South Dakota Politics
A University of South Dakota law student's blog dedicated primarily to shining light (either a harsh, unyielding spotlight or a soft, warm glow) on figures and institutions in South Dakota.

Saturday, July 12, 2003  

CLOSER TO THE LAST ELECTION THAN THE NEXT ELECTION: The state GOP chair hits the nail on the head with his analysis of Tom Daschle's ad campaign, as reported in today's edition of the Rapid City Journal by political reporter Denise Ross. Excerpt:

"He needs to run ads to give his career a little CPR. It's a pretty clear-cut case of damage control," South Dakota GOP chairman Randy Frederick said. "He's running the warm, fuzzy campaign ads, wrapping himself in anything that is popular because he's done himself political harm. These campaign ads are evidence that Daschle's ... in panic mode."

And further into the piece:

Republicans targeting Daschle for defeat believe that Daschle's biggest challenge will be to downplay his role as leader of the national Democratic Party and chief political adversary to President Bush. That, combined with criticism Daschle suffered in March after he railed against Bush's diplomatic efforts regarding Iraq, has pushed the senator's negative rating dangerously close to 40 percent, a mark campaign operatives consider nearly impossible to recover from, Republicans have said.

"He's taking a hard hit because people are focusing onwhat he's doing in Washington, and that is leading attacks against President Bush," National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Dan Allen said. "Clearly, Tom Daschle has realized that South Dakotans aren't pleased that his Washington values are far different from the values of a normal South Dakota family. He's probably seeing the same things we are in the polling. His unfavorables are very high."

South Dakota's Frederick points to equally early ad campaigns launched by Republican Sen. Larry Pressler in 1996 and by Democrat Sen. George McGovern in 1980. Both men lost their elections. As Frederick sees it, regaining "market share" is the only reason to run political ads so far in advance of an election, especially when the public is vocal about its disdain for such messages.

"An incumbent of Daschle's reputation, he's a household name. He doesn't have to run ads to increase his name ID," Frederick said. "Republicans are planning to work closer to the last election than the next election."

UPDATE: The Rapid City Journal posts an important correction to this story:

In a story on Page C1 of Saturday's Rapid City Journal, it was incorrectly reported that Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., is seeking his third term in the U.S. Senate. Daschle is seeking a fourth six-year term. He was first elected to the Senate in 1986.

In the same story, a quotation attributed to South Dakota Republican Party Chairman Randy Frederick was transposed. The quotation should have read: "Republicans are planning to work closer to the next election than the last election."

posted by Jason | 12:20 PM

Friday, July 11, 2003  

LETTER-TO-THE-EDITOR SPOTLIGHT: Don Thompson of Yankton submitted the following well-done letter to the Press and Dakotan:

It is 16 months until the November 2004 election, and Tom Daschle is starting his campaign ads as the lone savior of the ethanol program.

For too long we have read letters signed by people across the state, but obviously part of his centralized campaign. Before that, every time we turned on TV for the news, it was, "Call Senator Daschle and thank him for ... whatever."

On March 17, Sen. Daschle made the following statement: "I'm saddened, saddened that this president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to war. Saddened that we have to give up one life because this president couldn't create the kind of diplomatic effort that was so critical for our country."

And a recent letter to the Press & Dakotan called his statement an act of patriotism.

Honest dissent is one thing, but this was a cheap shot seeking political advantage if the war went badly.

Only public opinion forced the senator to say that the war in Iraq was justified even if no weapons of mass destruction were found.

Six months is long enough for a campaign -- not six years!

posted by Jason | 10:28 PM

THE ANDREW SULLIVAN MODEL: Here's Andrew Sullivan's classic blogging method in a nutshell, a method I try to emulate with my "Kranz Watch" feature:

Is anyone else a lttle perturbed that Howell Raines' first post-resignation interview will be with one of his best friends, a guest at his wedding, and another Southern liberal? Now, I love Charlie Rose; but I'll be watching tonight for signs that Charlie will disclose his close personal friendship with Raines; and that he asks the tough questions about the immense damage Raines inflicted on the NYT. That's called ethical, full-disclosure journalism.

posted by Jason | 7:05 PM

GOOD FOR A CHUCKLE: Recall the New York Times piece in yesterday's edition, which contained a quote from former Thune spokeswoman Christine Iverson: Democrats Design Agenda in Bid to Hold Hispanic Support. Today, publishes a report from Daschle Wants Hispanics in Government, Just Not Estrada. Excerpt:

"We believe that every Latino who wants to serve in government at the highest levels ought to have an opportunity to do so," [Daschle] stated. asked Daschle later if that opportunity would be extended to Miguel Estrada. The Hispanic attorney's nomination to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has been blocked for months by a minority of senators, composed entirely of Democrats, despite Estrada having the support of a majority of senators. Daschle tried to shift the blame for his party's actions back to Estrada.

