Tuesday, October 23, 2018

This One's Really About Experience, Not Party Or Ideology. Randy Seiler Should Be South Dakota's Next Attorney General

     Attorney general is a job that shouldn't be politicized because the office is committed to
Experience Is Of The Essence
dealing with laws, not politically-driven public policies. 
And considering that an attorney general is typically regarded as the chief law enforcement officer of South Dakota, whoever holds that position should have a strong resume in criminal investigation and prosecution.  Of the two aspirants (Randy Seiler and Jason Ravnsborg) for that position on November's ballot, Republican Jason Ravnsborg  hasn't much experience (the Rapid City Journal characterizes it as "minimal, if any") as a prosecutor in criminal cases.  It's not that his civil law background is irrelevant to the job. It's just that it's too limiting.   Ravnsborg correctly notes that the AG's job can often involve matters of civil, not criminal, law, such as defending the state in court challenges and filing civil actions for South Dakota.  The attorney general also provides an explanation of every ballot issue that voters see on election day and serves as a legal advisor to the governor and other constitutional officers.
  There's really no question that civil law experience is a definite asset to candidates seeking the AG job.  The more compelling question is whether or not civil law experience alone is enough to merit hiring, by way of electing, a candidate.  I don't think it is.  Once an AG is in office, plenty of competent civil law attorneys can be put to work fulfilling the functions of advice and civil litigation.  Criminal justice is another matter.  Considering that South Dakota's prison population has grown by 750% during the past 4 decades (a rate 30 times greater than overall population growth), we need an AG with a lot of experience in criminal law, an area where Ravnsborg is wholly lacking.
     By contrast, Democrat Randy Seiler has a strong background in criminal law--and a pretty decent one on the civil side of justice as well.  As a former U.S. Attorney, Seiler has prosecuted 70 jury trials and worked closely on more on 500 felony cases, including homicide, child abuse and rape.  His tenure as a federal prosecutor included developing and overseeing civil, appellate, and administrative divisions within the U.S. Attorney's office.  These multi-dimensional aspects to his background are attributes that Ravnsborg just can't match.
     My inclination toward voting for Seiler has one more aspect to it.  He's way beyond the point of seeking out this job as a stepping stone for higher political aspirations, i.e., governor.  With no plans along those lines, Seiler can devote his time to business, not developing a base of political support.  He'll be working exclusively at his job as Attorney General, and I have no doubt that he'll give us our money's worth.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Sutton, Sutton, He's My Man. If He Can't Do It, Nobody Can.

     I guess you could say I'm a bit enthused by Billie Sutton, the Democrat who has a real shot at becoming South Dakota's next governor.   With a life story as compelling as any I've seen (he's 
The real deal, plain and simple
paralyzed from the waist down because of a rodeo accident during his youth) and a reputation as a solid, thoughtful state rep and investment advisor from the small South Dakota town of Burke, there really isn't much downside to his background.  I met him once, briefly, during a visit to the state capitol in Pierre and found him to be polite and self-contained, without the usual Type A-personality style that's so common among politicians.  Having heard much good about him prior to the meeting, I was taken aback by his reserved demeanor.
     It never occurred to me that this quiet cowboy would ever develop the charisma that it takes to win a statewide election, but he's defied my misgivings and preconceptions and now looks to be on the verge of being our next governor.  I sure hope he makes it.  His opponent, retiring Republican Congresswoman Kristi Noem, is a plastic product of South Dakota's GOP establishment, utterly predictable in her recitation of her party's persistent themes.  In its endorsement of Sutton, the Rapid City Journal  defined Noem's pitch as "stay the course . . . don't raise taxes, limit federal intrusion, and hold the reins on spending."  In other words, standard Republican boilerplate, which even the RCJ notes "we've heard before."  That staying-the-course approach hasn't done much for South Dakota, as our state's economy has stagnated during this decade, underperforming the rest of the country by a mile.
     We need to change course, not stay on the same-o same-o.  I don't think Noem can do that, mired as she is in GOP orthodoxy.  Sutton can.  He's not married to an entrenched political establishment that prospers while South Dakota stagnates.  "Culture war"-oriented Republicans can generally feel comfortable voting for Sutton, whose well-known positions against abortion and for gun rights make him more South Dakotan than Democrat.  And business/economy-minded types can feel reasonably confident that Sutton, the investment advisor, along with running mate Michelle Lavallee, the Northwestern University MBA who has brought her education back to her home state, know plenty about economics and finance.  These two understand something about growth and will put their  money-oriented expertise to work for South Dakota's languishing economy.
     South Dakota can use a breath of fresh political air.  Billie Sutton will usher it in.  Join me in making him our next governor.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

I'll Take Tim. Bjorkman's The Kind Of U.S. Rep We Need In Congress. Trump Already Has Enough Lapdogs.

