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.

Friday, October 17, 2003  

Tom Daschle was in Seattle recently, whining about the partisanship in Washington, DC to Joel Connelly, a Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist who dutifully carries the minority leader's water in a column today: The national unity so recently ours has vanished. But of course Tom Daschle isn't guilty of partisanship to Connelly's mind, and naturally Connelly conveniently omits examples of Tom Daschle's hard-driving partisanship. The column is chock-full of priceless quotes from Tom Daschle, the most priceless being the following:

Daschle sees another difference. The current administration is backed by what he calls "an infrastructure of attack" to keep critics off balance.

"The Wall Street Journal editorial page, the Drudge Report, the Washington Times, Fox News, they have an infrastructure that allows them to follow through with this approach," he said. "We have not seen this before."

I almost snorted milk out of my nose at that one this morning. Tom Daschle has seen an attack infrastructure before, he's just never seen it mounted against HIM. The Democrats have had an attack infrastructure for decades to keep conservative critics off balance, namely the New York Times editorial page, CBS, NBC, CBS, CNN, and of course, taxpayer-funded NPR. Locally, Tom Daschle has his old college chum David Kranz, the dean of South Dakota political reporters, doing what Joel Connelly does today.

For just one prime example of Tom Daschle's partisanship, conveniently ignored by Joel Connelly, click HERE.

posted by Jason | 7:50 AM

Thursday, October 16, 2003  

Rapid City Journal political reporter Denise Ross has an interesting report out entitled GOP reaches out to Indians.

posted by Jason | 9:57 PM

TERRORIST TAUGHT AT USD?: J. Bottum, a native South Dakotan who writes for the Weekly Standard, has a great book review in First Things of the historian Richard Pipes' latest book, The Degaev Affair: Terror and Treason in Tsarist Russia. In the book, Pipes tells the story of a Russian revolutionary who, on December 16, 1883, murdered Georgii Sudeikin, the all-powerful head of the Tsar’s secret police, and somehow ended up teaching mathematics at the University of South Dakota. Excerpt from Bottum's review:

The specifics of this fairy tale set at the University of South Dakota revolve primarily around a Russian revolutionary named Sergei Degaev. That is, of course, an unlikely combination. St. Petersburg is a long way from Vermillion, and Degaev was, as it happens, an astonishingly slippery triple agent in Tsarist Russia who somehow managed to escape death despite doing such normally suicidal things as betraying to his fellow revolutionaries the names of the police agents to whom he had just betrayed his fellow revolutionaries—among whom were several police agents masquerading as revolutionaries.

It's quite fascinating stuff, and the best part is that Richard Pipes will be at USD on November 5 to discuss the book.

UPDATE: Bob Mercer, Governor Janklow's former spokesman and now a journalist covering state government and politics, also wrote a great review of the book, which appeared in the Weekly Standard this past summer.

posted by Jason | 9:34 PM

ZELL MILLER CRITICIZES DASCHLE IN NEW BOOK: Like Tom Daschle, Senator Zell Miller, Democrat from Georgia, has a book coming out soon. The book is entitled A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat. In it, Miller criticizes Daschle's performance in the 2002 campaign, and implicitly criticizes Linda Daschle, a powerful Washington lobbyist. Today's edition of Roll Call has an article about the book entitled "Miller Fires Away." Priceless excerpt:

As for Daschle, Miller writes that he likes him as a person, but he places some blame on the South Dakota Democrat for Sen. Max Cleland’s (D-Ga.) defeat in 2002. Miller contends that Cleland lost because Daschle refused to allow the Senate to approve legislation creating the Homeland Security Department before the elections.

While noting that the South Dakotan did not campaign for Cleland, Miller asserts his presence was still felt.

“Unfortunately, he did send his own personal albatross of partisan wrangling on homeland security just weeks before the election for Senator Max Cleland to wear around his neck like the ancient mariner in the Coleridge poem,” Miller writes....

Washington’s money game quickly turned Miller off, and now he questions whether it is moral for a spouse of a Member to work as a lobbyist.

“Now I have nothing against spouses working — mine has held jobs most of our fifty years of marriage,” Miller writes. “But as a lobbyist? Seeking to influence legislation? Give me a break. Talk about ‘gathering ye rosebuds while ye may.’ It gives a new meaning to ‘pillow talk.’ I cast no aspersions on the ones who do this, nor do I doubt their honesty. But in a business where ‘perception’ is just about the same as ‘reality,’ it looks suspicious as hell. It looks like someone’s riding the gravy train. It does not pass the smell test.”


posted by Jason | 12:26 PM

A USA Today article offers a fascinating glimpse into South Dakota politics, particularly the fundraising activities of some of the state's corporate elite, such as Tom Everist, Kelby Krabbenhoft, and Steve Kirby: 'Bundling' contributions pays for Bush campaign. Excerpt:

Everist fits the description of an ideal bundler.