"If Miguel Estrada is prepared to 'fill out his job application,' he would get a vote," Daschle said figuratively. "The problem is, as you know, on a five-page 'job application,' he's only filled out the first two pages."

There is no "job application" for federal judicial vacancies, but Daschle went on to explain what he meant by the analogy.

"He has been unwilling to be forthcoming about his background," Daschle explained, "[and] to release the documents that would give us a better understanding of his position on many issues."

I've always marveled at Tom Daschle's ability to mislead the people with easily digestible chunks of misinformation. The job application ploy is brilliant. But the fact is that the documents Tom Daschle wants are covered by the attorney client privilege. It's like having a job interviewer asking you inappropriate questions about confidential information.

posted by Jason | 6:54 PM


The Sunday shows will no doubt wallow in the attempt to stoke outrage over the State of the Union reference to African uranium, but the real outrage is in the Dems' blocking of malpractice reform, another instance of Daschle-led obstructionism that will cause fewer doctors to enter medicine and more to leave, thus raising costs and lowering quantity and quality of health care. The trial lawyers are happy, and the public is screwed. Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes on the showdown between doctors and plaintiffs' lawyers in today's New York Times, using Senators Frist and Edwards as representatives of both camps. Unlike the Niger forgery, this issue has legs, and not the sort that the Dems are going to like.

To see just how indebted Tom Daschle is to trial lawyers, click here.

UPDATE: The Hugh Hewitt piece is via reader Cory Skluzak.

posted by Jason | 6:17 PM

Thursday, July 10, 2003  

WORK ETHIC DEFINED: Christine Iverson, John Thune's spokeswoman during last year's Senate campaign, is keeping busy in her new position as spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. She was quoted in three articles from national publications today:

1) Democrats Design Agenda in Bid to Hold Hispanic Support

"This is a universe of voters that the Republican Party has long recognized as extremely important," Christine Iverson, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said, "and we as a party have been aggressively reaching out to Hispanic voters."

2) Democrats Question Bush's Credibility

"While the president is working to make our nation and our world more secure, the Democrats are making videos,'' said Christine Iverson, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.

3) Kerry Criticizes Bush on Education

Republicans rejected Kerry's criticism, arguing that the GOP "has made tremendous strides in the area of education,'' said Republican spokeswoman Christine Iverson. "Democrats know that and they're concerned about losing on an issue that has traditionally belonged to them.''

posted by Jason | 11:45 PM

Karl Rove reveals which Democratic candidate for president he's supporting. (Via Ryne McClaren)

posted by Jason | 1:02 PM

The Washington Post has a report this morning on Tom Daschle's ads:

Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) launched the first television ads of his reelection effort yesterday, with a spot touting his support for ethanol, the corn-based fuel additive that is big business in his home state.

"Tom Daschle is close to passing new energy legislation that would triple ethanol production in South Dakota," the announcer in the ad says. "Daschle's legislation could mean as many as 10,000 new jobs," said one of the corn growers testifying in the spot on the senator's behalf. "That's very important to the state."

It's also very important to Daschle's reelection, which is expected to be hotly contested. He doesn't officially have any Republican challengers yet. But former representative John Thune, who narrowly lost his bid last year to unseat Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), is expected to join the race. President Bush won the mostly conservative state in 2000.

The ad campaign, which cost $31,000, is scheduled to run for at least two weeks in Sioux Falls. The state GOP urged Daschle to pull the spots, saying, in a statement: "Tom Daschle should give us all a break from politics -- it'll be time soon enough."

Daschle's campaign manager dismissed the complaints, saying several conservative groups, including the Club for Growth, have already run ads this year criticizing the three-term senator.

