Monthly Archives: October 2009

Rewriting Missouri River history

Gov. Mike Rounds spoke Friday at the meeting in Fort Pierre of the Missouri River Association of States and Tribes (known as MORAST). He talked about how George S. Mickelson while governor emphasized cooperation among states in dealing with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Actually, it was GSM who sued the corps, and hired Bill Janklow to go up to Montana federal court to do it. The concessions they pried out of the corps at the time went largely unfulfilled. But when Janklow returned as governor, he used those unfulfilled promises as leverage. Janklow and then-U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle put together the shoreland transfer from the corps to the state government and two tribal governments, the Lower Brule Sioux and the Cheyenne River Sioux. With Daschle pushing from his post as Senate Democratic leader, while Janklow used another lawsuit (before U.S. District Judge Charles Kornmann in South Dakota), the corps was steered toward many of the water-management changes which have occurred in the past decade. It also should be noted that then Game, Fish and Parks Secretary John Cooper and Daschle aide Eric Washburn did much of the tough duty behind the scenes, along with lawyers John Guhin and Charlie McGuigan in the state attorney general’s office. Rounds praised the efforts of the MORAST group Friday. He said their work toward making recommendations is imporant if there are to be favorable changes that modernize the 1944 flood-control act which produced the system of six main Missouri River dams. Rounds also joked that it has come to be almost a requirement for a South Dakota governor to criticize the corps — himself included.

Some dismal news about banks

The FDIC’s quarterly report on the condition of banks shows that net income year-to-date was off significantly for state-chartered commercial banks in South Dakota through June 30, 2009. Total net income for all state-chartered banks here was $2 million, compared to $67 million at the same mid-year point in 2008 and $161 million at mid-year 2007.

Just as interesting is the breakdown between banks by size of their assets. For the 43 state-chartered commercial institutions with assets less than $100 million, the net profit through June 30 was $8 million. For the 22 with assets greater than $100 million, the net profit was a negative $6 million.

For 2008, the under-$100 million banks reported a mid-year net profit of $12 million. For 2007 the mid-year net profit was $13 million.

For the banks with more than $100 million of assets, the 2008 mid-year net profit was $55 million, and the 2007 mid-year number was $148 million.

The FDIC summary doesn’t identify specific banks, so we can’t tell from it who’s up or down. But we’ll keep looking.

Recommended reading: TNR on Obama’s grassroots efforts, and the role of Steve Hildebrand

Go to The New Republic magazine’s website and check out the Thursday piece titled “Disorganized” by Lydia DePillis. Here’s a taste:

“The morning after the election, some 10,000 organizers dialed into a conference call with President-elect Obama, who told them that they would be needed for fights to come. But within the Obama camp, there was disagreement about how, exactly, their services ought to be used. OFA could become a freestanding organization that would advocate independently for the president’s agenda. Or it could be folded–along with its formidable fundraising potential–into the Democratic National Committee. Steve Hildebrand, Obama’s deputy campaign manager, favored the independent option: It would allow the group to “pressure anybody who we would need to build a coalition of votes in the House and Senate,” he told the Los Angeles Times in mid-November. David Plouffe, the campaign’s mastermind, disagreed. He had won the election through a precisely directed field operation combined with iron message discipline, and wasn’t about to give it up.”

Two large piles of campaign cash

State law requires only annual filings. But as of the end of 2008, our current governor and our former governor continued to have very large amounts of cash on hand in their campaign committee accounts.

Gov. Mike Rounds, who can’t seek re-election in 2010 because of term limits, finished 2008 with $523,415.82 in his campaign account. He reported spending $146,265.64 last year. That included $47,225 in contributions to other committees and candidates. The largest recipient of a Rounds contribution was the South Dakota Republican Party, to which he gave $45,000. The second-largest donation was the $1,000 he gave to Lt. Gov. Dennis Daugaard, whom Rounds has endorsed for the 2010 Republican nomination for governor.

Former Gov. Bill Janklow, who left state office at the end of 2002, reported he had $861,229.32 in his campaign account at the end of 2008. He reported spending $18,402.15, including $14,000 in contributions to Republican candidates for the Legislature in amounts of either $250 or $500.

