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Randolph, Seiler, Bengs Wrongly Invoke Noem as Factor in Ravnsborg Impeachment

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.

South Dakota Democratic Party chairman Randy Seiler, the man we could have elected Attorney General in 2018 to avoid all this trouble, commits the same error as Randolph:

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.

11 Comments

  1. Monica Campbell 2022-04-13

    I think some of the R’s that voted against the obvious malfeasance of the AG did so to prove they are “independent R’s”. I look at the list that voted yes and many of them are not running for re-election. They rounded up just enough votes for it to pass. It’s all for show.

  2. larry kurtz 2022-04-13

    That a sitting governor denies Russia is interfering in virtually every institution in the US including elections should be disqualifying. South Dakota is a conduit for Russia to bankroll all the Republicans who oppose the Biden agenda and Jason Ravnsborg knows it.

  3. Donald Pay 2022-04-13

    I agree with everything you have to say here except this statement: “Kristi Noem is irrelevant to how anyone should vote in removing Jason Ravnsborg from office.” I think the opinion of a normal Governor would matter. In a normal Administration, and I’m not saying anything about Ravnesborg’s or Noem’s conduct in office is normal, the AG and the Governor should have a decent working relationship. They don’t have to agree all the time, but they should be able to work together when necessary. I think Noem was right to weigh in on Ravnesborg’s fitness and her ability to work with him after his unlawful driving, which killed a man. His dishonesty is another aspect that would make anyone question whether you could work productively with him. I think paying money for billboards and other such stupidity makes her look pathetic and weak, as if her judgement wasn’t enough to convince legislators. So she undermined her own position. Had Noem been a normal Governor, legislators would welcome input from her. But she’s NOT a normal Governor. She doesn’t really do her job, and so legislators have no respect for her. They can’t work with her, so why should they believe Ravnesborg should.

    The best thing now is to rid South Dakota of Noem through impeachment. Excise both of these fools, and get on with it.

  4. 96Tears 2022-04-13

    Noem and Ravnsborg are two peas in a pod. Their faults are the same. Both are hopelessly narcissistic. I predict the Senate vote on Ravnsborg won’t be close with only three Democrats in the chamber. Ravnsborg is already saying he fully expects the Senate to “vindicate” him. That’s a pretty safe bet as long as the fool doesn’t issue more whiny screes full of easily disproved lies as he did the night before the House impeachment vote. Claiming he’s been vindicated and completely exonerated worked twice for Trump, and it should work handily for Ravnsborg as long as he doesn’t make more gaffes.

    A two-thirds vote seems impossible right now and requires some delicate handiwork. If Senate President Pro Tempore Lee Schoenbeck intends to hold off until June instead of May to hold the Senate session, it should create some interesting pressure points:

    – A major issue in any GOP Senate primary will be voting yes or no to keeping Ravnsborg in office. The election is June 7.

    – Of course, it will be an issue for all House Republican primary candidates on June 7.

    – And what about the primary between Noem and Sioux Falls’ Rep. Steven Haugaard? Will Sioux Falls area Republicans stand up for their homie and their incumbent Attorney General? What about the delegates to the state convention? How much arm twisting can the Snow Queen get away with?

    – What about Dusty, Rounds and Thune? Are they going to weigh in for the good of the party or stay away for the good of the party?

    – What about the other incumbents and candidates for constitutional offices and the PUC? Are they for or against their party’s incumbent Attorney General or will they stand with their Governor?

    – Depending on when in June that Schoenbeck posts the senate hearing, it will run up close to the SDGOP state convention June 23-25 in Schoenbeck’s district, Watertown. Memories will be very fresh for the delegates. Will what happens in Watertown stay in Watertown?

    – If former AG Marty Jackley can stand the onslaught of slings and arrows which are sure to come hard and furious from “loyal Republicans” tied to their 2018 AG nominee, will he succeed? He’s got plenty in his closet to expose and capitalize upon. Is he going to drop out and avoid the splatter? Why does he need his old job back?

