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Document Format, Content Suggest Phil or Janet Jensen Recorded Senate GOP Caucus Call, Leaked Transcript

Radical right-wing Republican Representative Phil Jensen and his wife, candidate for District 33 Senate Janet Jensen, appear to have recorded a secret Republican Senate caucus meeting and leaked the transcript.

To understand how I come to this conclusion, let’s work through the background and the document:

Last month, intrepid Capitol reporter Bob Mercer revealed that the April 2020 hearing on Senator Kris Langer’s and Senator Brock Greenfield’s drunkenness on the job in the Capitol was really just a show trial presenting scripted apologies and admonition arranged in a secret deal between the drunk Senators’ lawyer Marty Jackley and the Republican leaders of the Senate. The show trial was arranged to protect the power of the boozy Senators and their powerful drinking buddies and minimize the scandal and its impact on the Republican Party.

Mercer substantiated this revelation with lengthy excerpts from a leaked transcript of an April 2020 Senate Republican caucus conference call. Mercer did not post the complete original transcript or say who had given him the transcript. But I have heard no Republican Senator who participated in that April 2020 caucus conference call deny the authenticity of the quotes Mercer published. Senator Jim Bolin (R-16/Canton) and then-Senator, now Representative Phil Jensen (R-33/Rapid City) have made statements that support the conclusion Mercer drew about the Senate GOP caucus’s effort to pre-arrange the outcome of the Langer/Greenfield hearing:

Bolin told The Associated Press on Monday that he had been suddenly thrown into leadership at the time and felt he was “informally” tasked with working “through the whole process.”

“I’ve never had to deal with anything like that before or in my life.”

…Republican Rep. Phil Jensen, who was in the Senate at the time and initially brought attention to Langer and Greenfield’s condition, echoed that sentiment on Monday.

“It was obvious they were stacking the jury,” he said. “It was a sham committee” [Stephen Groves, “GOP Lawmakers Steered Probe into Intoxicated State Senators,” AP, 2022.05.16].

Now right-wing blog Dakota Leader has posted what blogger Breaunna Sagdal claims is the complete original transcript of the April 2020 Senate GOP caucus conference call. If legitimate, the format and content of this transcript indicate that Phil Jensen originated this leaked transcript and alleged that Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden, who stifled Jensen’s original Veto Day motion for an immediate investigation of the drunken Senators, was not only present at the drunken Veto Day party at lobbyist Dean Krogman’s lodging but was involved in an arrest at the party house.

Let’s look at the evidence in the leaked transcript:

The leaked transcript is formatted like a stenographer’s recording of a court hearing or deposition. It has line numbers and a plain monospace font. It gives speakers’ names in all capital letters. It marks interruptions with double hyphens serving as em dashes. It indicates portions the transcriber could not make out as “(unintelligible)”.

But this transcript includes a formatting oddity: on page 1, we see the first comment from Senator Phil Jensen printed in bolder font than the other speakers’ words:

Excerpt, Senate Republican caucus transcript, April 2020, p. 1. Notice Comment from P. Jensen is only text in bold.
Excerpt, Senate Republican caucus transcript, April 2020, p. 1. Notice comment from P. Jensen is the only text in bold.

This bold format is repeated on pages 3 and 4, where Senator Jensen appears to twice interrupt Senator Rusch’s explanation of his and Senator Bolin’s effort to cook up a show trial to avoid harm to the Republican Party:

Excerpt, Senate Republican caucus transcript, April 2020, pp. 3-4. Notice Comment from P. Jensen is only text in bold.
Excerpt, Senate Republican caucus transcript, April 2020, pp. 3-4. Again, comment from P. Jensen is the only text in bold.
Excerpt, Senate Republican caucus transcript, April 2020, p. 4. Again, comment from P. Jensen is the only text in bold.
Excerpt, Senate Republican caucus transcript, April 2020, p. 4. Again, comment from P. Jensen is the only text in bold.

Senator Jensen makes similar bolded interjections—”Whatever” on p. 8, line 3; “Oh, bologna” on p. 17, line 10;  “Oh, bull” on p. 40, line 2; “Yeah, bullshit” on p. 44, line 13—throughout the transcript.

