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Ravnsborg Signs Official Letter While Suspended and Awaiting Impeachment

Last week Tennessee Attorney General rounded up a bunch of his Republican colleagues to follow Kristi Noem and other conservative whiners in making political hay over the USDA’s application of Supreme Court guidance on discrimination to its nutrition programs. On Tuesday, June 14, AG Slatery sent a letter to the Biden Administration complaining that it can’t make preventing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity a condition of receiving federal SNAP and school lunch benefits. That letter included the signature of Jason R. Ravnsborg:

Official signature of Jason R. Ravnsborg on official letter sent to President Joe Biden by Tennessee AG Herbert Slatery, 2022.06.14.
Official signature of Jason R. Ravnsborg on official letter sent to President Joe Biden by Tennessee AG Herbert Slatery, 2022.06.14.

That’s funny: killer Jason R. Ravnsborg has been suspended from duty since his impeachment on April 12. Per Article 16 Section 5 of the South Dakota Constitution, Ravnsborg cannot exercise any  duties of attorney general until and unless the Senate acquits him of both impeachment charges at the trial that starts this week on Tuesday, June 21. How does he get to sign a letter and lend the weigh of his name and office to any communication to the President or anyone else?

“The signature that appears on the official letter is the e-signature of Attorney General Ravnsborg.  That signature acts as a seal for the Office of the Attorney General during his suspension because, as you are aware, he is still the AG,” [Ravnsborg’s chief of staff] Tim Bormann answered. “The decision to join the letter was made, on behalf of the Office, by Chief Deputy Charles McGuigan and Solicitor General Paul Swedlund” [Bob Mercer, “Despite Official Suspension, Ravnsborg’s Name on Letter,” KELO-TV, 2022.06.18].

But the press release from the South Dakota Attorney General’s office didn’t say, “That’s an electronic signature affixed by the Acting Attorney General.” The press release from the SDAG’s office says, “The letter was signed by Attorneys General from the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.” The plain reading here is that Ravnsborg signed this official letter.

The “seal” argument doesn’t hold water. A signature is a sign of official approval by the signer, the person. A signature says, “These are my words, not just those of my office, but of me as the officeholder, exercising the duties of my office.” Even if the official isn’t available to sign that document, affixing that official’s signature to that document makes the document his official act.

Senate President Pro-Tempore Lee Schoenbeck (R-5/Lake Kampeska) seems to think that creating the impression that Ravnsborg is exercising an official duty while suspended just a week before his trial is neither smart nor legal:

“Jason has no ability to act as AG, virtually, electronically or otherwise, pursuant to our state Constitution, pending the outcome of the impeachment trial,” Senator Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, answered.

Schoenbeck, the Senate president pro tem, would preside over Ravnsborg’s two-day trial if Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden isn’t available. Rhoden is the Senate’s president [Mercer, 2022.06.18].

But hey, it’s just a signature, right? It’s not like Ravnsborg killed anybody.

28 Comments

  1. grudznick 2022-06-19

    Today, at the Conservatives with Common Sense Breakfast, we shall not rant about Mr. Ravnsborg and his ineptitude, nor about the woke mob. We shall celebrate fatherhood and how we teach our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren to be good South Dakota citizens.

  2. Nick Nemec 2022-06-19

    Senator Schoenbeck is far and away a better lawyer than Jason Ravnsborg ever dreamed of being and is spot on in this instance. This is just another instance of Jason Ravnsborg stumbling around in the dark running into things (or people).

  3. larry kurtz 2022-06-19

    The Department of Agriculture should be dissolved, rolled into Interior and SNAP should be administered by the Department of Health and Human Services.

  4. Bob Newland 2022-06-19

    Once again, the hapless, rosy-cheeked Charlie McGuigan makes news by being somebody’s buttboy.

  5. Arlo Blundt 2022-06-19

    Well…the people of South Dakota as represented by the Republican Party cannot let pass an opportunity to use its majestic power to cuff around the head and neck, and kick in the stomach, poor children within the state. This is a sacred duty, impeachment or no.