     Tim Bjorkman is festooned with a liability that he can't shake.  He's a Democrat running for Congress in South Dakota, a state that went 63% for Donald Trump.  We're also a state where 47% of
I'll Take Him
voters are registered as Republicans, 29% are Democrats and 23% are Independents.  The outgoing Republican U.S. Rep, Kristi Noem, beat a strong Democrat three elections ago and cake-walked through the next two challenges, which makes Bjorkman's task seem all the more daunting, considering the strength of the Republican stranglehold on South Dakota in recent years.
     To Tim's credit and our benefit, Bjorkman is not intimidated by these numbers and is running an energetic campaign, which not only sticks to the issues but sticks it to the campaign of his Republican opponent Dusty Johnson.  For one thing, Bjorkman has refused to take money from PACs or special interest groups. About a third of Johnson's top twenty contributors are PACs, complemented by an array of special interests, including Koch Industries.  On that score alone I think it's fair to say that a Congressman Bjorkman will never have to juggle allegiances between his South Dakota constituents and what the Koch Brothers would like to achieve.  Forsaking that kind of money puts Bjorkman at a financial disadvantage, but he's committed to his principles and I think he's getting his point across.  I attended a gathering in Rapid City a couple of weeks ago and was impressed by the size and enthusiasm of his crowd.
     Having met Bjorkman a couple of times and having read his eye-opening study on the effects of a dysfunctional childhood on crime and imprisonment, which he wrote for the University of South Dakota Law Review last year, I'm impressed, in equal measures, by his intellect and his passion.  Ten years as a circuit court judge have given this legal scholar a most valuable perspective on bread and butter issues that affect our communities, and I have no doubt that he'll bring that background to his job of representing us in the U.S. House of Representatives.
     You know, we've had our fill of Republicans claiming to have the best interests of our state at heart when they're in Washington.  These are the Trump-enablers who stood aside and watched our farmers get plundered by Trump's ill-advised trade war, ruining our best overseas markets for South Dakota's crops, principally soybeans. These are the Trump-enablers who've been railing for years about "unsustainable" federal deficits and vowing to do something about them, then putting their phoniness on display by supporting Trump's tax cuts, way disproportionately benefiting the wealthy, which have caused such a dramatic drop in government revenues that projected federal debt is reaching undreamed of heights.  And now these Trump-enablers are blaming the poor and the elderly for the debt explosion, as if they couldn't see it coming.  I've got news for these neo-Pavlovian subjects calling themselves Congressional Republicans:  try paying into Social Security for your entire lives then living month-to-month on that check you get after you've retired.
     My take?  Bjorkman won't buy into this baloney because he hasn't sold his soul to the wealthy bidders who've created a society where the economy is growing but wages aren't.   In 2017, South Dakota ranked in the lowest quintile in the country for personal income growth. That's consistent with our abysmal per capita GDP growth rate, which has been virtually flat for the past several years, compared to a 6% jump in the rest of the country.  What we don't need is another Trump lap dog in Congress.  We need an independent voice sustained by a great intellect and a passion for serving his constituents, not the special interests and PACs that fund so many other campaigns.  Tim Bjorkman fits the bill.  I hope you'll join me in voting for him.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

South Dakotans Can Grasp Complicated Proposals And They Should Reject Amendment Z Next Month.

     There's an engaging simplicity to Amendment Z, which will be on the South Dakota ballot
No On This Amendment
It's a can of worms
next month. 
The Amendment wants to limit all future constitutional amendments to a single subject, which seems okay at first.  It's kind of a "keep it simple, stupid" approach to ballot questions, and who doesn't like simplicity when considering new laws and their consequences?  But like just about everything else that strikes you as a neat, clean, easy-as-pie solution to a complicated problem, Amendment Z has some self-created pitfalls.
     First off, would somebody supporting this please define "single subject?"  I can't imagine a constitutional amendment being that easy to create when it comes to operations and enforcement. Heck, even the single-subject list of the Ten Commandments isn't all that easy to interpret, much less enforce.  "Thou shalt not kill" has so many levels of exceptional circumstances that it's practically useless as a realistic guide for moral action.  This is why constitutional amendments have to contain operational clauses and subchapters in order to define just exactly what they'll accomplish if passed.  The current Amendment W is a good example.  Its "single subject" is government and campaign reform.  How it sets out to accomplish that goal consists of a series of measures that cover many subjects. 
     Single-subject advocates probably want to see measures as sweeping as Amendment W split up into numerous parts.  Each part would become a separate ballot item, requiring separate petition-gathering and campaign efforts, making it practically impossible to put together an extensive reform package with numerous components.  The definition of a "subject" is malleable and likely to create much confusion when it comes to satisfying ballot access rules.  I could see a lot of litigation hamstringing the process as the sides line up when measures are proposed.   Amendment Z looks like a can of worms just waiting to be opened.  Voters should reject it. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

It Finally Dawns On Kristi Noem That Trump Might Not Be So Good For South Dakota After All

    After a two-year nonstop barrage of political ingratiation with the Trump administration,
Noem Yesterday
She Finally Gets It
our Congresswoman, Republican Kristi Noem, has finally had to concede that President Trump has been a problem for South Dakota. 
Campaigning in Huron yesterday, Noem all but acknowledged that her run for Governor is up against some headwinds created by Trump's awful handling of trade issues affecting this state.  Exhorting her supporters with the words "we've got an uphill battle . . . I'm going to need your help," Noem basically conceded that her campaign visuals of the lady on horseback cantering about the South Dakota prairie haven't ignited much enthusiasm for her race against Democrat Billie Sutton.
     Noem's reasons for her campaign's somnolence?  Laughable, kind of. Whining that "usually at this time the Republican candidate maybe would be up by 10 or 15 points," Kristi complains that "we're in a totally different environment.  We've got trade wars going on.  We've got a national environment that's definitely impacting us here in South Dakota."  Specifying the problem, Noem went on to say that Trump "decided to go to war to get us more fair agreements; the problem is that he did it after four years of depressed prices already.  So we already had farm income cut in half because of low commodity prices and then to go into this trade war at this time is pretty devastating."
     Wow.  This kind of finger-pointing at the President as the reason for her gubernatorial campaign's uphill challenge is quite the reversal of her tone when Trump was here a month ago,  helping her campaign with a stop in Sioux Falls.  Then Noem said she is "eternally grateful that God gave us a President that puts America first," adding that our state can partner with the President to "make South Dakota and America even greater."  I suppose this kind of blatant obsequiousness is de riguer at events like these, but it sure contrasts with her outburst yesterday about Trump's trade policy being "devastating" to South Dakota.
      Given the financial hit that South Dakota's soybean industry is taking thanks to Trump and his incompetent trade policies, our state hasn't become "even greater."  It has become even lesser--to the tune of about $500 million less.  The only thing that's gotten "even greater" since Trump went on his trade war rampage is our country's balance-of-trade deficit, which is on track to make ten-year highsKiplinger last month just flat out said that Trump's "policies are more likely to grow the deficit than to cut it."  And in the meantime, we have millions of tons of soybeans, which historically have been a bonanza for balance-of-trade calculations, looking for a market because China, Trump's principal trade antagonist, has said "no thanks."
     What amazes me is that so many people could see this coming while Noem didn't even acknowledge the risk.  With many others, this blog (in '16, months before the election) was full of concerns and warnings about just such a scenario.  But did Noem pay attention to the apprehensiveness that was so pervasive at the time?  Not really.  I can't find a peep about the gathering storm coming from her office during the last couple of years, so this Kristi-come-lately outburst in Huron yesterday smacks of inattentiveness or lack of understanding.  I think it's both, which make for two reasons to dismiss her from public office next month.