Yet in other places, Senator Jensen’s comments are not bolded. See, for instance, p. 33:

Excerpt, Senate Republican caucus transcript, April 2020, p. 33. Jensen's comments are in normal-weight font, same as other speakers'.
Excerpt, Senate Republican caucus transcript, April 2020, p. 33. Jensen’s comments are in normal-weight font, same as other speakers’.

…and pp. 47–48, at the very end of the caucus call:

Excerpt, Senate Republican caucus transcript, April 2020, pp. 47–48. Jensen's comments to Bolin are in normal font; Jensen's interjection at the end is in bold font.
Excerpt, Senate Republican caucus transcript, April 2020, pp. 47–48. Jensen’s comments to Bolin are in normal font; Jensen’s interjection at the end is in bold font.

No other lawmaker’s comments are bolded in this transcript. But one other speaker’s comments do appear in bold. Starting on page 6, the transcript presents bolded statements from J. Jensen:

Excerpt, Senate Republican caucus transcript, April 2020, p. 6. First instance of comments from "J. Jensen", presumed to be Janet Jensen, in bold font.
Excerpt, Senate Republican caucus transcript, April 2020, p. 6. First instance of comments from “J. Jensen”, presumed to be Janet Jensen, in bold font.
Excerpt, caucus transcript, p. 7.
Excerpt, caucus transcript, p. 7.

J. Jensen is Janet Jensen, Phil’s wife (to whom Phil says on p. 22, in apparent agreement with the stenographer, “I can’t hear a damn word you’re saying, dear”), asking him what is going, suggesting things he should ask the caucus, and trying to help him figure out what to do:

Excerpt, caucus transcript, p. 12.
Excerpt, caucus transcript, p. 12.
Excerpt, caucus transcript, p. 22.
Excerpt, caucus transcript, p. 22.

The transcript identifies speakers wherever possible. In a couple places (e.g., p. 24) where the speaker is unknown, the transcript labels the comment with “UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER”. Nowhere does Janet Jensen identify herself the way other speakers identify themselves on the call. Nowhere does Phil mention Janet’s name. Nowhere does any other speaker acknowledge Janet’s comments or ask what the heck a lawmaker’s spouse is doing talking at a Republican Senate caucus meeting. The stenographer thus must have had information outside the text of the conversation itself to identify Janet Jensen as a speaker.

Other than Janet Jensen’s comments, the transcript includes no comments from non-members of the Senate. Unlike Janet’s comments, the rare comments from unidentified speakers are printed in normal font and flow with and receive responses from named Senators in the caucus discussion. And the transcript includes no side chatter from anyone other than the Jensens.

It thus appears the stenographer—or, more likely, the recording device that made the recording from which the stenographer created this transcript—sat next to Phil and Janet Jensen during the Republican Senate caucus conference call. The stenographer distinguished comments made in the caucus discussion from the side comments made by Phil and Janet with normal font and bold font. The stenographer marked Senator Jensen’s comments to the caucus, like all other Senators’ caucus statements, in normal font. The stenographer marked off-mike comments from Senator Jensen and his wife Janet in bold font.

In short, the format and content of the transcript indicate that Phil and Janet Jensen recorded the April 2020 caucus call and had that call transcribed. Whether the Jensens themselves or one of their political whack-a-doodle friends handed the transcript to the press, Phil Jensen (who is running for reëlection to District 33 House) and/or Janet Jensen (who is running for District 33 Senate) made this leak possible.

Phil Jensen is a logical pick for caucus leaker. Jensen has little to fear from the Schoenbeck GOP Senate leadership because he’s in the House and because he has proven his ability to be a pain in the GOP’s side and withstand multiple primary challenges backed by the GOP mainstream and the Governor in District 33. Bunkered in a safe district and with a bunker mentality to match, Jensen is well-suited to break the sacred codes of Republican secrecy when he feels such a violation suits his purposes. (Therein lies perhaps the biggest flaw in my own deduction: Jensen is so safe that he probably doesn’t need to hide behind anonymity for such a leak.)