  6. Donald Pay 2022-06-19

    Today at the Father’s Day Celebration at the Liberals for Uncommon Sense, we discussed whether we would want our child discriminated against if that child was gay or trans. We decided we would unconditionally love our child no matter what, and would want any such child treated fairly, not discriminated against and not bullied. We discussed how that goal could be met, and we agreed that seeking clear school policies and practices is a good way to start. We discussed whether we thought it mattered whether these policies were brought about by a federal standard. We, of course, would love it if each state and each school district would adopt that policy because they loved our child, but we realize that some communities would find that difficult to do. Because we love each child, we want them all to be treated fairly, so we felt if it took a federal nudge to do the right thing by all kids, it is better than not doing that.

  7. mike from iowa 2022-06-19

    Saw an article on the net yesterday bout being gay or trans is a lifestyle choice. I was inder the belief St George slew that dragon years ago.

  8. Richard Schriever 2022-06-19

    mfi – MAGATS are not of the opinion that their God has free will and can make images of him/her/themselves in any form they desire. Their God must conform to MAGAT ways, or it is a devil.

  9. Richard Schriever 2022-06-19

    And of course, never mind the notion that any God is free to be a devil when so desiring.

  10. O 2022-06-19

    I am waiting for the A.G.’s request for investigation into record profit margins by profiteering companies during high inflation — especially gas companies.

  11. larry kurtz 2022-06-19

    If South Dakota had a Democratic attorney general she’d sue Montana and Wyoming for the toxic legacy created by Colstrip, Basin Electric and Black Hills Energy. In 2020 Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison sued ExxonMobil, Koch Industries and the American Petroleum Institute for lying to residents of that state.

    How bad does it have to get before the State of South Dakota files lawsuits against Black Hills Energy, Basin Electric, NorthWestern Energy, Otter Tail and/or the Colstrip Generating Station?

  12. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-19

    O raises a relevant point: of all the issues for which Jason could have broken his silence and the rules of his suspension the week before his impeachment trial, he chooses to join with his official name and title yet another scarecrow screech in the culture war. A week before his trial, he sent yet another signal to the hard right that he still wants to be there baby and can be, for six more months, if they’ll just promise not to convict him.

    Stay focused, senators: Jason Ravnsborg killed a man, lied about it, abused his office, and has lost the confidence of the police and the public. And now Jason is breaking the rules of his suspension to pander to you. Don’t fall for it. Give him the punishment he deserves. Convict him and remove him from office forever.

  13. Kurt Evans 2022-06-19

    Lee Schoenbeck says:

    Jason has no ability to act as AG, virtually, electronically or otherwise, pursuant to our state Constitution, pending the outcome of the impeachment trial.

    Last year Lee Schoenbeck backed House Bill 1197 to deprive South Dakotans of the liberty to vote for an unlicensed attorney general. This year he’s arbitrarily stretching a complete suspension of the attorney general from 20 days to over 70. So apparently the voters can’t be allowed to elect an attorney general who delegates courtroom duties to his staff, but the unelected staff can be allowed to run the office entirely on its own for however long Lee Schoenbeck deems it politically convenient.

    If Senator Schoenbeck had adequate respect for South Dakota’s voters, the state senate could have held this trial during the first week of May, more than a month before the primaries.

