Monthly Archives: September 2010

Noem, Herseth Sandlin and Sandlin

The effort by Republican challenger Kristi Noem to raise questions about the ethics of former U.S. Rep. Max Sandlin serving as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., doesn’t seem to have generated the same spark as the revelations about Noem’s speeding tickets a month ago. Noem, who’s working to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, didn’t beat around the bush or use surrogates to spread her message. Her campaign issued a news release directly calling for the House to ban lobbying by spouses of members. The Senate already has such a ban that covers senators’ spouses.

Knowing this issue likely would arise under the circumstances of a tough campaign, we checked a few weeks at the Internet site www.opensecrets.org where all kinds of information is available, on an apparently non-partisan basis, about current and past members of Congress, their current and former staff, donors and lobbyists. From there the following list was assembled of lobbyist Max Sandlin’s clients from 2005 through 2009:

2005

Firms (1): Greenberg Traurig

Clients (2): Humana Inc.; Polymedica Corp.

 2006

Firms (2): Greenberg Traurig*; Fleishman-Hillard**.

Clients (12): American Jewish Congress*; Community Health Systems*; Cross County Computer Corp.*; Humana Inc.*; LifePoint Hospitals*; Miami-Dade County, FL*; National Association of Broadcasters*; News Corp.*; Oregon Aero*; Polymedica Corp.*; Recording Academy*; Research Triangle Institute*; Wellcare Health Plans Inc.*; National Association of Broadcasters**; Stonewater Control Systems**; Wistar Institute**.

 2007

Firms (3): Fleishman-Hillard**; International Government Relations Group*; Strategic Energy Initiatives***.

Clients (27): AARP**; Brown McCarroll**; Catholic Healthcare West**; City of Santa Rosa, CA**; Empire Resorts**; Erinys International**; Food Allergy Project **; Heart Rhythm Society**; Hewlett-Packard**; Imation Corp.**; Ireland, Carroll and Kelley**; Land O’Lakes**; McKool Smith**; National Association of Broadcasters**; National Children’s Museum**; National Football League**; Nau Country**; New York Botanical Garden**; Nix, Patterson and Roach**; NRG Energy**; Parker, Bunt and Ainsworth**; Peabody Energy**; Pellet Fuels Institute**; RSM McGladrey Business Services**; San Joaquin County, CA**; Stonewater Control Systems**; Stonewater Control Systems*; NRG Energy***. 

2008

Firms (3): Fleishman-Hillard**; International Government Relations Group*; Strategic Energy Initiatives***.

Clients: Baptist Health Care**; Brown McCarroll**; City of Santa Rosa, CA**; Commonwealth of the N. Mariana Islands**; David and Denise Bunning**; Food Allergy Project**; Gentiva Health Services**; Hewlett-Packard**; Highway Entertainment**; Ireland, Carroll and Kelley**; Land O’Lakes**; McKool Smith**; National Association of Broadcasters**; National Association of Manufacturers**; National Children’s Museum**; New York Botanical Garden**; Nix, Patterson and Roach**; NRG Energy**; Parker, Bunt and Ainsworth**; Peabody Energy**; Pellet Fuels Institute**; RSM McGladrey Business Services**; San Joaquin County, CA**; Self Help Credit Union**; Stonewater Control Systems**; Alliance/Home Health Quality/Innovation*; Baptist Health Care*; Brown McCarroll*; City of Santa Rosa, CA*; Commonwealth of the N. Mariana Islands*; Essence Group Holdings*; Graco Children’s Products*; Hewlett-Packard*; Highway Entertainment*; Ireland, Carroll and Kelley*; Land O’Lakes*; Macquarie Securities*; Marine Technology Society*; McKool Smith*; National Association of Broadcasters*; National Association of Manufacturers*; National Children’s Museum; Nix, Patterson and Roach*; NRG Energy*; Parasol, Ruth et al*; Parker, Bunt and Ainsworth*; Peabody Energy*; Pellet Fuels Institute*; San Joaquin County, CA*; Sandisk*; Self Help Credit Union*; WFIT*; NRG Energy***. 

2009

Firms (2): International Government Relations Group*; Strategic Energy Initiatives***.