Constitutional Amendment X? Another Attempt At Trashing South Dakota's Motto, "Under God, The People Rule."

     What is it with some of these people that go to Pierre and run the government of South
NO On This Turkey
I happen to like majority rule
Are they under the impression that majorities of our state's voters aren't capable of making substantive decisions at the ballot box?  After the last election they trashed an initiated measure (IM-22) that would have radically reformed the way government conducts business in this state after a majority of the voters approved it.  So discombobulated were government officials by the wholesale revision of their status quo that they found a way to legislatively negate the measure even before its constitutionality was determined by the South Dakota Supreme Court.
     But as I noted a couple of blog posts ago, that stubbornly reformist "cat" came back, this time  with a replacement amendment (Amendment W) that will again test the nerves of elected officials who are married to business-as-usual in Pierre.  They'll be stuck with the results of Amendment W if it carries, at least until the courts can give it a constitutional go-ahead.  That notwithstanding, some of these public servants have taken their own pro-active steps to make it much tougher for simple majorities to make constitutional decisions in South Dakota.  They have trashed the long-honored principle that majorities rule in South Dakota and in the process have trampled on the state's motto "Under God, The People Rule."
     This cavalier and condescending endeavor goes by the name of Amendment X on the coming ballot.  Amendment X essentially says the heck with a majority of South Dakotans, what we now require to amend our state's constitution is a supermajority of voters, namely 55%, to change our constitution at the ballot box.  Why is it cynical?  Because it lets our political class pick the size of the majority that knows what's best for South Dakotans.  Why is it condescending?  Because its arbitrary cutoff point of 55% tells 54% of South Dakotans that their voice doesn't matter.  In other words, if you were part of a 54% majority of voters who wanted something that was rejected by 46% of the voters,  Amendment X tells you to get lost.  That is completely. freakin' bonkers.
     I get that people are fed up with out-of-state interests paying signature gatherers to manage the tough job of getting issues placed on our ballot.  By raising the ballot approval threshhold beyond a simple majority, Amendment X will supposedly make the job of obtaining enough petition signatures for constitutional amendments to make the ballot in the first place much tougher, thereby reducing the number of such measures that turn up in South Dakota.  I think that's an iffy assumption, but I don't think it's the most relevant consideration anyway.  We should be most concerned by the fact that if signature gathering will be made more difficult by Amendment X, the stiffer challenge also applies to in-state activists seeking constitutional changes.  That's where my 54-to-46 scenario gets meaningful, because it essentially makes a minority of voters the ones who determine the fate of proposed changes to our constitution.
     That doesn't work for me, and it shouldn't work for anybody who believes in the tenet that "the majority rules."  Join me in voting no on Amendment X.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

You'll Get Some Seriously Serious Government Reform In South Dakota If Enough Of Us Vote Yes On Constitutional Amendment W.

     For starters, a lot of us, me included, are still plenty burned up about the cavalier
Sick Of This?
A Dose Of Amendment W Might Help
treatment that Initiated Measure 22 received from both the legislative and executive branches in Pierre a couple of years ago. 
IM-22 was a broadly inclusive set of reforms that dealt with campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics oversight.  It also contained a public-financing-of-elections component.  That last aspect turned me off so completely that I opposed passage of the measure here in my blog, in the column I was writing at the time for the Rapid City Journal, and as a panelist during a public forum in Rapid City.  My opposition was animated and unequivocal.
     The measure carried just the same, capturing about 52% of the vote.  Disappointed though I was, losing at the ballot box isn't a particularly new phenomenon (goes way back to '68 when Tricky Dick beat The Hube) for me and I was somewhat resigned to my fate. I say somewhat because it seemed clear to me (and my lawyer friends) that there were elements in IM-22 that would render it unconstitutional, and sure enough, its first hearing in court seemed to affirm that, so it was effectively put on hold pending a hearing at the state Supreme Court. It was going through a process that would probably nullify it altogether, and it really didn't seem like the entrenched political class in Pierre would have to confront it.
    Or so it seemed.  Unwilling to exercise some collective patience and let the process play itself out in the courts, our state's Republican Governor Daugaard and the overwhelmingly GOP-dominated legislature set themselves the task of doing away with it via the legislative process. They essentially did so by passing a bill (HB 1069) that pretty much wiped out the elements of IM-22 that were most threatening to the status quo.    The voice of the people was canceled out and, despite my opposition to the measure in the first place, I and a lot of other folks have neither forgiven nor forgotten this breach of the public's call for change.
     The upshot?  A motivated group of reformers called Represent Us were able to write and place a measure, Amendment W, that creates a series of reforms similar to its predecessor, IM-22, but without the public-financing-of-campaigns component.  Shrewdly packaging it as a constitutional amendment, proponents are making sure that it can't be amended or repealed without voter approval.  In other words, Amendment W is off limits to the legislative and executive branches.  No doubt this measure will undergo a constitutional challenge, but it'll be the courts, not a body of self-interested elected officials, who will make the determination about its status.  I hope you'll take the time to go to the link I provided and at least get an outline of what Amendment W will accomplish.  In a state that's perennially ranked as one of the most corrupt in the nation, I think it will do some good.
    Hope you'll join me in voting Yes on Amendment W.  