State campaign finance law allows candidates to convert campaign funds to personal use. So far Janklow hasn’t done much personally with his fund, other than paying for meals, flowers and charity donations. Rounds appears to still be operating his account as a political fund; he reported spending $67,209.96 in salaries for unspecified personnel in 2008 along with $8,146.20 for taxes; $2,940.96 for office supplies; $18,851.24 for travel; $1,045 for rent; and about $1,150 for a variety of other purposes.

A Marvelous Hundred Square Miles

That’s the title of a new book published by the South Dakota State Historical Society Press. The author, Suzanne Barta Julin, studies the development of Black Hills tourism during the 1880-1941 period. If her name sounds familiar, here’s one possible reason. She received the historical society’s annual Herbert S. Schell award in 2002 for her piece, “Arts Meets Politics: Peter Norbeck, Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Sylvan Lake Hotel Commission.” That was published in South Dakota History in 2002. If you want to hear her views in person, she is scheduled to speak this morning (Thursday, October 29) at Jonas Hall in Spearfish, on the campus of Black Hills State University, starting at 8 a.m. She currently works from Missoula, Montana. Pieces of her new book will seem familiar to readers of South Dakota History, the quarterly publication of the historical society. In 2005, for example, the quarterly published her piece, “Building A Vacationland: Tourism Development in the Black Hills During the Great Depression.” It is always good to see the SDSHS Press publishing new work on South Dakota.

Matt McGovern candidacy could be brilliant move

He is 100 percent dedicated to the success of Repower America. But if Matt McGovern truly does become the Democratic challenger to Republican U.S. Sen. John Thune in 2010, South Dakota could suddenly have a very interesting contest. McGovern currently is the director for Repower South Dakota, an organization working on behalf of the Obama and Gore forces for U.S. Senate passage of environmental regulations intended to slow down climate change. A McGovern candidacy would put climate change on the forefront of the 2010 U.S. Senate race here and give the issue a platform far beyond what Repower South Dakota can accomplish on its own.

Plus, with the McGovern name, he has instant cachet among donors and consultants nationally. He’s not his grandfather George in terms of charisma (Matt likely wouldn’t disagree with that assessment) but he’s solid and he knows his way around South Dakota after working for the Obama campaign here in 2008. And think about the national exposure if President Barack Obama came to South Dakota to hold a fundraiser, with George McGovern at his side, on behalf of Matt McGovern.

More rain is not good right now

In much of the James River Valley yesterday, only the wind seemed to moving faster than the combines racing through the soybean fields. Based on what I saw from state highways and county roads, there are more beans still in the field than have been trucked out. The corn looks like it’s barely been touched. Water is standing in many ditches and slopping up toward the highway shoulders. The James River looks like spring level rather than autumn. There were whitecaps on some stretches of the river from the south wind. This wet autumn has put harvest far, far behind. It’s not unusual to have snow for Halloween. What promised to be a bumper year is now veering toward trouble.

Never send one, never throw one away

I often chuckle when critics “write” letters to the editor and it’s obvious someone else wrote the letters for them. Recently I’ve been the subject of some of those critical letters.

In one instance, a copy of the letter was forwarded to me by an editor. I was surprised when I saw the name of the person who signed the letter, because I’ve seen other letters which he wrote to a state agency (they are in a public comment file). It’s amazing how much improvement can occur in sentence structure, grammar, spelling and logic in the span of a few months.

An old buddy of mine who rose pretty high in the ranks of Democratic staffers during the Daschle and Clinton years often joked about writing letters to the editor for people to sign. This was in the era when IBM Selectric typewriters hadn’t been replaced by PC word processors. He kidded about how many different IBM “balls” he had so that different fonts could be used in order for the letters to not appear identical.

Twenty-some years ago, on an odd whim during the run-up to election day, I decided to check on a letter to the editor which a woman in Aberdeen supposedly wrote. I cross-referenced the address and found it was a nursing home. I decided to call and ask her. I was informed that she couldn’t take calls and definitely was not able to write a letter.

My solution to these shenanigans is to require that letters to the editor be hand-written. Yes, someone else could still ghost-write the message. But at least the person who signs the letter would have to go through the exercise of copying it down in her or his own hand.

First 2010 billboards?

I don’t know for certain whether they are the first in South Dakota, but I think they are the first I’ve seen, for the 2010 campaign. Scott Munsterman has a small billboard in a farm field along 281 between Redfield and the Wolsey corner. He also has a small billboard in a field along 37 north of Huron. He is one of four candidates seeking the Republican nomination for governor.