequent public statements gave him pause.
“This has been something that’s been a dread,” he said. “This was very, very steeped and surrounded in politics. This could have been done in a more upstanding way. … I believe that the executive weighing in at any point, it helped to change the context of this whole thing. I believe it would have been best if the governor just left things alone and let it play itself out” [Joe Sneve, “Ravnsborg Says Senate Will ‘Vindicate’ Him After House Votes to Impeach,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader via Yahoo News, 2022.04.12].
The process was not compromised by anyone, including the Governor, speaking for or against impeachment. Randolph had all the evidence of Ravnsborg’s crimes and malfeasance in office in his hands, but he chose to ignore his duty to the people and the Constitution of South Dakota and used this momentous vote to bicker with the Governor. Kristi Noem didn’t make the vote about politics; Tony Randolph and the majority of his fellow House Republicans did.
Gov. Kristi Noem interfered with and politicized the impeachment process, nearly preventing today’s outcome with her actions [Randy Seiler, SDDP statement on impeachment, 2022.04.12].
Governor Noem did not nearly prevent impeachment with her actions. 31 House Republicans nearly prevented impeachment. Noem is no more responsible for any legislator’s vote yesterday than she is for Jason Ravnsborg’s killing Joseph Boever and lying to us about it. But in assigning such responsibility to Noem, one could argue that Randy Seiler may be preventing the Legislature from holding Ravnsborg accountable, because he is giving credence to Randolph’s effort to shift blame for his own failed moral compass from himself to Noem.
Democrat Brian Bengs, who is running for U.S. Senate and thus shouldn’t have much to say about Pierre politics, fouls his own statement on the impeachment with politicking against Kristi Noem:
What was also revealing in the [Attorney General’s] letter was the Attorney General’s assertion that he is investigating Governor Noem and those associated with her. He mentioned past corruption scandals, including both GEAR UP and EB-5, that his predecessor investigated. I am concerned that if the Attorney General is rightfully removed from office, Governor Noem will appoint a crony who will dutifully cease all investigations into her ethical lapses and not stand up to special interests [Brian Bengs, press release, 2022.04.12].
Good grief: can impeachment just be about impeachment? Ravnsborg’s desperate assertion that he is investigating Noem and her associates has nothing to do with whether he broke the law, killed a man, and lied about it. Ravnsborg could be investigating Noem’s political travel, her nepotism and interference in real estate appraiser certification, or any number of important issues, and he would still be guilty of impeachable offenses requiring his immediate removal from office. Ravnsborg has lost the confidence of law enforcement and the public, so even if his assertion is true and not just hide-saving political smoke, no one trusts Ravnsborg to conduct any investigations effectively. The fact that Noem will appoint an incurious replacement whom she likes will create no unique harm when she’ll be replacing an Attorney General who can’t spot a man walking with a lit flashlight on the edge of the highway or a dead white body at the edge of the road with that same lit flashlight marking its position.
Jason Ravnsborg broke the law, killed a man, and lied to all of us about it to keep his political power. Jason Ravnsborg violated the public trust and has thus harmed the state of South Dakota. Jason Ravnsborg deserves impeachment and removal from office. The fact that Kristi Noem agrees with those facts and that judgment does not render those facts and that judgment false. Republicans like Representative Randolph who justify their defense of Jason Ravnsborg’s privilege by complaining about Kristi Noem are dodging the facts and their constitutional and moral responsibility and should themselves be removed from office at the voters’ earliest convenience. Seiler, Bengs, and everyone else who sensibly supports impeaching Ravnsborg should not give credence to the fallacious thinking Republicans like Randolph use to distract us from Ravnsborg’s crimes and their own petty politicization of a solemn, historic, and necessary constitutional process.
This impeachment is not about Kristi Noem. Maybe the next one, but not this one. Kristi Noem is irrelevant to how anyone should vote in removing Jason Ravnsborg from office. The House rightly impeached Jason Ravnsborg; the Senate should now convict him.