He built up a fourth-generation family business that quarries stone and sells ready-mix concrete, in South Dakota and across the country. His company helped build Washington's Dulles International Airport and has operations throughout the Midwest and West. He has made connections as head of the state Chamber of Commerce, a member of the local hospital board of directors and a Sioux Falls economic-development board, as well as from his involvement in Republican politics. His wife, Barbara, was the state Senate majority leader....

"I went through my list of people who I figured would be inclined to help out," Everist says. "I called them and said 'I'm asking you to join Barb and myself to support the president with early money.' I got 80% to 90% of the people I called to say 'yes' " to a contribution of $1,000 or $2,000, he says.

He did it by calling people such as Mark Griffin, the president of a regional chain of 25 drugstores that sell everything from prescriptions to lawn mowers. The two have served on boards and gone to the same fundraisers. But Griffin says he's not a diehard Republican. Indeed, Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Senate's Democratic leader, once filmed political ads in Griffin's office.

There is no better illustration of the weird dynamic of contemporary South Dakota politics. I have friends who say they will vote for President Bush in 2004 while simultaneously voting for Tom Daschle, which Mark Griffin seems likely to do. To me, that's incoherent, but there it is. The piece continues:

Another entry in Everist's database is Steve Kirby, an investor and former lieutenant governor of the state. Everist called him and asked for a contribution, as Kirby had done to Everist on occasion.

"We essentially trade checks, and it was his turn to call me," Kirby says. Loyal Republicans, he and his wife, Suzette, each gave $2,000....

Everist once served on the board of Sioux Valley Hospitals & Health System, the city's main hospital; his wife is currently on the board. That was the connection for at least $7,000 in contributions from hospital CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft, his wife, Heidi, and surgeons Gary Timmerman and John Vanderwoude.

There are personal friends as well, such as Mark Graham, owner of a packaging company, and his wife, Pat, whose children carpooled with the Everists. Another friend is Larry Ness, president of First Dakota National Bank. "Tom called and said, 'Our goal is $100,000, and I want to get it over and done with. Help us out here,' " Ness recalls. "So I said yes."

"Tom is involved in nearly everything in the community and is very generous," Thune says. "He can ask people because he is the first person people come to for support for community or civic or political fundraising projects. He knows the people who are likely to be supportive, and he's the kind of person who can make the ask."

posted by Jason | 7:37 AM

Wednesday, October 15, 2003  

It looks like the AP's Jack Sullivan got an advance copy of Tom Daschle's book: Daschle describes two years in Congress as 'Like No Other Time'. Excerpt:

Bush's refusal to consider drought assistance - and his failure to address the issue during a late summer campaign stop in South Dakota - probably helped Sen. Tim Johnson win re-election in a close race against then-Rep. John Thune, Daschle said.

"Thune's message to South Dakota was, 'Elect me, and I will have the ear of the President himself.' Yet having the President's ear didn't seem to matter," Daschle said.

That's true. But on the other hand, Tim Johnson's message that electing him was tantamount to keeping Tom Daschle as majority leader ended up not mattering either.

posted by Jason | 9:58 PM

Reuters is reporting that Access Hollywood anchor Pat O'Brien is mulling a gubernatorial run in South Dakota as a Democrat opposing Governor Mike Rounds: TV's Pat O'Brien Eyeing South Dakota Governorship. O'Brien is kidding himself. Does he realize Governor Rounds is more popular than God in this state? Does he realize this state would never elect a liberal Democrat for governor in a million years? South Dakota tends to have a philosophy of sending its big spenders (liberal Democrats) to Washington, and its frugal spenders (conservative Republicans) to Pierre. Not even someone as full of himself as Pat O'Brien (you should see how he behaves at the bars during USD's homecoming weekend) could overcome that. That said, I hope Pat O'Brien runs. It'll be entertaining to watch Mike Rounds kick his ass.

posted by Jason | 9:50 PM

KEN STARR AT USD: Ken Starr will be speaking at USD tonight at 7:00 in Slagle Hall. It's free, so be there if it's possible.

posted by Jason | 2:52 PM

ENERGY BILL UPDATE: The New York Times has a report today entitled Pet Projects Flood Energy Bill Before Crucial Wednesday Session. Excerpt:

The Senate Democratic leader, Tom Daschle, said on Tuesday that he had "warned the leaders in both the Senate and the House that they are precariously close to losing support on our side for energy legislation because of the reckless way with which they've negotiated the bill itself and for many of the provisions that may be included in the end."