But what are those purposes? After Mercer broke the transcript story on May 15, the only other major reporter to pick up the story was AP’s Stephen Groves. I found the story darned interesting, and now so does the new alt-right cryptoChristopetrofascist anti-democracy blog Dakota Leader, but the story has prompted no response from the SDGOP spin blog Dakota War College and no apparent uproar among primary voters or the general public. Maybe the purpose is just for the record. Maybe the purpose is just to provide one more example of the Republican Party’s determination to run South Dakota by star chamber… in which case we have to ask the Jensens why they remain in that star chamber instead of joining a less corrupt party.

Maybe the purpose is to try again to drag Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden into the scandal by highlighting his presence at the drunker revelry prior to the final hours of the 2020 Session. Governor Kristi Noem firmly dodged any discussion of Rhoden’s involvement. The transcript shows Jensen adding the word “arrest” to his implication that the Rhoden was involved in the booze party at Krogman’s house, but only after the caucus call ended, to his wife Janet, not to his fellow Senators. If Jensen is trying to stir controversy about the Lieutenant Governor, he could do better than simply releasing a transcript showing his personal statement that someone got arrested at the party; he could produce the arrest record.

Whatever the Jensens’ purpose, I’d suggest they need to push their document a little harder to achieve their purpose. And I’d suggest that they either go on the record as the source of the leak (statements on the record get better press), or, if they feel the need for anonymity, do a better job of cleaning up the transcript to make the source less obvious.


  1. Arlo Blundt 2022-06-05 15:23

    Well…goodness….Senator Jensen seems to be alleging that all but three Senators did not indulge in the top shelf booze so generously provided by the congenial Mr. Krogman, a lobbyist. It seems that Lt. Governor Rhoden, after a copious application of Wild Turkey, was feeling his oats to the point that he attracted the attention of the police. Like any West River Ranger, he pulled himself together and presided over the midnight session
    til the wee hours. .John Wayne couldn’t have done it better. What’s the problem??? Drunken Republican legislation is still the law of the land.

  2. Arlo Blundt 2022-06-05 15:24

    should be all but three Senators did indulge

  3. Arlo Blundt 2022-06-05 16:22

    No arrest record for Lt. Governor Rhoden?? Perhaps he was just racking off the pipes on his Ford 350 near the midnight hour and received a warning from the men in blue. He probably told them, “I’m the Lt. Governor.” Works for Ravensberg, works for him.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-05 17:30

    Lt. Gov. Rhoden looked and sounded like he was in rough shape in the concluding wee hours of the 2020 Session. He was at the party. if he committed some illegal act warranting police intervention, the public should learn about it. If that illegal act has been covered up and not prosecuted, the public should definitely know about it.

    Is Jensen telling this story to foment dissent among convention delegates and push for replacing Rhoden? Is it just a ploy to help Jensen’s fellow yahoo Youngberg get the School and Public Lands nomination instead of Greenfield? What’s the game here?

  5. mike from iowa 2022-06-05 18:31

    In the free fall race to the bottom, no one wants to be low man on the totem pole. Hence they throw one another under the falling pile and let the chips (cow) fall where they may. Where is the “pillow guy” when needed?

  6. 96Tears 2022-06-05 18:38

    That transcript provides a lot of insight to how these jokers operate.

    – Jim Bolin here seems to be quite the team player. Lee Schoenbeck’s injections don’t seem to add much to the process (other than seeking a way to avoid much public notice as they sweep the mess under the rug), which makes me wonder why Bolin is on the Noem/Schoenbeck Purge List. Bolin can be a resourceful pain in the ass to Democrats and he isn’t reticent to attack Democrats. And he’s no RINO. So, why is he on The Purge List? Jealousy? He’s not uncooperative, so he must have crossed somebody’s red line. He strikes me as the smartest guy in the room. So, who has a problem with smart guys?

    – Gary “Hiccup!” Cammack’s comments were golden when considering his own DUI scandal. They sure found a way to sweep his transgression under the rug. These kinds of damage control drills must be commonplace in Republican circles, and those on this conference call seem well-versed in cover-ups.