"Republicans are going to complain about anything Tom Daschle does," said Steve Hildebrand.

posted by Jason | 7:58 AM

Wednesday, July 09, 2003  

DASCHLE'S "CLOUT": A few weeks ago, the New York Post reported that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was being touted by other lawmakers to become the Democratic Leader, if Tom Daschle doesn't run for re-election in 2004. Naturally, this story was not reported by David Kranz, the dean of South Dakota political reporters, although through the years Kranz has closely documented Tom Daschle's rise through the ranks. The NY Post story indicates that Hillary has her eye on the job, and I think that it indicates Tom Daschle may be vulnerable to being toppled from his position as Democratic Leader.

It is crucial to Tom Daschle's re-election efforts in South Dakota that he be seen as a key Washington power-broker. Indeed, that is the only reason that Republican voters cast their votes for him. It is a safe prediction that Tom Daschle will hammer voters with the message that he has "clout" and can deliver for South Dakota because he is the Senate Minority Leader as the 2004 election approaches. But Tom Daschle has sent this message before. During Tim Johnson's successful Senate campaign of 2002, Daschle and Johnson relentlessly drove home the message that a vote for Tim Johnson would keep Tom Daschle as the majority leader. Tim Johnson was constantly talking about South Dakota's "one-two punch" if he was re-elected and consequently kept Daschle as the majority leader. As we all know, this turned out to be a bad promise, because despite Tim Johnson winning, Tom Daschle was again relegated to the job of minority leader.

Byron York of the National Review reported on this with a column last winter entitled “Buyer’s Remorse” in South Dakota. In this column, York discusses a poll conducted shortly after Tim Johnson's victory:

After the election, pollsters retained by the GOP contacted 500 randomly selected people who had voted in the Senate race. The pollsters found that 17 percent of Republicans and independents said they voted for Johnson. To those people, the pollsters asked, "At the time, the Johnson campaign was saying that a vote for Tim Johnson was a vote to keep Tom Daschle as majority leader in the Senate. Thinking back, how important was the issue of keeping Tom Daschle as majority leader to you — was it very, somewhat, not very, or not at all important?"

Thirty-one percent of the Republicans and independents surveyed said it was a very important factor in their decision to vote for Johnson, and 37 percent said it was somewhat important.

Then the pollsters asked: "If you had known that because of what happened in other states that the Democrats would lose control of the Senate and Tom Daschle would no longer be majority leader, would you have still voted for Tim Johnson, or would you have voted for John Thune?"

The results are another indication of just how close the election was. Ninety-five percent of those surveyed said they still would have voted for Johnson. But five percent said they would have voted for Thune had they known Daschle would no longer be Majority Leader. That would be well over 1,500 voters — more than enough to make Thune the winner on Election Day.

As Tom Daschle begins sending out the message that South Dakota Republicans must re-elect him because he will retain his position as minority leader, that message will ring hollow in many Republican voters' ears. They'll remember the last time they heard this, and how events beyond their control (and Tom Daschle's) kept him from delivering the promised retention of his status as Majority Leader. Now that Hillary Clinton has her eye on Tom Daschle's job, it's possible that she could topple him even if he were to win re-election. South Dakota Republicans won't want to have another case of buyer's remorse.

posted by Jason | 9:47 PM

The AP reports on new developments with the Indian trust land fiasco.

posted by Jason | 8:55 PM

The Rapid City Journal publishes a correction to Denise Ross's report on Daschle's television ads:

A column on pages B1 and B3 of the Tuesday, July 8, Rapid City Journal incorrectly reported that South Dakota Republican Party Chairman Randy Frederick is president of a board of directors of a South Dakota ethanol plant.

Frederick had headed up the board at Glacial Lakes Energy, a limited liability company in Watertown, until earlier this year. Frederick resigned that position before he was elected GOP chairman in February.

posted by Jason | 8:43 PM

Roll Call reporter Chris Cilliza reports today on Daschle's new ad campaign. Excerpt:

Despite the lack of a formal announcement, Daschle is clearly gearing up for a Thune candidacy. He has raised money and established his grassroots infrastructure at a furious pace so far this year.

Daschle will show close to $3 million on hand in his July quarterly report, which covers contributions and expenditures from April 1 to June 30, sources close to the campaign said Tuesday. At the end of the first quarter, Daschle had $2.1 million in his campaign coffers.

In addition, he has a staff of more than 20, headed by Steve Hildebrand, who managed Sen. Tim Johnson’s (D-S.D.) narrow victory over Thune in 2002.

