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Constitution Wreckers and Dark Money Want Schoenbeck (and Duvall, Johnson, Reed) Out!

It’s not just the local grouchy, unorganized radical right-wingers who would destroy the Republic and the Republican Party, in that order, who are lobbing futile bombs at Senate President Pro-Tempore Lee Schoenbeck (R-5/Lake Kampeska). The Senate King has incurred the wrath of some out-of-state whack-a-doodles who want to rewrite the United States Constitution:

Convention of States Political Fund, attack ad against Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, received by District 5 voter May 2022.
Convention of States Political Fund, attack ad against Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, received by District 5 voter May 2022.
Convention of States Political Fund, attack ad against Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, received by District 5 voter May 2022.
Convention of States Political Fund, attack ad against Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, received by District 5 voter May 2022.

The card is mostly factual, if riddled with understatement and error. Schoenbeck didn’t just vote to increase the state sales tax in 2016; he single-handedly saved the compromise that allowed Governor Dennis Daugaard’s tax hike for teacher pay to advance from the House. But the whack-a-doodles demonstrate their infacility with numbers: raising the state sales tax from 4.0% to 4.5% was a 12.5% increase, not 11.1%.

Then this year, Schoenbeck didn’t just vote against eliminating the 4.5% tax on food; he led the Senate in killing the proposal from his own fellow tax-cutting Republicans in the more crowded chamber. But the bill in question was Senate Bill 117; any South Dakota pol proofreading that card would have spotted “South Dakota HB 117” and said, “Hey, boss! Something’s wrong here—House bills have four digits!”

Last week Wednesday, the Convention of States Political Fund has reported funding mailers against Schoenbeck and his fellow mainstream Senate Republicans David Johnson (R-33/Hisega) and Mary Duvall (R-24/Pierre). Schoenbeck’s postcards were the cheapest to mail at $4,402. Bombing Duvall’s voters cost $4,529; BLanketing Johnson’s district cost $4,669.

On Friday, they filed independent communication expenditure reports indicating they are hitting the radio airwaves against those three plus Tim Reid, by whom I assume they mean not Venus Fly Trap but the very mainstream GOP Representative Tim Reed (R-7/Brookings), who is running for Senate. Each of the four radio ads cost $806.25 to produce. Putting them on air cost only $4,320 in Schonbeck’s Watertown market and $5,400 in Johnson’s Rapid City market. COSPF either bought more time or faced higher rates in Pierre and Brookings: they spent $15,048 to badmouth Duvall on the radio and $16,080 against Reed (where spelling doesn’t count, so rock on). COS’s final bill for attacking these four Republican incumbents: $57,673.

Reed, Duvall, Johnson, and Schoenbeck all face GOP primary challengers and no other-party opponents.

The website cited in the attack-card disclaimer leads to an entirely uninformative billboard page that offers no names, contact information, or even a Donate button for the political action committee.

Convention of States Action tried ousting David Johnson from the Legislature in 2018, to no avail. They evidently want to replace Johnson, Schoenbeck, Duvall, and Reed with less experienced, less conscientious dupes who don’t realize what havoc they’d wreak if they called for an Article V convention.

Conservative Action for America is harder to pin down. According to the Federal Election Commission, Joyce and Weikeen Loh of Ormond Beach, Florida formed a PAC named Conservative Action for America in 2017, but they never filed any reports, and the FEC terminated that PAC in August 2018.


  1. Arlo Blundt 2022-05-09 16:11

    Wow…there is plenty of political money out there ready to be spent tilting at windmills. “Who says we don’t have any money.”