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

South Dakota's Initiated Measure 25 Wants A Few Of Us To Pay For Something That Benefits All Of Us. 'Tain't Fair.

     There's something obnoxious about singling out a group of people and taxing them to
Not Fair
support a civic function that benefits all of us. 
Initiated Measure 25 on South Dakota's ballot next month wants to do just that by jacking up the tax on tobacco products to the cumulative tune of $35 million, according to estimates by both Republicans and Democrats, whose respective parties have each come out against this measure at their conventions last Summer.
     I can see where supporters are coming from.  Republican Speaker of the South Dakota House Mark Mickelson, who proposed the initiative, last June told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader that many South Dakotans in search of technical educations are migrating out of state to better educational opportunities elsewhere:  "You talk to anyone in Yankton or out in western South Dakota and those folks end up going to Norfolk, Nebraska, or Gillette, Wyoming.  We can't compete.  Workforce development is a critical issue and I think we have a responsibility to act."  Indeed we do, and the aims of IM 25 are worthy and straightforward, with the dual approach of lowering tuition and providing money for the schools.  As an employer in this state, I'm acutely aware of our labor shortage and the need for developing a workforce from within.  Losing young people to better educational opportunities elsewhere is something that needs to be addressed, and pronto.
     Im-25 just doesn't happen to be the right way to do it.  South Dakota has been imposing a tobacco excise tax above the standard sales taxes since 1923, a system that now dings tobacco users in all 50 states.  I haven't researched the philosophical bases for these taxes, but they have been in place for so long that they're now an embedded part of state budgets here and probably in every other state.  I suppose there were so many smokers way back when that squeezing a few cents a pack out of them and putting the money into the general revenue fund seemed like a fair way to tax a broad pool of residents for widespread government operations.  As recently as 1965, 43% of Americans were smokersNow that number is 17%.  Back then the burden was distributed much more broadly. Now it targets fewer than 1 in 5 of us.  It isn't right to squeeze that small minority for money to support a program that benefits everybody in the state, either directly by providing good technical educations or indirectly by the improvement that a good labor force brings to the economy. We need to unify and address workforce development, not hand the burden to a small minority of our residents.
     This initiative is for the birds.  IM-25 needs to be rejected.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Wieczorek Is Out There, But I Think He Makes A Point. Posting This As Information.

September 29, 2018
Independent Candidate Wieczorek Being Held out of TV Debate
On Friday, Oct. 19, KELOLAND-TV is sponsoring a public debate in their Sioux Falls studio for qualified candidates seeking to represent South Dakota in the U.S. House of Representatives. 
As of today, I am being held out of that debate, on the grounds that I have not met all the criteria set by Nexstar Media Group, which owns KELOLAND. Criteria No. 5 states that the candidate must have raised $50,000.
Headquartered in Irving, Texas, Nexstar owns, operates, programs or provides sales and other services to 170 TV stations, reaching 100 markets (38.7%) of all U.S. TV households. KELO-TV (a CBS Affiliate) in Sioux Falls, is one of those stations.
In my mind, and I hope in yours, it is the South Dakota Secretary of State’s Office which is the sole determiner of who is placed on the ballot and who isn’t. On April 24, I submitted nearly 4,000 signatures on my petition for ballot status, almost twice the number required, and was duly certified by the Secretary of State for my Independent candidacy. My position on the Nov. 6 ballot is #3, ahead of the Democratic Party’s candidate.
In my mind, and I hope in yours, no out-of-state money-making operation such as Nexstar Media Group has any business determining who South Dakotans are permitted to witness in civil debate on the burning issues facing our State and our Nation.
In my mind, and I hope in yours, Nexstar has no right to limit my freedom of speech by excluding me from this debate. 
I am therefore, calling on you to make your thoughts known to Nexstar. Support my right to be admitted to this public platform to present my views and policies, so that the voters of South Dakota can exercise their sovereign judgment as to who they think will best represent them in Washington in the House of Representatives this November 6.

Thank you!

Nexstar Media Group 972-373-8800 KELOLAND-TV 605-336-1100

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Bears Repeating: Reader Lanny Stricherz Goes Off On South Dakota GOP Congressional Candidate Dusty Johnson.

    This is Lanny's letter-to-the-editor in yesteday's Sioux  Falls Argus Leader:

Are you sure that you want Dusty Johnson to represent you in the US House of representatives? As a member of the PUC, he voted to approve the first Trans Canada Keystone pipeline, which leaked within the first six months of its existence and several times since. 

He voted to approve the BigStone II coal burning power plant, which was eventually turned down by the Minnesota PUC, because of its potential damage to Big Stone Lake as well as surrounding lakes in both Minnesota and South Dakota. 

He voted to approve the Hyperion oil refinery and coal burning power plant in the Elk Point area which eventually failed because the founders could not get investors,because they could see the potential damage to prime farm land and the extreme amount of Missouri River water which would be needed for the refinery and power plant. 