Clients: Advance Auto Parts*; Air Canada*; Albritton Law Firm*; Alliance/Home Health Quality/Innovation*; Almost Family*; Baptist Health Care*; Bisk Education: Brown McCarroll*; Capshaw DeRieux*; Chemeketa Community College*; City of Santa Rosa, CA*; CKE Restaurants*; Commonwealth of N. Mariana Islands*; Cree*; Deloitte*; Essence Group Holdings*; Graco Children’s Products*; Hewlett-Packard*; Highway Entertainment*; Huawei Technologies*; ICF International*; Ireland, Carroll and Kelley*; Lazard*; Macquarie Securities*; Marine Technology Society*; McKool Smith*; National Association of Broadcasters*; National Children’s Museum*; National Shooting Sports Foundation*; Nix, Patterson and Roach*; NRG Energy*; Parker, Bunt and Ainsworth*; Peabody Energy*; San Joaquin County, CA*; Self Help Credit Union*; Solar Reserve*; Vanguard Health Systems*; Verenium*; Ward and Olivio*; Ward and Smith*; Ware Firm*; WFIT*; NRG Energy***.

Memo from a fat guy re: cookie jar

I would be much better off if I lost about 50 pounds. So let me just offer an observation that might be of future value to people making political ads in South Dakota. Don’t put overweight guys like me in an ad to talk about the cookie jar being empty. If you’ve seen a certain campaign’s ad now airing, you’ll know what I mean. I’m not in the ad, but a couple of guys many of us have known a long time are. Sometimes the medium can obscure the message.

Daugaard ad gives Heidepriem a big opening

The latest advertising theme for Lt. Gov. Dennis Daugaard, the Republican candidate for governor, makes a claim that plays right into the hands of his opponent, state Senate Democratic leader Scott Heidepriem. Daugaard’s message is “optimism and pride” and argues that South Dakota has weathered the recession “as well as any state in America.” But then he claims that state government’s budget was balanced without raising taxes. That’s simply not true. Unemployment insurance taxes were increased for many businesses, and there was an across-the-board surcharge to get the UI fund out of debt. There were various fees added or increased, such as to help fund the Highway Patrol or to help pay for state parks. Student tuition at the state universities has climbed year after year. New fees for buildings were added onto the tuition of technical institute students. The tourism tax was increased.

The big reason however that the state budget has been “balanced” was the federal stimulus aid that flowed into South Dakota. Without the federal help, the state’s reserve funds would have been depleted. This is the precise theme that Heidepriem has tried to drive home for months and that several of the other Republican candidates for governor, most prominently Senate Republican leader Dave Knudson, tried to point out during the primary election campaign. Now, one sentence in an otherwise extremely strong one-minute ad by Daugaard has created an opening for Heidepriem to put Daugaard on the defensive. And, by using the word “we,” Daugaard has given Heidepriem his best reason yet to link Daugaard to Republican Gov. Mike Rounds on how state government was managed the past seven-plus years.

Heidepriem gets a boost from school boards

The timing of the polling results from the Associated School Boards of South Dakota couldn’t have been better for Democratic governor candidate Scott Heidepriem. The ASBSD survey showed 62 percent support for increased funding to K-12 schools; 77 percent support for a possible ballot measure that would require school funding to gradually be restored to a greater proportion of state government’s budget than it now is, without raising taxes; and 55 percent support for a sales tax increase to support schools. ASBSD’s results were distributed Monday, as the Heidepriem campaign began running a new ad and prepares to air its 30-minute television special Oct. 7.  Heidepriem has made school funding a priority in his campaign. His law firm also brought the lawsuit against the State of South Dakota over school funding. Wayne Lueders, the executive director for the school boards organization, gave Heidepriem’s campaign $950 last year; Heidepriem hasn’t needed to file a campaign spending report yet in 2010. Lueders gave $1,000 and then $2,000 more to the campaign of Republican governor candidate Dave Knudson prior to the June primary, in which Knudson placed third. Knudson also supported raising school funding. Knudson received $750 from Lueders in 2009. The Republican nominee for governor, Lt. Gov. Dennis Daugaard, doesn’t show any contributions from Lueders during the 2010 primary campaign or in 2009.

Former governor might oust current Iowa governor

The latest Rasmussen organization polling from Iowa released today continues to show former Gov. Terry Branstad in a clear lead against current Gov. Chet Culver, who’s seeking re-election to a second  consecutive term. Branstad, a Republican, was governor from 1983 through 1998 and is attempting a political comeback at age 63. He has 55 percent support in the Sept. 23 telephone survey of 500 likely voters, while Culver stood at 37 percent. Culver, 44, is a former secretary of state. His job-approval rating was down to 41 percent.

