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.

Thursday, September 18, 2003  

BOMBSHELL: Recall the current brouhaha with the Air Force leasing air-refueling tankers from Boeing, a transaction many observers are calling a sweetheart deal using taxpayer dollars to fatten Boeing's bottom line. Early last summer, Linda Daschle, who is a lobbyist for Boeing, was probed by the New York Times for her possible involvement in the deal. This story failed to appear in the pages of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader the next day, and the AL was roundly castigated by many, including me, for failing to report on this development, as it was seen as another example of the AL refusing to cover stories that placed Tom Daschle in an unflattering light. But that same day, the NYT issued a correction to the story probing Linda Daschle, stating the following:

An article in Business Day yesterday about opposition to a Bush administration plan to lease air refueling tankers from Boeing referred incorrectly to the company's relationship with Linda Daschle, wife of the Senate minority leader, Tom Daschle. She is a lobbyist for Boeing on commercial aviation issues only, not on military-related matters.

(emphasis added). Randell Beck, executive editor of the AL, seized on this correction and wrote an editorial the following Sunday defending his decision not to print the story, and castigating his critics (me, as well as others) as "fanatics" who "just refuse to let the facts get in the way of a good story." Key excerpt from Beck's June 16, 2003 column:

First, I explained, Linda Daschle has been a lobbyist for Boeing since 1998. Second, while she is a member of a well-known schmoozing firm, she doesn't lobby the Senate. Third, when she does go to bat for the airplane manufacturer, she handles commercial, not military, issues. She's not involved in the contract. And finally, while we can debate the propriety of a powerful lawmaker sharing living quarters with a powerful lobbyist, nothing has changed since this newspaper last published a story about her job. No news.

(emphasis added).

Last week, I discovered that, according to 2001 year-end lobbying report found on, Linda Daschle had indeed worked on military issues for Boeing in the past. According to the 2001 year-end lobbying report, Linda Daschle worked on "H.R. 3338, P.L. 107-117, Department of Defense Appropriations and Emergency Supplement." This fact contradicts the NYT correction stating Linda Daschle "is a lobbyist for Boeing on commercial aviation issues only, not on military-related matters."

Here's the bombshell: it turns out that "H.R. 3338, P.L. 107-117," the bill Linda Daschle worked on for Boeing according to the document, is none other than the VERY BILL AUTHORIZING THE AIR FORCE TO LEASE TANKERS FROM BOEING! The following is the relevant text from the bill:

Sec. 8128. Multi-Year Aircraft Lease Pilot Program. (a) The Secretary of
the Air Force may, from funds provided in this Act or any future
appropriations Act, establish a multi-year pilot program for leasing general
purpose Boeing 767 aircraft in commercial configuration.

(b) Sections 2401 and 2401a of title 10, United States Code, shall not
apply to any aircraft lease authorized by this section.

(c) Under the aircraft lease Pilot Program authorized by this section:

(1) The Secretary may include terms and conditions in lease
agreements that are customary in aircraft leases by a non-Government
lessor to a non-Government lessee, but only those that are not
inconsistent with any of the terms and conditions mandated herein.

(2) The term of any individual lease agreement into which the
Secretary enters under this section shall not exceed 10 years,
inclusive of any options to renew or extend the initial lease term.

(3) The Secretary may provide for special payments in a
lessor if the Secretary terminates or cancels the lease prior to the
expiration of its term. Such special payments shall not exceed an
amount equal to the value of one year's lease payment under the lease.

(4) Subchapter IV of chapter 15 of Title 31, United States
Code shall apply to the lease transactions under this section, except
that the limitation in section 1553(b)(2) shall not apply.

(5) The Secretary shall lease aircraft under terms and
conditions consistent with this section and consistent with the
criteria for an operating lease as defined in OMB Circular A-11, as in
effect at the time of the lease.

(6) Lease arrangements authorized by this section may not
commence until:

(A) The Secretary submits a report to the congressional defense
committees outlining the plans for implementing the Pilot Program. The
report shall describe the terms and conditions of proposed contracts and
describe the expected savings, if any, comparing total costs, including
operation, support, acquisition, and financing, of the lease, including
modification, with the outright purchase of the aircraft as modified.

(B) A period of not less than 30 calendar days has elapsed after
submitting the report.

(7) Not later than 1 year after the date on which the first
aircraft is delivered under this Pilot Program, and yearly thereafter
on the anniversary of the first delivery, the Secretary shall submit a
report to the congressional defense committees describing the status
of the Pilot Program. The Report will be based on at least 6 months of
experience in operating the Pilot Program.

(8) The Air Force shall accept delivery of the aircraft in a
general purpose configuration.

(9) At the conclusion of the lease term, each aircraft
obtained under that lease may be returned to the contractor in the
same configuration in which the aircraft was delivered.

(10) The present value of the total payments over the
duration of each lease entered into under this authority shall not
exceed 90 percent of the fair market value of the aircraft obtained
under that lease.