The Daschle team has shown a vigilance and willingness to attack Thune, primarily on his ties to several fundraising groups.

These rhetorical jabs likely influenced Thune’s decision last month to step down as chairman of South Dakotans for a Responsible Majority, a 527 committee. Democrats had protested that it was illegal for Thune to serve as the group’s chairman while maintaining an active federal campaign committee.

Daschle is attempting to duplicate — and improve upon — the ground operation that was largely credited for Johnson’s win in 2002.

Fifteen staffers are dedicated to field work and are split into several teams handling specific issues. In urban areas, a team is concentrated on
health care policy, and in more rural areas, campaign aides are talking to potential voters about ethanol-related concerns.

posted by Jason | 1:04 PM

The AP has a report on "Laci and Conner's law," a bill being proposed in the Senate that would allow attackers to be punished for harming or killing a fetus. The report steadfastly ignores the fact that a letter by Laci Peterson's mother has been sent to Tom Daschle, requesting his support for the bill, as reported by the Washington Times. Thus, no story will be generated by the local AP for distribution to local media like the Argus Leader, and it's a safe bet that David Kranz, the dean of South Dakota political reporters, won't report on this development. Accordingly, South Dakota bloggers must fill the void of information.

Blogger and full-time local radio talk-show host Greg Belfrage steps up and fills the void of information on this issue, with characteristically scintillating commentary:

Senator Daschle is between a rock and a hard place. Reasonable people support this legislation, including some pro-choicers. However, the militant pro-abortion crowd remains steadfastly opposed to it. They realize that such legislation will send a message that unborn lives have value.

Senator Daschle's ties to pro-abortion groups, such as the National Abortion Rights Action League, are well documented. Last November, Daschle sent an email openly begging for funds on behalf of NARAL. The email stated:

"If you and thousands of other pro-choice Americans like you don't act today by giving to NARAL's Save the Senate Campaign, the U.S. Senate could fall into anti-choice hands on November 6th - the first day after the election."

Senator Daschle has to choose. Will he join most common sense South Dakotans and support Laci and Connor's Law...or will he once again cave in to the militant pro-abortion agenda? This observer is watching closely.

As is this one.

posted by Jason | 12:48 AM

BEEF CHECKOFF UNCONSTITUTIONAL: The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed Judge Kornmann's ruling that the national beef checkoff program violates the First Amendment rights of cattle ranchers. As Howard Bashman observes, this makes beef more like mushrooms than like tree fruit. We discussed this case in our First Amendment class, and the professor really got a kick out of the Supreme Court's distinction between mushrooms and tree fruit.

posted by Jason | 12:12 AM

Tuesday, July 08, 2003  

DASCHLE DEMOCRATS SKITTISH? Word on the street is that the Daschle campaign had originally planned to do a much bigger television ad campaign than the one currently set to run for the next two weeks east of the river. Daschle had earlier planned to run ads both East River and West River for four weeks, but when a reporter got wind of it and began calling about it, the Daschle campaign decided to cancel the West River buy. The plan was to stick with the East River buy for the four week period, but now it is being reported that the ads East River will run for only two weeks. So the Daschle campaign started out with an ambitious statewide ad campaign plan, whittled it down to East River only, and then whittled it down further by cutting the East River buy in half. The evidence seems to indicate that the Daschle campaign is skittish about running ads so long before election day. One can see why they're skittish when a non-scientific online poll at the Argus Leader website, with the question "Is it too early for political ads for the 2004 election to run?" has 85% of respondents answering in the negative.

As further evidence of how skittish the Daschle campaign is with their ad campaign, it's interesting to see Daschle campaign manager Steve Hildebrand's response to Republican criticism from the chairman of the State Republican Party, as reported by Denise Ross today:

"Tom Daschle should give us all a break from politics. It'll be time soon enough, but for now, we just need a break," [State Republican Party chair Randy] Frederick said....

As president of the board at an ethanol plant, Frederick stands to become "thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars" richer under the legislation promoted in the ads and should not complain, Hildebrand said.

Leave it to the Daschle campaign to expect people to shut up when it might be financially advantageous to keep quiet.

Other publications are reporting on the Daschle ads. From The Hill:

Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle will launch a $31,000, two-week television campaign tomorrow promoting his work on an ethanol bill that supporters say would create jobs in South Dakota.