An icon of South Dakota newspapering

Cindy Eikamp is the longest-serving editor of a daily newspaper in South Dakota. She’s been editor of the Aberdeen American News since 1989. It is the only newspaper for which the Britton native and South Dakota State University graduate has ever worked. Her 36-year run as a reporter, managing editor and executive editor comes to an end Oct. 7, when she retires. Her successor is J.J. Perry. He is an assistant managing editor at the Bloomington (Ind.) Herald-Times, the same paper where AAN’s publisher, Cory Bollinger, previously worked. Cindy was scheduled to retire months ago, but she placed her plans aside after the medical problems of publisher Dave Leone were suddenly discovered in late December. She stayed in the editor’s chair as Cory was named interim publisher and Dave lost his life. The first day for J.J. as editor is scheduled for Oct. 11. The paper’s had three different corporate owners, numerous publishers and several professional re-designs during Cindy’s time, but for the past 21 years the paper’s had just one editor. She followed two very different and very good newspapermen, Del Griffin and Harold Higgins, as editor, and in many ways she carried forward the best traits from each of them. Even with her departure growing near, she’s been scrambling between strategic plans and 2011 budgeting and conducting candidate endorsement interviews and getting the daily paper out seven times a week. The big press downstairs in the American News building will still rumble on October 8 when she’s gone, and she wouldn’t want it any other way.

An “F” in South Dakota history

South Dakota’s Republican U.S. senator, John Thune, is clearly thinking about running for president. How can we tell? He’s the cover boy profiled in the latest issue of The Weekly Standard political magazine. This is a coming-out party of sorts, and it’s easy to see where these false hopes can arise. Democrats can’t even field a candidate to challenge his re-election this year.

John however seems to forget from where he comes.

What was the key theme in his victory over U.S. Senate Democrat leader Tom Daschle just six years ago? That Tom was too much of a Washington, D.C., insider. What was the key theme when Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson knocked out Republican U.S. Sen. Larry Pressler in the 1996 election? That Larry was too much of a Washington, D.C., insider.  

For that matter, how did John’s political godfather, Republican Jim Abdnor, rise from the U.S. House of Representatives in 1980 and take down Democratic U.S. Sen. George McGovern, the 1972 Democratic presidential nominee? The Republican challenger in 1974, Vietnam War P.O.W. Leo Thorsness, certainly softened up George’s foundation in South Dakota during that year’s Senate contest. A popular political button from that era bore the slogan, “George McGovern does not speak for me.” Jim Abdnor, riding the Reagan wave of Republicanism after four years of the Carter White House, rolled over George McGovern in 1980 like so much liberal roadkill.

John Thune has the youthful appearance, the personal charisma and the political conservative belief system that a candidate would need to be a strong contender in the Republican presidential primaries and caucuses, but the record of legislative accomplishment would come up short in comparison to that of a candidate such as Newt Gingrich. On the other hand, President Barack Obama proved legislative accomplishment wasn’t necessarily a priority when he won the Democratic nomination two years ago. And John Thune certainly has a telegenic presence far beyond a George McGovern, Larry Pressler or Tom Daschle.

The John Thune running-for-president article comes from the same magazine that pointed out his campaign’s organizational difficulties in his 2002 challenge to Sen. Johnson, a race which Johnson survived by 524 votes. The Weekly Standard reporter, Stephen Hayes, writes in the current, very long article:

“John Thune is likely to run for president in 2012. If he wins the nomination, it will be because he is an exceptionally skilled retail politician who can communicate a kind of midwestern, common sense conservatism that is ascendant in reaction to liberal profligacy. It will be because of skills and values he learned in Murdo. 

“It also helps that he’s cultivated the nationwide donor base that gave him $14.5 million to defeat Tom Daschle in 2004. And that South Dakota borders Iowa. And that he’s good on television. And that he’s a devout Christian who can quote Scripture without seeming to proselytize. “

 By the way, Larry Pressler long ago briefly positioned to run for president. George McGovern ran again after both his 1972 presidential and 1980 Senate defeats. Tom Daschle already had the start of a campaign in place when he backed away and ran for U.S. Senate re-election instead in 2004. Now it’s John Thune’s turn at a White House state of mind. He better hope he wins. Because, if the pattern of history holds true again in South Dakota, his future with his home state’s voters has now taken a very serious turn.