    – Ex-loyal Democrat and current Republican hack in search of his spine Ryan Maher jumps into the conversation so he can hear himself talk — and then he’s out. Al Novstrup plays a similar role. Not an asset to the action. Actually, there were more bumps on a log in that conference call. Yet, they all seemed to know how to fall in line, except for Jensen and his wife who must have muted themselves while their exterior recording device picked up their snarky comments.

    – While reading this drivel, I wondered if anyone recorded the meeting of the hacks on the Legislative Audit & Operations Committee who obviously huddled before the EB-5 hearing when Rounds, Daugaard and Marty Jackley testified NOT UNDER OATH. That was when Jackley dropped the bombshell in late summer before the election that he had three felony charges pending against the late Richard Benda and was lining up a grand jury when Benda was killed. And who can forget his bullsh*t alibi so he could renege on letting two news reporters review the “suicide” documents on Benda? (That pesky reporter Bob Mercer was sniffing around on that scandal, too.) Then Jackley got to repeat his role in Crisis Management SDGOP Style when Scott Westerhuis decided he and his family needed to go to heaven before the cops got to them and started asking questions about $62 million in GEAR UP Grant money. They never did find that safe, did they? Joop Bollen’s still walking around, isn’t he? Where’s the transparency for all the millions in Chinese investor money? Private business? Oh, I thought it was managed by a state agency. Joop quietly turned it into his private business? Nobody noticed until it was too late even though it happened in plain view? Now we have this mess involving two Senators on the Nice List and our Lt. Governor.

    While Marty Jackley is clearly the best choice for Attorney General on the SDGOP side, he can’t run away from the stain of being The Fixer too many times for the Pierre political elite. Being The Fixer comes in handy when needing a governor’s endorsement. Ravnsborg is no Fixer. He’s fixed.

    And so are a number of SDGOP legislative incumbents like Jim Bolin and Al Novstrup who’ll be mad as Murder Hornets when they roll into Pierre two weeks from now and then the SDGOP State Convention. Apparently, they’ll be supported by other SDGOP Senators who may disagree with them on some things, but won’t cotton to a purge engineered by the leaders who were elected to protect their interests. Betrayal is a cardinal sin in politics, much more so with the demi-gods who sit in the House and Senate.

    Jensen apparently wants things to blow up in Pierre or he would have kept that transcript in his private stash until he writes is post-governorship memoirs.

  7. Bob Newland 2022-06-05 18:38

    It is no secret what GOP can do. What it’s done for others, it’ll do for you. Jes’ keep yer mouth shut, and it’ll come through. What it’s dun fer others, it’ll do fer you.

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-05 18:51

    Great reading, 96. Maher’s and Bolin’s comments about Bob Mercer’s digging on this story (see p. 19) show the GOP’s keen interest in avoiding scrutiny… and they show the power of inquisitive reporters to put our elected officials on alert.

    96, I share your puzzlement at the fact that, after carrying all this water for the party, on this show trial and on other issues, Bolin has ended up on the Schoenbeck target list. Schoenbeck is pushing to replace Bolin with former legislator Nancy Rasmussen. Maybe Bolin is just too clever for his own good. I’d like to think Schoenbeck is the kind of sharp political mind who can not just tolerate but thrive with and coordinate a team of rivals… but years of watching the Republican Party’s hypersensitivity to any criticism or dissent—from me, from Democrats, from Stace Nelson and Taffy Howard, from journalists inside and outside South Dakota—makes me think that, no, the GOP leadership can’t comprehend the idea of having competing ideas in the room or open debate on the record. The SDGOP demands complete loyalty, complete submission to the Great Leader, and that attitude drives away great minds and leads to the general mediocrity of the Legislature, a huge crop of followers whipped along and doing what they are told by a handful of leaders who keep whittling themselves down to a smaller corps.

    Is that what Schoenbeck is seeking, a Legislature he can command completely without any dissent, even in private?

  9. 96Tears 2022-06-05 19:22

    Great question, Corey! That seems to be outside Lee’s character and intelligence. I can’t think of a time when either Bolin or Novstrup stepped out of line when obedience was needed or required in SDGOP politics. I dislike both of them, but one can respect Bolin’s inherent loyalty and intellect. In both cases, the Noem/Schoenbeck Purge replacements are generally better people. Certainly Bozo Novstrup’s replacement would be a much better legislator. But all of this does question why Schoenbeck would want Bolin gone. My guess is Lee isn’t calling all of the shots on this.

