Press "Enter" to skip to content

SB 197: Ban Legislator Spouses from Working as Paid Private Lobbyists (and Make Mike Mueller Feel Awkward)

In a small detail from Boobgate, Mike Mueller, husband of censured Senator Julie Frye-Mueller, testified Tuesday night that he has registered as an unpaid lobbyist for right-wing Citizens for Liberty and that his status as a lobbyist makes his presence in the Legislative Research Council office perfectly normal, contrary to the statement from the LRC employee whom Frye-Mueller harassed that “This was unusual. I have not had a legislator spouse contact me to talk with them directly.”

While the Senate is eager to move on from the Frye-Mueller scandal, some legislators are proposing legislation that might raise Mueller’s lobbying as an issue. Yesterday Senator Michael Rohl (R-1/Aberdeen), with co-sponsors Senator David Johnson (R-33/Rapid City) and Representative Linda Duba (D-15/Sioux Falls), filed Senate Bill 197, which would prohibit spouses of current legislators from being employed as private lobbyists. That language would not appear to affect Mueller, as he is not formally employed for pay, but SB 197 appears to be predicated on the idea that a legislator’s spouse might have undue influence in a lobbying situation, which could make Mueller and his Senator wife feel uncomfortable.

So why not include Mueller and other legislator spouses who might be traipsing about the Capitol wielding their lucky matrimony to peddle influence in this ban on lobbying? I suspect the First Amendment would step in here: the Legislature can’t ban anyone from speaking to members about legislation. It can only regulate the business of lobbying done for pay. Mike Mueller is apparently free to keep prowling the halls of the Capitol; he just can’t take a paycheck for doing so, if SB 197 passes.

But if there is something unseemly about legislators’ spouses acting as lobbyists, something worth banning, Rohl doesn’t seem to be terribly consistent in his concern. SB 197 makes exceptions for spouses of legislators who may lobby for the Executive or Judicial Branch. If anything, I would think that legislators’ spouses translating their love and commitment into influence for another branch of government would impinge on the separation of powers, not to mention talk at the supper table somewhat awkward.

SB 197 is hot off the press, so it doesn’t have a committee date yet, but it will be heard by Senate State Affairs.


  1. Tim 2023-02-02 06:47

    As I sat in the Redrossa in Pierre last night having dinner there sure was a lot of wining and dining going on in there, sure hope none of that stupid rubbed off on me. I tried to cleanse myself with alcohol, hope it works.

  2. scott 2023-02-02 06:52

    Why would a lobbyist get to have access with LRC staff? To me that should be a definite NO NO.

    LRC staff should be helping the legislators write their bills. If a legislator cannot get a bill done without the help of a lobbyist, then that legislator should not be introducing bills.

  3. Tim 2023-02-02 06:54

    On the bright side there were three guys sitting next to me that attended the insurrectionist rally in Sioux Falls not to long ago and they didn’t buy the spin he was puking out, they even referred to him as an insurrectionist, maybe there is hope?

  4. e platypus onion 2023-02-02 08:08

    Its a magat thing. I remember when Tom Daschle was crucified by magats because his wife was a lobbyist. In a similar vein, cheap justice of the activist, magat scotus has a wife who collects millions of bucks placing high government lawyers with corporations doing business in front of the scotus.

  5. Donald Pay 2023-02-02 10:07

    Scott, This is a really good part of the South Dakota Legislature, although, like everything, it can be abused. It’s very small “d” democratic. although lobbyists do take advantage of it. It’s not just lobbyists that can have access to LRC staff, but citizens as well, but you usually have to work through a legislator on specific bill wording.

    Here’s how it works: Legislators get hit up by a lot of groups and ordinary citizens with ideas for legislation. A legislator might not know all the particulars, but the legislator likes the idea and tentatively agrees to sponsor a bill. The legislator takes some suggested language by the interested citizens and hands it over to the LRC. The LRC comes up with draft language. The legislator takes it back to the citizens and says, “It’s a bit different than your language, What do you think?” The citizens say, “We need to ask a few questions about this or that wording.” The legislator then says, “I’ll set up a meeting with the LRC staff for you. I might not be able to attend.” So a meeting occurs and questions are asked and from that meeting new language emerges that satisfies everyone.