(d) No lease entered into under this authority shall provide for--

(1) the modification of the general purpose aircraft from the
commercial configuration, unless and until separate authority for such
conversion is enacted and only to the extent budget authority is
provided in advance in appropriations Acts for that purpose; or

(2) the purchase of the aircraft by, or the transfer of
ownership to, the Air Force.

(e) The authority granted to the Secretary of the Air Force by this
section is separate from and in addition to, and shall not be construed to
impair or otherwise affect, the authority of the Secretary to procure
transportation or enter into leases under a provision of law other than this

(f) The authority provided under this section may be used to lease not
more than a total of one hundred aircraft for the purposes specified herein.

(g) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act or any other
provision of law, the President shall have the sole authority to reprogram,
for any other defense purpose, the funds authorized by this section if he
determines that doing so will increase national security or save lives.

Randell Beck and the NYT have been suckered. Either that, or I have been suckered by But I think the smart money is on If I were Randell Beck, I'd be pissed off enough to launch a full-scale investigation. I think the final nail in the coffin is this report from the US Navy. Key excerpt:

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a member of the Armed Services panel, has complained about a $21 billion deal that would allow the Air Force to lease 100 air tankers to replace its aging fleet since it was first included in the fiscal 2002 defense appropriations bill (PL 107-117). He says it is a sweetheart deal for the Boeing Co. that would cost taxpayers more than an outright purchase of the planes.

(Emphasis added). Now the big question is: will this revelation ever make it into the pages of the Argus Leader, or for that matter, into the hallowed pages of the New York Times? Heaven knows it should.

posted by Jason | 11:18 PM

Wednesday, September 17, 2003  

Charles Krauthammer's latest piece in Time Magazine is a must-read: What Makes The Bush Haters So Mad?

posted by Jason | 11:09 PM

THE AL NEUHARTH DEMOCRATIC MEDIA CENTER: Next week at USD, there will be a deluge of local and national media big-shots, as well as politicians, on campus to celebrate the dedication of the Al Neuharth Media Center. If you get the opportunity, come on down to watch media figures and politicians reveling in all of their incestuous hubris. CNN anchor Judy Woodruff and Senator George McGovern will be there, among others. I'm sure David Kranz, the dean of South Dakota political reporters, will make an appearance.

Since the Al Neuharth Media Center is adjacent to the law school, I frequently cut through the main hall, to find what can only be described as a shrine to Democratic political figures like George McGovern and Tom Daschle. Images of Tom Daschle flicker across suspended television screens. There are even huge banners with the images of Tom Daschle and George McGovern. No banner with the image of Larry Pressler or George Mickelson or Bill Janklow can be found, despite the fact that each of these Republicans were dominant and beloved political figures in the state. There is no better illustration of the coziness between the big media and the Democratic party.

UPDATE: For more info on the Neuharth Media Center, click HERE.

posted by Jason | 9:30 PM

Be sure to read the High Plains Observer blog, which has interesting commentary and links posted on a daily basis lately.

posted by Jason | 8:59 PM

SENATOR JOHNSON HAS NO CLOUT: Senator Johnson, one of the energy bill conferees appointed by Tom Daschle, takes the opportunity to amplify his displeasure at not being part of the discussion in this AP report. Gee, what happened to the "one-two punch in terms of clout for the state of South Dakota that frankly we've never had before," mentioned so often by Johnson last year during the campaign?

posted by Jason | 8:52 PM

JANKLOW ACCIDENT UPDATE: The AP reports that Congressman Janklow is back in Washington. Mike Madden, the Argus Leader's Washington correspondent, offers more details.

posted by Jason | 8:37 PM

INTERESTING NOTE: Ethan Wallison, the Roll Call reporter who published a recent story on the Abourezk v. lawsuit, is the son of Peter J. Wallison, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and former White House Counsel to President Reagan.

posted by Jason | 4:30 PM

DASCHLE CRITICIZES VEEP'S FAILURE TO DISCLOSE; FAILS TO REFLECT ON OWN: The AP is reporting that Tom Daschle is demanding full disclosure of Vice President Dick Cheney's deferred salary payments he receives from Halliburton, an energy services company Cheney once headed. Excerpt:

Daschle, D-S.D., said in his statement, "The Vice President needs to explain how he reconciles the claim that he has 'no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind' with the hundreds of thousands of dollars in deferred salary payments he receives from Halliburton. I hope he will clarify this discrepancy as soon as possible."

Since Tom Daschle is now in the business of demanding full disclosure of a politician's personal finances, he should set an example and stop refusing to release his own tax returns.

FLASHBACK: The Powerline blog crystallized the matter months ago.

posted by Jason | 12:58 AM

Tuesday, September 16, 2003  

ARE THE LIBERTARIANS COMING TO SD?: The Free State Project, a group of committed libertarians who plan to band 20,000 people together and move to a sparsely populated state, are nearing their October 1 vote to choose which state will become the destination of a libertarian migration. South Dakota is one of the states under consideration, but it looks like New Hampshire might get the nod, as the governor has indicated he'd love to have them. According to one report Wyoming is also in the running.