He has voted to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which Nebraska is refusing to approve, because of possible damage to the Ogallala aquifer as well as other waters and lands. 

After standing for re-election in 2010 and winning, Mr Johnson ignored the vote of the people and took a job as Chief of Staff in the Governor’s office even though he had been reelected. Who’s to say that he won’t do the same if elected to the US House of representatives, and the President wants him to serve in some climate change denier position in the executive branch?

A better option is Tim Bjorkman, who is the Democratic candidate. He refuses to take money from the Democratic Party, any of the PACs including labor unions. He will only take private donations because he wants to represent the people and their interests and help to end the corruption in government. 

Lanny Stricherz
Sioux Falls SD

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

First Up In My Ballot Question Run-Through: Initiated Measure 24, Banning Out-Of-State Contributions To Ballot Question Committees. I'm Agin' It.

     I'm like a lot of frustrated, disgusted, wary and just plain tired South Dakotans who are fed
IM-24?  NO!
Good Intent, Lousy Outcome
up with our state being used as some sort of political laboratory. 
In 2016, more than $10 million was spent by out of state interests on South Dakota ballot issues that were designed as marketing vehicles for agendas promoted throughout the country.  It's relatively cheap to run a campaign here, and a win in South Dakota would give supporters some serious credibility as they pursued their aims in other states.  Payday lending, victim rights, campaign finance reform . . . they and other measures were on the ballot, and the money for and against them poured in.    We have good reason to be tired of the process, and the frustration led to a measure, IM-24, on this November's ballot meant to put the practice to a halt.  It's easy to support the intent, but the outcome?  That's another story.

     I certainly share the vexation, but then again, who in this state, or the entire country for that matter, hasn't been frustrated at one time or another by some of the hassles created by the delirium that is sometimes called Democracy?  Like it or not, Initiated Measure 24, which would ban "individuals, political action committees, and other entities from outside South Dakota from making contributions to ballot question committees," has some decent intentions, but that's where its positives stop.
     First off, there's the issue of its constitutionality.  In assessing IM-24's chances of a constitutional challenge should the measure pass, South Dakota's Legislative Research Council Director Jason Hancock said last June  in a letter to IM-24 supporters that "contribution limits to ballot question committees . . . have been viewed by the [U.S.Supreme] court as a restraint on the rights of association and free speech." Secondly, it just doesn't seem right, much less constitutional.  I know I'd be plenty put off by a law that, just because I live in South Dakota, would keep me from sending in a contribution to a committee pushing a ballot issue in, say, Nebraska, if I had an interest in the outcome.  The whole conversation has a "no way" quality to it.
     IM-24's dubious constitutional prospects along with its self-evident repudiation of the fundamental rights of Americans has led to some strange bedfellowing.  Writing in opposition to the measure are Ben Lee, state director of the Koch brothers-funded Americans For Prosperity ("I believe that citizens should have the right to support the causes and issues they believe in").  Simultaneously Cory Heidelberger, whose Dakota Free Press blog has proven over the years to be about as antithetical to Americans For Prosperity as anyone can get, has said that  IM-24 "is a step in an unconstitutional direction."  That these two stalwarts of their respective and utterly contradictory worldviews can unify in their opposition to this measure says much about its inherently obnoxious nature.  IM-24 just plain doesn't cut the mustard and should be resoundingly defeated by South Dakota's voters.


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

China's Serenade To American Soybean Producers: Got Along Without You Before I Met You, Gonna Get Along Without You Now.

         knew this would happen.   I just knew it.  Chinese agronomists and hog producers are adjusting to life without American soybeans. Turns out they've been using more than they've needed all along, so the downside alteration to their hog industry's soy consumption won't be that difficult to navigate.  Separate items from the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post last month and Reuters this morning tell a story that will probably set off some profound changes in America's heavily Chinese trade-dependent soybean industry, which of course has some huge implications for South Dakota farmers, who this year will raise nearly 300 million bushels of soybeans.  At around $8/bushel, that's a multi-billion dollar industry, and it's one that has already taken a sizable hit thanks to President Trump and his tariff-fixation over China.  China's retaliation to Trump's gratuitous tantrum, slapping a 25% tariff on its imports of American soybeans, has driven the market down by about $2/bushel, accounting for a $600 million reduction in the value of this year's South Dakota harvest.  That's a lot of money to a state with just over 800,000 residents, and I have no doubt South Dakota's general economy will take direct and indirect hits as result.                                                                                                                                                      So what is it that's happening to China's hog production that will permanently alter America's soybean industry?  Just this.  China has been "importing far more soybeans than it really needed and could do without American imports," according to a Beijing-based agribusiness consultant named Ma Wenfeng.  Turns out that Chinese pig producers can get along with about 65 million tons of soybeans a year, but have been importing about 95 million tons, nonetheless.  That 30 million ton "surplus" is just about how much they've been importing every year from the United States.  Relatively low cost and easy access to supplies have induced Chinese producers to use soymeal for about 20% of their feed requirements even though the science of optimizing feed ingredients to provide the best nutrition at the lowest cost has reduced the soy requirement to about 12%.  Ma notes that "we have plenty of replacements for soymeal, such as peanut meal, cotton meal and rapeseed meal" to replace the protein content of soymeal.  Chinese producers can also add the amino acid lysine to replace soymeal protein.  The changeover to the lower soymeal requirement has been slow because so many producers in China don't have the financial incentive to overhaul feeding systems and formulas, according to Reuters.
    But now that soy prices have escalated because of China's retaliatory tariffs, the incentives
American Soymeal Ration
Soon To Be Reduced
to switch over to lowered-soy content feed are there. 
The wide application of the know-how will permanently affect the 36-year long relationship between Chinese hog producers and American soybean farmers, which up to now has been worth about $13 billion a year.  Considering that soybean sales to China before it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 were about $2 billion a year, the value of trade alliances should be self-evident to South Dakotans, who must be asking themselves why Trump is doing what he's doing.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Cat Came Back