  14. Jake 2022-06-19

    Yep, grudz, at your ‘gravied meeting’ of like-minded fuzzy, moldy headed thinkers one wouldn’t expect serious matters of extremely important citizen concerns like above to be discussed. Only the blatant attempts of the Biden administration to correct what your Republican party’s done to ruin our state the past 30 yrs and nationally under trump are worthy of topic. Damn that Joe Biden anyway. If Biden cut the price of gas by 1/3 overnite (of which of course he can’t do but can be blamed for by Pubs for NOT doing) he would. We are facing such high oil prices (and others) largely because Big Oil (and others) can do it to us. Biden issued many more oil leases than Trump did, but Big Oil hasn’t drilled for more oil because they saw a way to increase their profits immensely by simply raising prices – blaming it on demand.
    Greed is largely the reason (other than the pandemic) for this inflation.
    For those gravied friends of yours, grudz, that blame the shut-down of the tar-sands oil pipeline on the price of gas; not one drop of crude would have traveled thru this pipe as-of-yet and was NEVER meant for U.S. cars. It was destined to be pumped immediately on tanker ships headed to China. Meanwhile U.S. citizens had been expected to believe they were being patriotic by allowing a foreign corporation, to condemn/take ownership of said pipeline route.
    But, like the rest of your Pennington County and S.D Republicans of note that so vocally crucify Biden for everything from too hot weather, to flooding in Yellowstone and your erstwhile governess in Pierre that nothing a Democrat puts forward is worthy of consideration.
    aaaah, How’s about the Three Musketeer’s recent vote against VA funding for gas and chemical effects in the GOP war of Iraq? Jab those vets-too much $$$.
    So, grudz, wave your flag, snicker at the Democrat’s attempts to cure TFG’s screw-ups and ‘tut-tut” with your like-minded (don’t forget the bible, my man) all thru Father’s Day! Have a good one!

  15. Kurt Evans 2022-06-19

    I’d written above:

    If Senator [Lee] Schoenbeck had adequate respect for South Dakota’s voters, the state senate could have held this trial during the first week of May, more than a month before the primaries.

    Jonathan Ellis wrote in 2018:

    Following the jury verdict, [Laura Zylstra] Kaiser and the state reached an oral agreement on Feb. 23 that included a $1.5 million payment in exchange for releasing the state and [Bryan] Gortmaker [Marty Jackley’s DCI director] from further litigation.

    https://www.argusleader.com/story/news/2018/05/23/ex-dci-agent-marty-jackley-spar-over-facts-1-5-m-payout/637995002/

    In 2018, Kristi Noem sharply criticized Marty Jackley’s “poor judgment” after one of Jackley’s cronies attempted to arbitrarily delay Kaiser’s payout until after the Republican primaries.

    In 2022, one of Governor Noem’s cronies has arbitrarily delayed Jason Ravnsborg’s impeachment trial an extra 50 days until after the Republican primaries, and I believe it may have cost Spencer Gosch a senate seat.

    That isn’t just poor judgment. It’s corruption and abuse of power.

    “Think”:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgPtAVgU4cM
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPD7OJ7NhvU

  16. grudznick 2022-06-19

    You should try and calm down, Mr. Jake. Your libbie rage is really showing, and you are lashing at the wrong fellows.

  17. grudznick 2022-06-19

    Mr. Evans, that young Mr. Gosch fellow, the one who tried to botch the impeachment of the killer, Mr. Ravnsborg, is insaner than most and had no business running for the legislatures again. Mr. Gosch bit off more than he could chew, and as a fellow who has seen him eat let me tell you he can chew a lot.

  18. Arlo Blundt 2022-06-19

    Well..The official Republican representation of God, the Father, is of the Old Testament Thunderer, bringer of pillars of fire, earthquakes, plague, and retribution on a grand scale. God, the son, they are wishy=washy about. They want to say he would endorse their selective enforcement of a Right to Life, but it is difficult to find Scripture to back up the OK here not OK there Republican version of his message. In the present issue, they have totally overlooked the Sermon on the Mount and the following Loaves and Fishes miracle, where everyone was fed. Ditto to God the Father relenting of his usual martial campaigns of vengeance and providing Manna from heaven to keep the Jews alive. Ravensberg could not wait for a impeachment verdict to sign the missive which will result in the denial of food to children.In his twisted thinking, It was the Christian thing to do.

  19. Mike 2022-06-19

    Something to think about… If the GOP nominates Jackley then the dems are unlikely to run anyone. He’d have $1 million and great name ID and hes well respected among attorneys who donate to AG candidates and attorneys in general.

    But…

    Let’s say the GOP completely screws the pooch on this one and nominates Natvig. A guy with no money, no name id, the establishment (money/influence) has rejected and is permanently stained by Ravnsborg and how he abused his position and had a subordinate tell JR what was on his phone while he was being investigated… the list goes on.

