Monthly Archives: May 2013

Feeding the place-holder conspiracy

We noticed this a few days ago in prowling the digital alleys of the Federal Election Commission’s files regarding Democrat Rick Weiland’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate. These facts will only add to the conspiracy theory that he is merely a placeholder for someone else. As Pat Powers notes over on the Dakota War College blog, Ryan Casey sent the Weiland paperwork to the FEC. There’s a lot more, however, and it’s certainly interesting. The Weiland 2014 campaign’s statement of organization shows Beverly Casey as its treasurer. If I have my family connections right, she is married to Dick Casey, who like Rick Weiland ran in the 2002 Democrat U.S. House primary (both lost to Stephanie Herseth). Ryan Casey is the Caseys’ son and had led the Draft Brendan Johnson effort. When he couldn’t get Brendan, son of the retiring Democrat U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson whose seat is up in 2014, Ryan Casey pivoted to Rick Weiland. It gets better. The 2014 campaign’s custodian of records is a familiar name: Helen Majusiak of Watertown. She was the long-time comptroller for Tom Daschle’s campaign and PAC organizations. Weiland was at one time Daschle’s state director. As I tweeted a few weeks ago, could Tom Daschle, who was the U.S. Senate’s Democratic leader when he lost in 2004 with 193,340 votes to Republican John Thune’s 198,848 votes, win the 2014 Senate election if he attempted a comeback? And is that possibility one of the reasons perhaps that Republican former Gov. Mike Rounds hired Dick Wadhams — who was the guru in Thune’s victory — for his 2014 Senate campaign? When you think about it, Tom Daschle is the best potential candidate South Dakota Democrats have for this battle, especially with control of the U.S. Senate increasingly looking to be at stake, and with U.S. Attorney Brendan Casey and former U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin each declining in the past month to make the race. And maybe, just maybe, that’s why the U.S. Senate[s current leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, preferred that Herseth Sandlin run and Daschle objected. Just all speculation of course for the first weekend in June, one year before the 2014 primaries.

Anderson Seed matter now has wider repercussion

So what happens when a judge’s ruling in the Anderson Seed grain-warehouse fiasco runs contrary to regulations approved by the state Public Utilities Commission? That is the situation facing the PUC.

Three grain businesses asked Circuit Judge Tony Portra to reconsider his April 4 decision because, they said in an April 26 letter to the judge, they fear his decision will shut down the practice of delayed price contracts. That’s where a grain buyer and a grain seller agree to delivery of the grain with the understanding the price will be set at some later time.

The three — Jerry Cope of Dakota Mill & Grain, Mike Nickolas of North Central Farmers Elevator and Milt Handcock of Midwest Cooperatives (CHS) — and the South Dakota Grain & Feed Association also seek a waiver from the PUC, so that only the buyer needs to sign and date the credit-sales document. The PUC’s current rule requires signatures from both seller and buyer.

Judge Portra has turned down the grain-buyers’ request that he reconsider his decision. He said his decision can be appealed to the state Supreme Court or the Legislature can change the law. The PUC on Tuesday still must decide how to proceed next on the grain-buyers’ request for the waiver.

To read the grain-buyer letter to the judge and the waiver request to the PUC, see:

To read Judge Portra’s response to the grain-buyer letter, see:

To read any part of the long and winding Anderson Seed matter before the PUC, see:


ALEC and the Maher approach

So far the Legislature’s Executive Board hasn’t found it necessary to take up again the issue of state-paid membership and travel for lawmakers to American Legislative Exchange Council gatherings. But that might soon change.

The board adopted a travel policy at its April 23 meeting stating that any legislator who is a member of a committee for ALEC, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Council of State Governments or the Midwestern Legislative Conference will be reimbursed for travel expenses. Likewise for any legislator who is a member of the governing board for any of those four organizations.

The inclusion of ALEC memberships — a new feature — has stirred up Democrats, who oppose the corporate-funded organization known for its pro-business and conservative outlook, and has stirred up some Republicans, who disagree with government paying for an outside organization’s activities. There are some Republicans who oppose state government paying for trips to NCSL, CSG and MLC too for the same reason.

The board’s chairman is Sen. Ryan Maher, R-Isabel. As chairman he holds approval power over all trip reimbursements. After the April meeting, he decided to impose an additional restriction: Legislators will be reimbursed for trips to only one of the organizations. That wasn’t in the motion that was passed by the board. He has since said he has turned down trip requests by some lawmakers. The board’s May 13 meeting came and went without anyone bringing up ALEC or his policy. That surprised him, too.

Since then, Democrats have run newspaper ads criticizing the ALEC payments. Eventually enough legislators might discover they have to choose between ALEC, NCSL, CSG and MLC under the Maher policy, and they have to be a committee member or governing-board member too. We’ll be watching for the agenda of the board’s next meeting June 10. Perhaps Sen. Maher has defused the issue for now — or not?