  2. 96Tears 2022-05-09 16:12

    The purpose of campaign spending laws was, at the very least, to accurately acknowledge who bankrolled your candidates’ campaigns. Apparently, the Republican Party out here in backwater South Dakota is leading the race to the bottom in erasing transparency in elections with its sophisticated use of dark money resources from around the nation and the world. It looks to me this warfare within the SDGOP runs a lot deeper and brings national campaign warriors to decide who will be a Republican legislative candidate in our little backwater State Capitol. It’s Andy Griffith meets RoboCop. Except it’s a nationalized feud that has already delivered our state grassroots political control to the auction block. Hidden hands, deep pockets and no hint of accountability or transparency. There’s also no sense of respect for governmental process as exemplified by Governor Noem’s lies that she had nothing to do with the billboards and the Ohio phone bank to intervene with the House impeachment committee and pressure their votes.

    And forget about the press. They are all either brain dead or too lazy. Cory, you do a remarkable job with reporting how this feud is being manipulated. You won’t ever see that level of reporting in the press. After EB-5, they’ve thrown in the towel. Too bad that this information is not seen by enough people.

    Yes. There have always been deep pockets pressing thumbs on the political scales to do bad things in state government. But I think the stink is a lot worse this year and that the level of corruption and damage is unprecedented for South Dakota. Democrats have pretty much pissed away what clout they ever had in South Dakota politics through laziness and a refusal to focus on winning seats. But the SDGOP, including our friend Lee, has clearly sold its soul forever.

  3. Mark Anderson 2022-05-09 17:03

    Come on independants, you really love this anti-American crapola? Ohhhh, we have to pay for infrastructure, gee whiz. Crybaby snowflakes.
    The GOP always complain about the cost of their steak dinner when they pay for it. Even though it’s cost was on the menu when they ordered it. Forget about a tip.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-05-09 18:24

    Mark reminds me that the awkward part of all this is that Lee Schoenbeck and I are kind of on the same side. We both recognize that government has to fund the schools and roads and other stuff that the private sector cannot and will not do on its own. We both recognize that we should not drown government in a bathtub. We both recognize that the extremism of the Article V Conventioneers and the Pischkes and the other Whack-a-doodles is only useful for beating up political opponents among low-attention voters during a campaign but useless for solving the real problems of governance.

  5. John Dale 2022-05-09 18:58

    Lee Schoenbeck lost my support when he compared me to cancer because I wanted election integrity.

    The will of the people should be respected, which means none of our voting matters without election integrity.

  6. larry kurtz 2022-05-09 19:23

    Lee Schoenbeck’s impeccable judge of character is legion: he has called Mr. Heidelberger, “crazy” and yours truly, “nuts.” Labeling Mr. Dale an anarchist is no less accurate.

  7. grudznick 2022-05-09 20:29

    That’s a great picture of Mr. Schoenbeck! I love the devious smile. They should have put little red horns on his head. Just little ones.

  8. bob newland 2022-05-09 22:08

    Golly! It’s hard to oppose someone who hates Lee Schoenbeck. Except when they say he’s not crazy enough.

  9. Joe 2022-05-09 22:46

    I’ve been friends with Mary Duvall since we were both students at Wilson ES/South JHS/RC Central HS. She shared her version of this mailer on FB the other day and explained the funding behind it. Sad!

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-05-10 06:16

    Bob, I’d be glad to replace Schoenbeck with a Senator more aligned with our views. However, a Senator backed by dark money seeking to rewrite the Constitution in ways that will likely land you and me in jail or the deportation queue isn’t a good replacement.

  11. JW 2022-05-10 14:21

    Schoenbeck and Johnson’s fiscal conservatism is about as random, erratic and inconsistent as Noem’s LGBTQ attitudes. Anybody that turns inside out and upside down trying to spend $5 million in public and quasi-public money on a Shooting Range to satisfy all the 2nd Amendment and tourism lunatics lost most of his marbles in the alley behind the bar.

  12. grudznick 2022-05-10 15:43

    Messrs. Schoenbeck and Johnson are among the most effective fellows in their side of the legislatures, especially when it comes to understanding the quasi-monies. Quasi-monies are hard for many in the legislatures to understand.

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