    It makes me wonder what Bolin did to piss off America’s Party Girl Kristi Noem (yep, I kinda like that term about The Lew’s moniker for her, America’s Governor KN). I really don’t think Lee is the one who called for The Purge. I think it’s Noem. Lee is a good soldier and he’s carrying out her order for total control.

  10. grudznick 2022-06-05 19:55

    Mr. H. grudznick suggested to you on day one that it was Mr. Jensen who pulled this business.
    You told me that Mr. Johnson, he of the Jensen-bane, was not part of this business, and that Jensen (the Mr.) was not involved in the Senate side as he is a lowly representative fellow.

    I say once again that grudznick was righter than right, and knew the workings of the legislatures better than most.
    I’m just sayin…

  11. leslie 2022-06-05 21:18

    Pointing out goat toy grdz is full of bullsheit of course….

    This guy is like Matt Damon’s character in DEPARTED— tasked w/finding a rat in one of his own Boston Blue:

    Bolin told The Associated Press on Monday that he had been suddenly thrown into leadership at the time and felt he was “informally” tasked with working “through the whole process.”

    “I’ve never had to deal with anything like that before or in my life.”

    96, significance of Cammack assuring Duhamal was on the conf call?

  12. grudznick 2022-06-05 21:28

    Ms. leslie, I have spoken with the Messrs. Bolin, Damon, and Cammack just this past weekend, and the former and the latter don’t really care much about what Mr. Damon seems to think. He’s mostly and out-of-stater, while Bolin and Cammack are in-state, rock-ribbed Republicans.

  13. DaveFN 2022-06-05 21:37

    “Dear God … we just pray that you give us wisdom and courage and just wisdom tonight.”

    “Just” wisdom? “Only” wisdom and not courage? Or is “just wisdom” a particular form of wisdom involved with things considered just? They need to clarify the request or God may have misunderstand “just” what it is they are asking.

    Prayer, a curious and common form of asking for that one does not have and covering up a belief that one has it when one doesn’t.

  14. JORDAN YOUNGBERG 2022-06-05 23:09

    First of all getting called a yahoo by Cory is endearing. Second I have never thrown mud in any races nor would I, if I have something to say you can ask anyone from any sector of the government or citizens that I have no problem saying it to the persons face. I appreciate the free advertising Cory but I have nothing to do with this being brought up. Sorry no “deal” here lol

  15. RST Tribal Member 2022-06-06 07:17

    And so the corruption is thick and to very moral core of the inept inbred Republican Party. This what a few dollars, slick ads and slight of hand gets for leadership in South Dakota. The place of drunken faces and unethical behaviors in too many places.

    Not sure if the “transcript” was fully real with bs laced within or just bs with realism sprinkled here and there. Words spoken. Words written. The two be not the same; ask any Native about the treaty language alive today. The 1868 Treaty was finalized in the Chicago area from notes and memories of the military negotiators; be not a Native signer in the room.

    Reading the fiction short essay on the discussion that was freely spoken yet secretly capture shows how understanding the laws, procedures and processes for corrupt and evil purposes can and is achieve by the inept inbred Republicans. They even asked their loving Christ to bless their unethical and morally broken ways when starting their corrupted meeting… seen that a lot at the Catholic Mission School I went to as the priests and nuns committed horrible and deadly sins for 6 solid days then begged their Christ for forgiveness on the 7th day. Yep, clean the slate start a new seems to be the workings of their spiritual ways.

    At some point things got to change. Maybe November 2022. Or maybe beyond. But change is coming.

  16. Algebra 2022-06-06 13:54

    While Langer and Greenfield could sleep it off, no amount of sleep will make Phil Jensen intelligent. Everybody in Pierre knows this.

  17. grudznick 2022-06-06 21:33

    Do you think these fellows would trust Mr. or Mrs. Jensen in the caucuses ever again? Some might claim it, but under the sheets nobody will trust these two hyperchristian over-godders again.

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