Radical right-wing websites are sprouting like weeds. The insurrectionists have Oregon transplant Breeauna Sagdal feigning objective journalism under the warped banner of Dakota Leader (which is still a more interesting read than the SDGOP mainstream bought-and-paid-for Dakota War College). Right-wing gubernatorial candidate Steven Haugaard has put up Dakota Truth, which provides a sloppy, unlinked dump of Haugaard’s best shots at Noem’s lies and scuzzery. And now some radicals who think Tim Goodwin isn’t conservative enough (really? really?!) send me a link to Dakota Scales, a website scrolling ads for the right-wing worst of South Dakota’s candidates (Pischke, Baumann, Pollema, Mechaley, Whalen, Hockenbary… ugh! there are so many!).
Dakota Scales posts a bunch of links complaining about the efforts of Governor Kristi Noem and Senate President Pro-Tem Lee Schoenbeck to purge the Legislature of radical conservatives. In this spirit, Rapid City conservative agitator Tonchi Weaver posts her affidavit to the Secretary of State arguing that Representative Tim Goodwin is lying ten ways from Tuesday in his ads and campaign finance filings about his run for District 30 Senate. Weaver basically complains that Goodwin hasn’t updated his website or his campaign committee papers to note that he is running to switch from House to Senate. Weaver says Goodwin uses the term “re-elect” and old endorsements from previous House campaigns in his ads, which makes it sound like he’s already a Senator.
I gotta say, amidst all the big lies the Trumpublicans on Dakota Scales are telling us to seize power and impose theocratic authoritarianism, a sitting legislator saying “re-elect me!” when he runs for the other chamber seems fussy and small.
Weaver tries to tie Goodwin’s lazy language to something the Secretary of State might have a remote chance of acting on, campaign finance law. Weaver notes that Goodwin has not updated his campaign committee statement of organization from 2017, which says he’s seeking the office of District 30 House. That’s a technical violation of SDCL 12-27-6, but the penalty for misstating one’s sought office is unclear. If the penalty is only a Class 2 misdemeanor, SDCL 12-27-51 says the Secretary of State has to give Goodwin seven days to rectify the error before bringing any charges.
Weaver notes that Goodwin uses a fictitious committee name on his own (hand-written! Good grief, buy that man a typewriter!) pre-primary filing: while his statement of organization deems his committee “Timothy R Goodwin,” his pre-primary report says “Goodwin for Senate.” Weaver complains that Goodwin’s PAC donors used all sorts of different names for Goodwin’s committee on their filings—”Goodwin 4 District 30,” “Timothy Goodwin for Senate —District 30,” “Goodwin for SD Senate,” “Timothy Goodwin” (forgot the R!), and “Tim Goodwin.” Weaver also notes that Goodwin’s billboards and mailings use an assortment of incorrect (again, “fictitious”) committee names on their “Paid for by” disclosures.
If donors can’t write the correct name of Goodwin’s committee on their filings, that’s their problem, not Goodwin’s. If Goodwin can’t remember and report his own committee’s name, that’s his problem, and arguably a significant one. His first misnamed billboard or postcard disclosure is a Class 2 misdemeanor; all subsequent Paid-for-by boo-boos are Class 1 misdemeanors. If Weaver could show that Goodwin is intentionally misleading voters with his technically incorrect committee name on his pre-primary report, she could pin him with a Class 5 felony under SDCL 12-27-34, which would get Goodwin booted from office.
But Weaver will have a tough time arguing that Goodwin is engaged in intentional deceit. Goodwin’s name is on every filing and advertisement, thus allowing Weaver to easily tie those documents and ads to Goodwin. Weaver presents no evidence that Goodwin is hiding any contributions or disguising any advertisements. Four years ago, Larry Rhoden committed a more serious violation of campaign finance law, failing to disclose the name and existence of his campaign committee, and all he got was a $200 fine. Goodwin isn’t failing to disclose anything; he’s just putting technically incorrect names on those disclosures, names that still correctly point to him as the source of the campaign finance activity.
But the law is the law (say Republicans when they want to use the law to their advantage). And if elements of the South Dakota Republican Party want to proliferate alt-right websites hold members of their own party accountable to the law, well, I welcome those efforts far more than their efforts to spread lies about the 2020 election, critical race theory, transgender kids, and other issues distracting us from the real problems facing South Dakota. Now if only those right-wing Republicans would join the Democrats in holding right-wing Republican Logan Manhart to the law and throwing him off the ballot for lying about his residency and eligibility for office….