       Government reformers in South Dakota remind me of the cat in that great old campfire
Cats And Reformers . . .
They Just Keep Coming Back
Like that persistent and determined feline who wouldn't go away no matter how hard its master tried to get rid of him, they just keep coming back, and they "spend their nights 'a howlin' " til our legislators "can't get no sleep."  Shunted aside after the IM-22 debacle of a couple of years ago, this determined group of activist cats, led by Mitch Richter and Darrell Solberg, just keep on coming back.  IM-22 was the ballot initiative that won with 52% of the vote in 2016. It dramatically reformed government and campaign operations in our state.  It required additional disclosures and reporting by candidates for office, it lowered and limited contribution amounts, it severely constricted lobbyist gifts to state officials, and it created an ethics commission to oversee campaign finance and lobbying laws.  It also contained a provision to provide public funding for political campaigns.
     That last element caused me to oppose the measure, but it passed fair and square, much to the consternation of South Dakota's established political class, dominated by Republicans.  As South Dakota's initiative process has no restriction on when or how elected legislators can repeal or amend citizen-approved initiatives, the state's GOP-dominated legislature proceeded to dismantle IM-22 during the following session in 2017, not waiting for a court challenge to the measure that was headed for the South Dakota Supreme Court after an injunction in a lower court put the initiative on
Maybe This Time
They Will
hold.   Effectively eradicating the voter's will, reform-averse officials in Pierre set off quite the outraged reaction, with noisy and loud demonstrations occurring at the capitol as the political debauchery occurred.  Even as a foe of the measure, I was as chagrined by the arrogant and cynical rejection of the voters' will as those who supported IM-22
     Which is why I'm supporting the reform measure that will be on this November's ballot, dubbed Constitutional Amendment W.  Sans the public financing of campaigns that turned off a lot of potential supporters of the last reform measure, Amendment W is exclusively about changing existing campaign financing and lobbying laws, and, most strategically, won't allow alterations to it without voter approval.  The element that should most appeal to the reform-minded is the establishment of a government accountability board that will have some sanction-imposing teeth.  Considering the depth and breadth of a couple of horror stories involving state-managed programs (EB-5 and Gear Up) which resulted in multimillion dollar fiascos along with murders and suicides, a visible and active accountability component in Pierre seems overdue.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Move Over Farm Groups. South Dakota's Business Community Also Has Good Reason To Fight The Trump Slump.

     Seems like up to now the only unified opposition to President Trump's ill-conceived
Scaring them off?
I think so.
tantrum has come from farm groups in this country.  That's about to change.  City folks are finally getting fed up and the mobilization against his trade policies is gaining some serious momentum. A coalition of trade associations representing farmers, retailers and manufacturers throughout the United States has coalesced into a group called Americans For Free Trade.   The 80 or so coalition members represent some ultra high-powered associations, including the American Petroleum Institute, Telecommunications Industry Association, and the National Retail Federation. The group is about to launch a $3 million campaign dedicated to fighting Trump's tariffs.                                                                                                                                                                                South Dakotans have some interest in this.   Our state's main retail trade group, the South Dakota Retailer's Association (SDRA, an effective and efficient association of which I've been a satisfied member for many years) shows up on the National Retail Federation's website as one of the 50 state retail associations that NRF describes as "the tip of the spear" when it comes to "retail public policy and government relations in state capitols across the nation." I'd be surprised if the South Dakota group will take a position or involve itself in the tariff issues that South Dakota's farmers have to deal with, but I wish they would.   Retailers, especially those (like me) with interests in the lodging industry, have a stake in our global business relationships.
     Foreign tourists matter.  Calling it the "Trump Slump,"  Forbes magazine last month noted that the U.S. share of international travel has dropped "sharply" during Donald Trump's tenure in the White House, falling by  6%, costing the U.S. 7.4 million visitors and $32 billion in 2017. Forbes says there's likely to be more this year.  So far in 2018, visitations to Mt. Rushmore have fallen by about 6%That would be 108,000 visitors.  Nationally, National Park visitations have dropped by 8.4 million, or nearly 4%.  I think the dropoff in foreign visitation accounts for much of this.  A strong U.S. Dollar might have a bit to do with it, but Forbes research on the fluctuating value of the Dollar and tourism patterns don't give the theory much credence.  The influential business advocacy group Business Forward, which featured the situation last summer in a piece about the "Trump Slump," makes it hard to draw any other conclusion. Now that there's a powerfully mobilized national group of businesses working to stop the negative effects of President Trump's ill-advised tariff wars, South Dakota's business community has reason to consider doing the same thing. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

When Does The Winning Start, President Trump? Farmers Will Get A 13% Haircut This Year. And The Hair Loss Could Become Permanent.