You can find other stories on this interesting development HERE, and other blogs that link to the Free State Project's website HERE.

posted by Jason | 8:29 PM

BEWARE THE MISQUOTE: Professor Volokh points out that the story in yesterday's Roll Call regarding the Abourezk v. lawsuit contained a misquote. When one of the better reporters in the country manages to misquote a source, it makes me wonder how often this occurs in the pages of the Argus Leader.

posted by Jason | 11:09 AM

Monday, September 15, 2003  

HAVING IT BOTH WAYS: The Hill's Alexander Bolton reports that Senator John McCain will block Tom Daschle's appointment of campaign finance reform opponent Robert Lenhard to the FEC. Daschle essentially fired the old commissioner, who had vigorously supported campaign finance reform, and replaced him with someone seen as an opponent to campaign finance reform. Excerpt from the Bolton story:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who led the charge to pass campaign finance reform last year, plans to block the nomination of labor lawyer Robert Lenhard to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

McCain charges that the Democratic nominee would undermine the new law, now being reviewed by the Supreme Court.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) nominated Lenhard, the associate general counsel for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), last month....

Campaign finance insiders see Daschle’s and Pelosi’s support of Lenhard as an attempt to wriggle their party free from the strictures of McCain-Feingold, which many Democrats view as a major obstacle to their chances of regaining power....

“I’m bitterly disappointed in Nancy Pelosi and Tom Daschle, that they would appoint someone opposed to campaign finance reform,” said McCain. “It’s a bitter pill.”

Welcome to Tom Daschle's world, where having it both ways on controversial issues has been raised to a new level, even for politicians.

UPDATE: A reader points out that Tom Daschle's son Nathan once was a lobbyist for AFSCME, which is also Lenhard's old employer.

posted by Jason | 11:55 PM

ABOUREZK V. PROBUSH.COM UPDATE: "Abourezk is a traitor to the First Amendment, at the very least." That's University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds' take on the Abourezk v. lawsuit. The lawsuit was instigated by the inimitable former Senator James Abourezk of South Dakota, who just happens to have been Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle's mentor/patron. The good professor also posts an excerpt of a story in today's edition of Roll Call entitled Abourezk Sues Over ‘Traitor’ List. Professor Reynolds has also generously linked to SDP regarding the lawsuit, for which the thanks of a grateful blogger are extended.

For more background info, turn to the report of Jeff Gannon at Talon News, which can be found HERE. Jeff Gannon also recently had a report on Senator Abourezk's involvement in a gay-baiting tactic regarding former South Dakota Senator Larry Pressler during the 1996 Senate campaign, which calls to mind a tactic used last year in Montana's Senate race.

posted by Jason | 5:17 PM

Today's edition of the Washington Post has a story entitled Next Year's Senate Races Giving Both Parties Reason to Worry. Excerpt:

The situation suggests that Republicans will keep control of the Senate, but casts doubt on whether they will expand their majority sufficiently to take commanding control of the Senate, according to several independent analysts.

On balance, "I'd rather be in the Republicans' shoes, but, with the Senate this close, you can't give up too many opportunities," said Jennifer Duffy, who analyzes Senate races for the Cook Political Report. "If Republicans could have capitalized on all the potential opportunities out there, they could have put themselves in the position of picking up three or four seats. Now, they're only in a position to pick up one or two seats."

Stuart Rothenberg, another independent analyst of congressional politics, figures Republicans could have picked up five or six seats if they had recruited their top-choice candidates. But now, he said, they seem to be looking at a gain of one to three seats.

The Republican and Democratic campaign committees acknowledge some setbacks but insist their respective parties are well-positioned to pick up seats.

Dan Allen, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said the committee "feels good" about eight seats now held by Democrats, including Democratic leader Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.), who may be challenged by former representative John Thune. Thune narrowly lost a Senate race last year.

posted by Jason | 1:59 PM

Sunday, September 14, 2003  

GOOD TO BE BACK IN SD: Well, after a whirlwind weekend in Chicago, I'm back in Vermillion. I must say, even after spending only 3 days away, it's still good to see the "Welcome to South Dakota" sign in North Sioux City. Anyway, blogwise, the weekend has been eventful, because UCLA law professor Volokh linked to SDP Friday evening regarding the Abourezk v. lawsuit.

Also on Friday, the NYT published a story entitled Democrats Complain of Exclusion From Talks on Energy Bill that leads one to ask: where's Tom Daschle's clout? Excerpt:

"To this point, they have not sought involvement of Democrats at all," said Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California and a member of the conference committee that is supposed to reconcile the House and Senate energy bills. "The Republicans are talking among themselves."

The dispute intensified today as Senator Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico, the Republican who is chairman of the conference, said he and Representative Billy Tauzin of Louisiana, the Republican who heads the House Energy and Commerce Committee, would hammer out preliminary agreements on various elements of the voluminous and contentious measure. They intend to begin releasing those agreements for review and comment on Monday.

posted by Jason | 8:45 PM
Ungarnered Praise
Talon News Series on Argus Leader Bias