Sometimes a press secretary shouldn’t complain…

Check out Kevin Woster’s latest Mt. Blogmore post about Gov. Dennis Daugaard, the ICWA conference in Rapid City he was too busy to attend, the denial by his son-in-law and its damning omission, and the burrito he indeed had in Rapid City on the opening day of the conference.

Bilingualism and SDDOT

A few days ago the Rapid City Journal newspaper ran side by side legal notices from the state Department of Transportation, one in English and one in Spanish. This bilingual approach isn’t required all of the time but SDDOT needs to occasionally do it, in order to comply with federal civil-rights law, according to state Transportation Secretary Darin Bergquist. He said the accommodation becomes necessary when there is an identified population of people with limited English proficiency who might be impacted by a study, construction project or other service DOT provides. In this instance, the project for Interstate 190 and Silver Street in Rapid City affects a neighborhood with an identified higher percentage of Hispanic people who may have limited English proficiency, he said.

Best news: A fatality-free holiday weekend

The state Department of Public Safety reports that, as of mid-afternoon today (Tuesday), no highway traffic fatalities were reported in South Dakota over the Memorial Day weekend. One person died during the holiday weekend in 2012, while 2011 and 2010 were also fatality-free.

Decoration Day

In the months after Lee’s surrender ending the Civil War, an Illinois doctor named Benjamin Franklin Stephenson who had served in the war started a new organization intended to help Union soldiers and their families. The Grand Army of the Republic quickly became a national power, and its second leader was another man from Illinois, Gen. John “Black Jack” Logan. Logan would go on to win election to the U.S. House of Representatives and later to the U.S. Senate, and he eventually was the running mate on Blair’s unsuccessful Republican ticket for the presidency. Logan, beyond his service in the war, helped lead the impeachment fight against President Andrew Johnson, made the nomination of U.S. Grant for the Republican nomination for president, and as G.A.R. commander started an American tradition. There had been marking of soldiers’ graves, North and South, but it was Logan who in his capacity as head of the Grand Army of the Republic issued General Orders No. 11 on May 5, 1868. He declared that May 30 should be observed by G.A.R. posts across the nation as Decoration Day for the purpose of strewing flowers or placing other decorations on the graves of fallen comrades — presumably, because the G.A.R. was for Union soldiers, only on the graves of fallen Union fighters. In more than 100 communities G.A.R. posts participated. According to Logan biographer Gary Ecelbarger, the date later was changed to the last Monday of May, and Decoration Day later was re-named Memorial Day as a national holiday.

In Pierre stands a statue of a Civil War soldier in the triangle of park adjacent to the governor’s mansion and Capitol Lake. The soldier looks west toward the Capitol. There isn’t a plaque or any marker explaining its origin or meaning, other than words on the pedestal. Here are three photos of the monument.






















A moment of class

Watching the championship game of South Dakota high school baseball Saturday evening meant seeing Connor Grove pitch six innings of perfect baseball for the Sioux Falls Roosevelt Rough Riders. With one out in the seventh inning, Brandon Valley finally broke through on a Nic Peterson groundball into the hole at shortstop. The play couldn’t be made and Peterson took second base as it was left unguarded. Grove got to the vicinity of the base and, with time called, he extended his right hand to Peterson in sportsmanship. At first Peterson didn’t seem to recognize the gesture, then he exchanged a low five with Grove. Leading 4-0, the Riders gave up two runs two batters later. With two aboard, a low throw to first base drew Seth Peterson out flat to make the catch. The batter, Lucas Lunstra, somehow wound up stepping on Seth Peterson’s foot. He was out, but the first baseman couldn’t get up. One Brandon run was going to score regardless, but the second runner who started at second base crossed the plate while Peterson was still down in the dirt in pain. Grove clearly was upset. Fortunately these were high school players and there wasn’t a fight, but the mood was on the edge of a brawl breaking loose as players clustered and coaches took the field. The umpires allowed the second run to count rather than call interference. The game had become edgy as Brandon Valley sensed its chances were fading with each out in the later innings. Grove walked the next batter on five pitches, but then posted his sixth strike-out to finish the victory. The 4-2 win was the second championship for Roosevelt in three years.

Date set for special legislative session

Gov. Dennis Daugaard is calling the Legislature into special session on Saturday, June 22. The purpose of the one-day meeting is to approve additional spending authority for construction of a new State Veterans Home at Hot Springs. The project’s cost now is estimated to be $10 million above the $41.3 million approved by the Legislature during the 2013 regular session. That amount was actually an increase of about $6.6 million above the original amount that was authorized in 2011 by lawmakers. South Dakota has a $23 million federal grant for the project and the Legislature designated $16.4 million to come from revenue bonds. Another $1.3 million was to come from the state’s general fund. The governor now estimates that $7 million to $10 million more will be available by June 30 in state revenue, while state spending from general funds will be $7 million to $10 million below the previous estimate. Between those two changes, there would be more than sufficient money available to cover the veterans home project.