     South Dakota's overwhelming mandate for Donald Trump (he carried the state with 62%
Mr. President,
What Am I Supposed To Do With These?
of the vote in '16, nearly twice Hillary Clinton's total) hasn't paid off where it counts--in the pocketbook--for our state's biggest industry, agriculture. 
The USDA last week published its projections for American farm income in 2018, and it says farm income across the country is likely to fall by 13% (about 15% in inflation-adjusted dollars, to 2002 levels, and that number includes government payments).  There are no state-specific projections yet, but considering that the price of soybeans has fallen about 20%   ($2/bu) since last year's crop was harvested, this year's 280 million bushels of SD's soon-to-be-harvested soybeans will take an enormous hit.  Ditto our state's corn harvest of 825 million bushels, which has seen about a 10% price erosion since last year's crop came inAt around 50 cents a bushel, that's another humongous drop in cash receipts. Our entire ag economy-dependent state has good reason to be nervous.
     The old canard about presidents having little, if anything, to do with the general economy has much validity to it.  But when it comes to specific sectors in the American economy, it's been plenty obvious up to now that presidential meddling with markets can make a huge difference.  The damage to crop prices and farm income are directly connected to the tariff wars created by Donald Trump.  Last July American Soybean Association President (and Iowa farmer) John Heisdorffer said "producers cannot weather sustained trade disruptions."  Those sentiments were simulateously echoed by American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall, who said "we cannot overstate the dire consequences that farmers and ranchers are facing in relation to lost export markets."  This theme runs steadily through the discourse of all the major ag groups I can think of, yet it seems to fall on indifferent, if not altogether deaf, ears in the White House.
     The short term fix of direct payments to farmers that was announced last July was the administration's way of trying to at least partially mollify farmers that are getting the short end of the tariff stick.  But there are two elements of these payments that need to be noted.  The drop in 2018 farm income includes those payments, which, helpful as they are, don't make farmers anywhere close to being whole after the market devastation that's occurred this year.  And the payouts don't address the all important issue of global market share disruptions that will occur once American soybeans are landlocked during a trade war.  Loss of market share to our biggest soybean buyer, China, could be permanently crippling.  Forbes magazine notes that China can expand its own production by incentivizing farmers and, in time, can find producers like Brazil and other suppliers in Asia and possibly Africa who will increase their  production in order to fill the gap created by tariff-burdened American soybeans.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Are South Dakota Republicans Hypocrites When It Comes To Following Campaign Finance Laws? Guest Poster Janette McIntyre Thinks So.

Hypocrisy At its Finest

The campaign of Democrat Billie Sutton, running for Governor of South Dakota,  has taken a swipe at Republican Lieutenant Governor candidate Larry Rhoden for a campaign finance violation.   They have him dead to rights, but who cares?

Recently, Dan Lederman, GOP State Chairman said that laws matter.  If political parties don’t have their ducks in a row they shouldn’t be allowed to put candidates on the ballot.  He took it upon himself to make the Democrats have a “do over” for their convention.   He also filed a Writ of Prohibition to keep Constitution Party candidates off of the ballot.

I happened to be one of the candidates that the court decision kept off of the ballot.
At the Constitution Party convention I was nominated to be a candidate for SD District 34 Senate.   I don’t believe that Dan Lederman’s effort was in anyway directed at me but you have to wonder what he was afraid of.

Did the Constitution Party represent a real threat to the Republican Party?  Normally I would have said, “no.”  We may have been an irritation at best to be ignored.

This year however, I believe the Republican Party is facing their own internal struggles.   Some, like myself, a lifelong Republican, have left the party.   The party didn’t leave me, the party elite worked against me.  Party faithful, even those who are still hanging in there doing their best to be the good soldiers, are having their own moral reservations with the elite of the party.

It has never been more evident that the rules only apply to a few.  They apply to the Democrats, they apply to the Libertarians, they apply to the Constitution Party but they do NOT apply to all Republicans equally.   The state GOP  has the funds to file lawsuits continues to prevail.

What should concern all South Dakotans of every political party is that these very laws are written by Republicans who do not enforce them consistently and who do not always obey them.  There is the first real travesty.

As long as there are insignificant two party representations and god forbid a single Independent, Libertarian or Constitution Party candidate elected the current state of affairs in South Dakota will never change.    There is the second real travesty.

No man, not even Dan Lederman as hard as he may try, will be able to stop South Dakotans who will vote to make a change in 2018.   The rein of the elite is indeed being challenged this year.   Many party faithful are stating that for the first time they too will not be voting Republican.  Electing the same candidates time after time and expecting a different result is not just the definition of insanity it will be the third travesty.

South Dakota voters will be able to send a clear message on November 6th.    I hope voters will look to the person, not the party to make a smart choice.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming! Don't Say Guest Poster David Ganje Didn't Warn Us!