    – And after the primary and the SDGOP state convention, are the losers going to fall in line or continue to harangue?

    What an opportunity for Noem’s “friends” who are contending for the 2024 presidential sweepstakes! Imagine what sprinkling some invisible dark money here and there could do to make sure Noem doesn’t exit the 2022 election cycle as a strong contender in the beauty queen contest to become President or Lieutenant President. The nasty road ahead for Republicans here in 2022 ain’t nuthin’ compared to the 2024 election cycle with its string of highly contentious, sausage grinding primaries.

    I’m excited! Now, if only, there was a competent state Democrat Party.

  5. bearcreekbat 2022-04-13

    Will the Senate conduct an actual trial with legislators acting as prosecutors and presenting both evidence and argument to the entire Senate. or will this merely be a debate among members followed by a vote? If the latter then acquittal seems more likely. But if the former, removal seems a real possibility if the trial is a public proceeding with an effective prosecutorial presentation highlighting the actual evidence supporting a removal vote. Defending Ravnsborg seems very difficult at best, absent convincing speculation along the lines Evans has been repeating ad nauseam..

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-04-13

    Schoenbeck says the Senate will try Ravnsborg June 21–22. SDGOP convention starts June 23.

    Now here’s a stunner: Schonbeck says the lead prosecutor in the Senate trial will be Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo. Vargo may be the strongest prosecutor the Senate could sic on Ravnsborg. Assistant prosecutor will be Clay County State’s Attorney Alexis Tracy.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-04-13

    Thinking about Donald’s comment on Noem and normal governments: In his HR 7002 and in his floor speech, Rep. Mortenson cited the fact that Ravnsborg has lost the faith of the Executive Branch as one of the reasons he can no longer carry out the duties of Attorney General. I hesitate to support that premise, as it sets a precedent that would allow Governor Smith to declare in 2023 that he has no confidence in A.G. Jackley, SOS Barnett, or Treasurer Haeder and thus push for impeachment. But Mortenson’s point on Noem’s opinion is at least relevant to Ravnsborg’s ability to serve the state. All the fussing about what Noem says and how many telemarketing calls and billboards she may be buying to promote her opinion of Ravnsborg’s unfitness do not weigh at all on the validity of the evidence that Ravnsborg is unfit for office.

  8. bearcreekbat 2022-04-13

    Wow, Vargo as the prosecutor. If memory serves me correctly Vargo was on the team that reviewed the facts and law case and initially advised Stovell whether to charge Ravnsborg with manslaughter. Perhaps he was a dissenter from Stovell’s decision not to charge a serious offense?

  9. Arlo Blundt 2022-04-13

    Schoenbeck, Vargo, Senate Republicans more likely to follow Party Leadership, and a next day convening of an extremely dysfunctional convention?? The Ravnsborg blood letting will definitely be on the mind of the delegates at the Republican Convention. Could be anhydrous ammonia mixed with gasoline come June 23. I’m very curious about the delegates from the counties who will gather for the convention….in my old county it looks like Right to Life zealots, tax protesters turned Trumpist conspiracy nuts, and a couple ancient old line Party faithful. Can the center hold?? Well…with Governor Noem figuratively at the wheel of the Party, there is no center. The Party is already driving off the right shoulder on the ditch side of the fog line.

  10. grudznick 2022-04-13

    A sound description, Mr. Blundt. Fortunately, the GOP has grudznick to help center them.

  11. Anne 2022-04-13

    Mr. Seiler’s comment reflects a knowledge of juducial precedent. A number of convictions have been overturned because of a judicial process so corrupted that no conclusions drawn from it can be trusted and held as valid. Noem’s intrusion would be regarded as a poisoning of the jury pool no matter what position she took on impeachment. Noem’s intervention obviously was a consideration in the impeachment vote and will be an elephant in the room for the senate as it tries the case.

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