An odd source of criticism about health-coverage lawsuit

Democratic governor candidate Scott Heidepriem said Friday during a health-care forum, “If elected, I will tell the attorney general he does not have the support of my office if he persists in suing the federal government.” Whether or not you agree with the decision by state Attorney General Marty Jackley and Gov. Mike Rounds to have South Dakota participate in the lawsuit against the federal government over part of the new health-coverage laws, the statement seems odd coming from the Sioux Falls lawyer. His firm handled the lawsuit filed against the State of South Dakota over public-school funding, and his law firm represented the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe in its lawsuit against the State of South Dakota seeking more slot machines for the tribal government’s casino.

Has the 2018 campaign begun?

Just why are state Attorney General Marty Jackley and state Public Utilities Commission chairman Dusty Johnson spending campaign money on TV ads? It’s unlikely many people can even name the Democrats running against the two Republican office-holders. Yet Marty’s up on the tube with his “running man” spot and Dusty’s having fun with his “elevator speech” ad.

Granted, Marty Jackley was appointed as attorney general by Gov. Mike Rounds after previously serving as U.S. attorney for the South Dakota district. So he might have a need to introduce himself to voters for the first time through a marketing campaign. Dusty Johnson was elected to the PUC in 2004 and is finishing his first six-year term. Johnson knocked off three-term Democratic incumbent Jim Burg in the ’04 race, in part because Jim maybe had become a bit complacent, and thus perhaps Dusty’s just being prudent this time and not taking a victory for granted.

Short of something highly unusual transpiring, the governor’s office likely will stay Republican this election, with Lt. Gov. Dennis Daugaard holding a wide lead over state Senate Democratic leader Scott Heidepriem. Rarely has a first-term governor been defeated for re-election in South Dakota, so if Daugaard wins this time there is a presumption he would hold office through 2018. If Attorney General Jackley and Utilities Commission Johnson indeed have higher office in mind, eight years is a long time to position for the Republican nomination.

As to their current Democrat opponents, Doyle Karpen of Jefferson is running for PUC and Ron Volesky is running for attorney general.

Because the nominations for attorney general and utilities commissioner are made at the political party conventions rather than through party primary elections, candidates for those offices haven’t needed to report yet on their 2010 campaign finances. The Jackley campaign reported raising $108,043 in cash from contributors in 2009 and finished the year with $107,300 cash on hand. The Johnson campaign reported raising $66,597 in cash from contributors in 2009 and finished the year with $99,543 cash on hand.

For comparison purposes, Johnson reported spending about $165,000 in his 2004 race, while then-Attorney General Larry Long spent about $313,000 on his campaign in 2002 and about $217,000 on his re-election effort in 2006.

North Dakota U.S. House seat still leaning GOP — and a lesson about the South Dakota House race

Democratic U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy continues to trail Republican challenger Rick Berg in North Dakota, according to the latest public-opinion survey of likely voters conducted for the Rasmussen organization. The results released today show Berg ahead 48 percent to 45 percent in the telephone survey of 500. Berg hasn’t trailed Pomeroy since the first polling for Rasmussen in February, but the race has fluctuated in the monthly surveys. The August numbers were Berg 53 percent, Pomeroy 44 percent. The July numbers were Berg 49 percent, Pomeroy 46 percent. In general Berg’s range has been 46 to 53 percent, while Pomeroy’s range has been 40 to 46 percent. That Pomeroy hasn’t broken 50 percent support is not a positive sign. Perhaps most troubling for him however is another set of numbers from the Sept. 20 survey that showed Pomeroy was viewed favorably by 49 percent and unfavorably by 48 percent. Berg’s numbers in that respect are 55 percent favorable and 37 percent unfavorable.

Another lesson in the North Dakota numbers has bearing on the South Dakota U.S. House race, where Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin has faced the same difficulty as Pomeroy in getting over the 50 percent support hump. Herseth Sandlin voted against the Democratic health-coverage legislation, while Pomeroy voted for it. The latest Rasmussen survey in North Dakota found 64 percent of those polled favored repeal at least somewhat including 49 percent who strongly favored repeal. Those aren’t far off the South Dakota numbers from Rasmussen’s September survey that found 63 percent favored repeal including 47 percent who strongly favor repeal. If Herseth Sandlin wins re-election while Pomeroy does not, that one vote might be the difference maker. The September Rasmussen poll had Herseth Sandlin ahead of Republican challenger Kristi Noem 47 percent to 45 percent.