    Who do the Dems nominate in that scenario?

    I believe the spot would be ripe for the taking for Democrats. They are seeing record fundraising nationally with Roe going down, the GOP and the public would struggle to rally any support for Natvig after the governor’s attacks on JR. Would she even help Natvig? He would likely raise so little money that he wouldn’t be able to redefine himself. If Dems nominated a consensus candidate the establishment GOP might support him or her.

    I’d like to see the dems nominate Kasey Olivier or someone similar. $500k to $1m in outside money could win this thing if the GOP doesn’t nominate Jackley – plus I believe dems in SD would rally around a good candidate more than the GOP will rally around Natvig.

    Dems need to stay away from Seiler as he is a bit long in the tooth but a young charismatic candidate with a great story could be the difference maker.

  20. Jenny 2022-06-19

    On to MN news, Gov Walz signed a bill giving bonus pay to the state’s Frontline workers with its Federal Covid money. Did Gov Noem and the Pubs in SD pass any such bill for its hardworking frontline workers? It is much too nice of a gesture for righties so I am thinking probably not. Noems tourism commercials with Covid money are more important.

  21. Arlo Blundt 2022-06-19

    Well..Jenny..Governor Noem and her minions spent the Covid relief money primarily on aid for “farmers” almost exclusively big operators, who got the cash whether they needed it or not. then they sprinkled federal cash around to your basic whiz bang, strip mall merchants and folks operating all kinds of start up franchise and questionable development and loan processing shops, which have a high degree of failure built in to their questionable, take the money and run, existence.Not much ended up on small town main streets, where it was needed. Frontline workers?? Doesn’t that seem like communism to you??? Oh, the teachers (actually school districts) got a 5% raise in state aid after years of 0-1-2%. She couldn’t help being gracious after 2 years of endangering their lives with her management of the disease.

  22. Bob Newland 2022-06-20

    Mike. I thought about it. The Dems have nobody who could whip a potato in the R column. What sane Democratic lawyer would place herself at the mercy of voters who placed Ravnsborg in office to begin with?

  23. Algebra 2022-06-20

    If you ask Marty Jackley or David Natvig if they will sign on to the inevitable lawsuit if this suspension of school nutrition money goes forward, they will say yes. I don’t know anything about the other states’ AGs whose names are on this or how many of them will still be in office next year, but that really doesn’t matter.

    And Mike from Iowa, what you do with your sexuality is a lifestyle choice, just like what you do with everything else. It’s up to you to play the hand you’re dealt. Probably 99% of the population looks in a full-length mirror and wishes they saw something else. The older you are the worse it gets.

  24. Jenny 2022-06-20

    https://www.kttc.com/2022/05/02/gov-walz-signs-frontline-worker-pay-bill/
    Thanks Arlo. It’s really pathetic but not surprising that Noem and the Pubs didn’t pass any sort of monetary thank you payment to their frontline workers. That is the LEAST they could have done to say thanks to SDs nurses that have the second to lowest wages in the nation.
    As usual, MN knows how to get it done right. Over 660,000 MN workers will get a bonus thank you check. By golly, You don’t have to be related to a politician to get a bonus check in MN and if you didn’t contribute big to a political party that’s okay too.

  25. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-20

    Algebra, I’m not asking if the men running for A.G. plan to sign on to more grandstanding distractions; we know they will. I’m asking why suspended Jason Ravnsborg is putting his signature and title on official documents and pretending to speak officially for the State of South Dakota.

  26. larry kurtz 2022-06-20

    I attended a few classes at South Dakota State University with Peggy Phelps who is Tatewin Means’ mother. In 2018 Means challenged Randy Seiler for the Democratic nomination for attorney general and it is the view of this interested party she is the most logical choice to be the 2022 attorney general nominee for the South Dakota Democratic Party.

  27. Dana P 2022-06-20

    I’m beginning to start to wonder if Kurt Evans is actually Jason Ravnsborg’s fake DFP blog name. Has anyone ever seen them in the same room at the same time?

    It would explain the defensiveness and totally ignorance of facts and evidence.

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