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    To South Dakota from Russia with love
  How does the land of indefinite variety get caught up in these things?  South Dakota is making an international name for itself.  And South Dakota may be under attack. The state’s current Russia problem arises from the state’s longstanding practice of hospitality.  Now, without doubt hospitality is an honorable practice.  South Dakota welcomes aliens (anyone who does not speak the dialect and who does not appreciate chislic) as tourists and hunters.  As a kid hunting with my dad and uncle I remember them hosting exotic foreigners – a judge from Minnesota, a judge from Chicago and most curious of all – a judge from Arkansas.  
   Based on current news reports this hospitality toward foreigners continues in the state.  Consider the somewhat infamous, and now indicted, Russian lady who is criminally charged with conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent (one could read spy).  The native of Russia apparently came to the South Dakota to hunt, to lecture at the University of South Dakota, to set up a South Dakota company or two and may have also considered residency.  As a brilliant effort toward international relations she compared the climate of Siberia with that of South Dakota in an article written for fellow travelers.
    "My notion of the KGB came from romantic spy stories," Russian President V. Putin from a 2005 Washington Post article.  Are the Russians coming?  Well, yes in a manner of speaking they are already here. Just ask someone of German Russian heritage in the bustling metropolises of Hoven, Eureka or my hometown of Aberdeen.  But what about contemporary Russians?  Well, yes it appears they are also invading the state.  We must then look to historical precedent to address the recent invasion.  I refer to an important historical movie on the invasion of America by Russians. In that movie (The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming) Russians landed in America and were speaking to a local young American.
  Russian Lieutenant Rozanov: [thick Russian accent] “Very clever little boy. Very, very clever, to see that my friend and I are foreigners here, but of course not Russian, naturally. What would the Russians be doing on United States of America island, with so many animosities and hatreds between these two countries? It is too funny an idea, is it not? No, we... we are of course... Norweegans.”
Walt Whittaker: “Norwegians?”
Russian Lieutenant Rozanov: [nods] “On a small training exercise for the Nyaato countries...”
Comrade Alexei Kolchin:  “yes NATO”
  I see problems with this new invasion.  I am of German Russian heritage.  This publicity about Russia could give German Russians a bad name.  First off, the alleged Russian spy was not granted bail on her pending federal charges.  She is considered a flight risk.  If she makes bail she may seek sanctuary in one of the remote but well stocked hunting lodges located throughout the state.  It would be unfavorable notoriety for the state if the feds laid siege to a hunting lodge to recover the defendant - all in front of TV cameras.  That would not look good on the news.  One should seek clarification from state authorities on whether South Dakota is a sanctuary state. My second problem:  ongoing developments concerning the Russian lady, now in jail awaiting legal proceedings, may give anyone loosely associated with Russians a bad name, or at least bad karma.  South Dakotans of German Russian heritage should consider this.  I suggest that all those of German Russian heritage re-label themselves as Italians or Greeks.
  Like angels of mercy, have the Russians and their friends descended upon the state for the goodwill of all mankind?  Possibly.   In today’s world South Dakotans have much in common with the government of Russia except perhaps for language, democracy, freedom of speech, a legal system and certain morals.
  Is Russia trying to get access to political power through the people of Middle America?  When looking at the official Russian spy manual one reads a description of Americans from the middle of the country:  “They may be more provincial than coastal big city people. They may be a little more naive or innocent than coastal city people.  The less they know, the better they sleep.  Not to worry, sophisticated Midwesterners do not exist.”
  Is Middle America the soft underbelly through which Russian machinations are to be practiced?  Are state residents to become the new tool of foreign interests?  The intrusion of Russia into South Dakota is not to be ignored.  These people have a studied understanding of regional people in the U.S.  This is borne out by the movie I cited.  In the movie a keen-eyed Russian military officer states:
Officer Brodsky: [in Russian] Hey, look here. Wheat! American wheat!
Officer Hrushevsky: [picks up a handful and sniffs it; in Russian] That's not wheat you idiot! It's fertilizer.
Officer Brodsky: [in Russian] Fertilizer? You mean manure? Cow...
Officer Hrushevsky: [in Russian]  Yes !
  Should these developments be of ongoing concern in the state?  Is South Dakota obligated to erect a wall around its border?  A good number of sophisticated U. S. politicians and leaders proudly had their picture taken with the alleged Russian spy.  She was also invited to give a speech at the University of South Dakota.
  Everything has a moral if only you can find it.  Here the moral is to be aware that Russians may have infiltrated South Dakota society.  There are practical remedies for this situation.  A longstanding rule based on experience tells us that when one is approached by a Russian bearing favors, giving advice, or offering to do good, you run for your life in the other direction while holding tightly to your wallet.  I anticipate local stores in the state will now do strong sales in running shoes.
David Ganje of Ganje Law Offices in Rapid City, South Dakota, practices in the area of natural resources, environmental and commercial law.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Patriotism Doesn't Pay The Bills.

      The underwhelming reaction among farm groups to the news this morning that the Trump
Are American Farmers Winning Yet?
The Trump Bailout Won't Do Much
administration is doling out $4.7 billion to producers hurt by low prices comes as no surprise. 
It's the first payment of the $12 billion that the White House will give to American farmers to make up for their losses created by Trump's commitment to wrecking trade deals that up to now have been a bonanza for farmers in this country.  In making the announcement about this first payout, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said, "Farmers cannot pay their bills with simple patriotism."
     Perdue's condescending observation assumes that farmers are willing patriots in the gratuitous "trade war" that Trump drafted them into.  This is total baloney, of course, as agriculture groups have been resoundingly opposed to the tariff tit-for-tats that Trump initiated.  Of the price collapse that has occurred in the soybean and corn markets, American Soybean Association President John Heisdorffer said last Spring "we have been warning the administration and members of Congress that this would happen."  Farm groups have been kicking and screaming about this for many months, and now that their predictions have come expensively to pass the Trump administration suddenly calls them "patriots?"  Give me a break.
     More financially to the point, this measly payoff that the administration is handing out strikes me as a combination of hush money and charitable aid.  Of the former, I guarantee it won't hush up our ag producers, and of the latter, it isn't enough to make anybody close to whole.  Sounding off from the get-go, National Corn Growers Association President Kevin Skunes said
"this plan provides virtually no relief to farmers" after pointing out that the program allocates $96 million to corn farmers, who collectively stand to lose $6 billion during the course of this debacle.  Soybean farmers stand to get $3.6 billion of the dole-out, but that won't even cover half their total loss of about $9 billion that the recent market plunge has cost them.
     It looks like South Dakota's share of the corn and soybean relief money will cover maybe a third of the $1 billion that has been lost by the state to the tariff wars.  Our Congressional delegation hasn't said much about this payoff, but Missouri Republican Senator Ray Blunt has had the courage to speak out, saying "no farmer is going to come close to being made whole" by these payments, which aren't much of a short-term fix.  Nor do they come with any long-term hope, much less promise, that the Trump administration is working to keep our lucrative foreign markets open to American farmers.