    I want to stress that it used to be that a lobbyist could only have access to LRC staff if a legislator approves and asks the LRC staff to work with the lobbyist or group of lobbyists on a bill that the legislator is going to sponsor. As usual, lobbyists do have much handier access to the LRC, and lobbyists often know more about the particular laws they are seeking to amend. Thus, there are good and bad aspects to this. If citizens want to make it work for them, they can.

  6. 96Tears 2023-02-02 11:07

    If ethical concerns of conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict is driving concern for this bill’s supporters, how can they possibly overlook a far more serious and threatening conflict as exhibited by the spouses of SCOTUS Justice Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice John Roberts?

    Yes, those are federal issues and the pea-brained Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller and spouse are state issues. But since when has the legislature not passed resolutions condemning federal figureheads or voicing concern and outrage on federal issues and legislation?

    If they’re serious about ethics and corruption, why not show Kristi Noem they’re serious (state airplane, refusals to turn over state expenses bankrolling her presidential aspirations, Sherry Bren and much more)? South Dakota’s got the worst loopholes in laws aimed at state transparency and preventing corruption. Frye-Mueller deserves the spanking, but why start and stop there?

  7. All Mammal 2023-02-02 11:33

    That pair make people’s jobs suck. The LRC needs a hoody-who code call or something every time they’re spotted on the prowl for some poor soul to bear over. I bet their breath is fierce too for some reason. It’s like I know them. (shivers)

  8. P. Aitch 2023-02-02 13:49

    1. Hoody-who is a call for gang members to get ready to unload their weapons on an enemy. HOODY WHO HOODY DOWN VILLAINZ
    2. “Hootie hoo” is a call used by the hosts of a party to let everyone know the party’s been busted and they need to gtfo.

  9. sx123 2023-02-02 14:47

    As member of The Coalition of Suckling Husbands and Fathers, I’m asking, how will I have a voice if this passes?

  10. scott 2023-02-02 19:00

    Donald, Legislators should have a total understanding of the bill they draft and put their name on. If the legislator cannot explain the bill to everyone, then we have a big problem. (Yes, we have a big problem in how Pierre functions.) Legislators need to stopping introducing bills because one person gets their ear, and the legislator introduces that bill to appease one of their constituents or donors. Less bills and concentrate on real issues facing SD; and stop all these bills that are written by extremist groups.

    If a legislator and LRC staffer cannot get a bill drafted without a lobbyist present to help the legislator, then the legislator should not be drafting the bill and putting their name on it. There is nothing wrong with a legislator NOT introducing bills during session!

  11. Donald Pay 2023-02-02 20:27

    Scott, No one has total understanding of any bill, let alone a legislator. Most of the crackpot bills are drafted by bill mills, not some interest group or citizen working through a legislator.

  12. scott 2023-02-02 22:45

    Donald, there is a reason why legislators lack understanding of bills and it is because there are too many bills that have no meaning to the citizens of SD. I thought this editorial hits part of the issue really well

    A legislator who does not understand a bill they introduce is like a cop who does not know the law for the offense he/she is charging a person with. I just read a freshman legislators weekly report and he was given a bill by his seatmate. Would you pop a pill if you did not know what it was; hopefully no. Likewise if you do not know/understand a bill you have no business introducing or signing onto the bill. I would like to see legislators have to sign a sworn statement that the have read and fully understand the bill that they introduce or sign onto; maybe they would take their jobs a bit more seriously and stop all these wastes of time special interest extremist bills. Furthermore, there should be a requirement of having a minimum number of fellow legislators sign onto your bill before you can introduce the bill; another way to try and stop bills that are introduces to appease a constituent. Yes there are bills every year that are proposed to appease a constituent and the legislator knows the bill will fail, yet they introduce the bill.

  13. grudznick 2023-02-05 20:32

    Mr. scott is righter-than-right. To the contrary of Mr. H’s ignorance, this is why Mr. Chafee was handed his hat and made to eat it. When Mr. H is in the legislatures for a few years, he will learn what Mr. scott is saying. Although grudznick disagrees that a minimum number of fellows also signing on is a good idea. These fellows in the legislatures have earned the right to drop any law bill they see fit, no matter how stupid or how much mocking they get for it all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.