Republicans portrayed the ads, which will run on three Sioux Falls stations, as purely political. “South Dakota voters are looking for a rest period,” Minnehaha County GOP head R. Shawn Tornow said.

Tornow added that voters are focused on “the war effort, supporting the troops and the economy. They’re not terribly worried about Daschle’s political career.”

Daschle’s campaign manager, Steve Hildebrand, countered: “If the Republicans want us to talk about the economy, we’ll talk about the economy. This legislation would triple the use of ethanol in our country.”

And from the dean of South Dakota political reporters:

While the ad is paid for by the Daschle re-election organization, Steve Hildebrand, Daschle's campaign manager, says it should not be considered partisan.

"A major legislative priority for Senator Daschle is to pass legislation that would triple the use of ethanol and create over 10,000 jobs for people in this state," Hildebrand said from Sioux Falls.

In a nutshell, the Daschle campaign is warily trying to repair the damage done by Daschle's gaffes in the past six months by running ads long before the election and lashing out at critics with "embarrassing personal information" like being the president of the board of an ethanol plant.

posted by Jason | 10:05 PM

Denise Ross has a piece today about new Republican Party executive director Jason Glodt: New GOP director young, experienced.

posted by Jason | 1:01 PM

Monday, July 07, 2003  

I noticed the story on "Government Information Awareness" in the Argus Leader the other day, and it seems to be one of those stories that has captured the attention of the country. You can find the site here, and the dossier on Tom Daschle here.

posted by Jason | 7:39 PM

Steve Sibson provides an update on Kristi Stewart-Golden's crusade to have her guest column contribution to the Argus Leader editorial board published in an upcoming edition. It seems the editorial board has a case of the slows when it comes to publishing her column. Kristi was former Senator Larry Pressler's press secretary, and has a bone to pick with Argus Leader editor-in-chief Randell Beck's claim on a recent talk-radio show that Pressler "walked into a closet and stayed there." It turns out that story is false. Randell Beck probably can be excused for repeating this falsehood, since he didn't come to South Dakota until 2001, long after Pressler was defeated by Tim Johnson and left public life. Beck was obviously relying on what other people assured him were the facts. What would be interesting to know is who told Beck that falsehood as Beck prepared to go on the radio show.

posted by Jason | 7:28 PM

Sunday, July 06, 2003  

Dave Kranz gives a cursory report of Tom Daschle's ads that will run this week.

posted by Jason | 1:42 PM

The Argus Leader editorial in today's edition is a hilarious mish-mash of hemming and hawing about lawmakers' family members being lobbyists. Less equivocal was a 1995 Argus Leader editorial on the lobbying activities of the wife of Marianne Gingrich, wife of the House Speaker, for the Israel Export Development Company. Excerpt:

"The spouses of U.S. leaders should be held to a high standard: Not only should they avoid impropriety, they should avoid all appearances of impropriety."

posted by Jason | 1:40 PM

Last Thursday's Washington Times contained a report on the lobbying efforts of Laci Peterson's family to pass a bill that would criminalize the killing or injuring of a fetus. In particular, the family is lobbying Tom Daschle, saying that if Daschle were to announce his support, the bill would quickly become law:

"If you, as Democratic leader, were also to announce your support, I believe that the bill would quickly become law," Mrs. Rocha wrote to Mr. Daschle. "But without your support, the bill might be weighed down with controversial amendments on unrelated issues and other obstructionist tactics that could keep it from passing."
Mrs. Rocha confirmed in an e-mail that she sent the letter to Mr. Daschle.
Jay Carson, spokesman for Mr. Daschle, said his boss "believes that in crimes like this, there is more than one victim and the law should reflect that, as it already does in much of the country, including California and his home state of South Dakota."
Mr. Daschle, in a reply, wrote,"Like you, I believe Congress should take timely action to prevent these crimes and increase penalties for them." Mr. Daschle said he agrees with Mr. Frist that Congress should "consider this issue expeditiously."
Mr. Carson could not say definitively whether Mr. Daschle supports the legislation. Mr. Daschle was unreachable for comment at the time.

The reason Tom Daschle is equivocating is because the abortion-rights group NARAL strongly opposes the bill. It will be interesting to watch Tom Daschle's behavior as this issue develops. And it will be interesting to see if this story ever gets printed on the pages of the Argus Leader.

posted by Jason | 1:30 PM
Ungarnered Praise
Talon News Series on Argus Leader Bias