When we talk of cronyism in South Dakota, unfortunately, thoughts turn to not only the U.S. Senate, where Democrat Tim Johnson’s son Brendan Johnson was named U.S. attorney for the district of South Dakota after the election of President Barack Obama, who is a Democrat. There is also the memory of the man whom Brendan Johnson replaced: Republican Marty Jackley. What then-Gov. Mike Rounds did for Marty Jackley doesn’t excuse what was done for Brendan Johnson. Nor does it excuse what some poeple think is about to happen — that Tim Johnson won’t seek re-election on the 2014 ballot and Brendan will run in his stead. Nor does what was done for Brendan Johnson excuse what was done for Marty Jackley.
What was done for Marty Jackley involved the governor appointing Larry Long as a circuit judge in Sioux Falls. Larry Long stepped down as state attorney general for that appointment. In turn the governor appointed Marty Jackley as attorney general. Marty Jackley had been U.S. attorney before that. He was officially elected as attorney general in November 2010 with 66.9 percent of the vote while Democratic challenger Ron Volesky got the other 33.1. And if the calendar pages are flipped farther back in time, there was the appointment by Gov. Rounds of former state attorney general Mark Barnett to a circuit judgeship.
That was after Mike Rounds defeated Mark Barnett and former Lt. Gov. Steve Kirby in the 2002 Republican primary for governor, followed by Mark Barnett immediately tapping his donor base to assist Mike Rounds in the general election campaign that year. The not-very-secret plan at the time was that Gov. Rounds would eventually name Circuit Judge Mark Barnett to the state Supreme Court, but circumstances eventually made that politically nigh-impossible, because Judge Barnett lived in the wrong Supreme Court circuit for the vacancy that became available.
All I have to say is this: Crony doesn’t seem an appropriate word to describe Tim Johnson, Brendan Johnson, Marty Jackley, Mike Rounds, Larry Long or Mark Barnett. But if someone is going to call cronyism for one set of players, then they should call cronyism for all of them. It’s a tight-fitting shoe indeed.