But Mr. Daschle, a chief promoter of the plan to aid corn growers by increasing ethanol production, would not say whether he was willing to filibuster the measure if it had objectionable provisions along with the ethanol plan.

Broad measures like the energy bill can present difficult choices for lawmakers who have only an up-or-down vote on a final proposal that can include elements that they do not like coupled with one or two that are extremely dear to their hearts. Republican lawmakers and aides drawing up the plan have made no secret of their strategy to incorporate projects sought by lawmakers to build methodically a majority for the proposal and make certain that they can overcome any filibuster.

Tom Daschle wrote a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago saying he would never trade ANWR drilling for an ethanol provision. The Argus Leader had this report on the energy bill in yesterday's edition, in which Senator Tim Johnson, a conferee on the energy bill, complains about being shut out from negotiation. So much for the "one-two punch in terms of clout for the state of South Dakota that frankly we've never had before."

posted by Jason | 11:54 AM

Tuesday, October 14, 2003  

WORDS TO LIVE BY?: The AP's Jack Sullivan is reporting: Daschle spent $1 million on re-election since June. Excerpt:

In August, [Daschle] interspersed his annual, monthlong driving tour of the state with campaign events and fund-raisers, joking at one stop that "only the paranoid survive."

Tom Daschle's self-confessed paranoia is an interesting facet of his political life. He was also quoted in a June 24, 2001 article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune as saying "I've admonished my own family, staff and friends that only the paranoid survive--and I think you've got to be sufficiently paranoid in any race." It makes you wonder if this guy has an enemies list.

posted by Jason | 8:22 PM

GETTING OUT THE BUZZ: It looks like The Hill's Albert Eisele has been tasked with getting out the word on the "controversy" in Tom Daschle's book due out November 4: 'Never lie to me': Bush to Daschle.

posted by Jason | 7:55 PM

From the New York Times Magazine is a story quoting Tom Daschle on creating liberal institutions and think-tanks in response to conservatives: Notion Building. Excerpt:

The need to imitate the tactics and the discipline of the right wing is now discussed obsessively at liberal and leftist strategy sessions and dinner parties, and leading Democrats see Podesta's think tank as a command center for a new left-wing conspiracy -- a progressive group that is, for once, both well financed and willing to get as mean as the opposition. Among them is Tom Daschle, the Senate minority leader and the highest-ranking Democrat in the land, who has been known to complain bitterly about the influence of right-wing commentators. Daschle was among a small group who plotted with Podesta for more than a year to establish American Progress.

''They have a dozen think tanks, and we have none,'' Daschle said during a conversation in his Capitol office. ''We don't come close to matching their firepower in the media.''

When I asked if the Democrats might also be struggling for lack of compelling new ideas, Daschle shook his head.

''I don't worry,'' Daschle said. ''The recent polling data suggests that with all of this imbalance and all of this reach and all of this power that the right has today -- in media, in think tanks and on the radio and with the White House -- with all of that, on many of the issues the American people care the most about, Democrats are now leading. It's very encouraging to us.''

Don't come close to matching their firepower in the media? The liberals have NPR when it comes to radio, they have CBS, NBC, ABC, and CNN for television, and the NYT, nothing less than the nation's newspaper of record. Give me a break.

posted by Jason | 1:58 PM

SDP is's Political Site of the Day.

posted by Jason | 11:57 AM

DASCHLE SPENDS $1 MILLION OVER SUMMER: Today's edition of Roll Call has a report entitled "GOP has few options in S.D." Excerpt:

Without a high-profile opponent, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.)
spent more than $1 million over the summer in one of the earliest starting
and most aggressive re-election campaigns in the country.

With potential opponent former Rep. John Thune (R-S.D.) still mulling the
race, Daschle raised about $1.3 million in the third quarter and ended the
period with just more than $3 million in the bank, according to the
Senator’s campaign. More stunning was the $1.15 million spent in the
quarter, funding an early television campaign launched in July as well as a
pricey direct-mail operation and sophisticated field program involving 20
workers going door to door....

For now, Thune is taking an approach that Daschle can’t hurt what he can’t
hit — as long as Thune isn’t an official candidate, Daschle can’t go
negative against him. “If he gets in the race right now, he’s going to get
attacked,” one GOP strategist in Washington said.

As one Republican in South Dakota described Daschle’s current situation,
“They can’t spend their millions beating [Thune] up every day.”

I talked to an insider over the weekend who said Daschle's numbers are stuck, despite the huge expenditure over the summer. Folks, he's in trouble.

posted by Jason | 9:31 AM

The Washington Prowler has a report entitled "Blue Daschle" indicating some Democrats are concerned that Daschle isn't focused (scroll down a few paragraphs after clicking on the link). Excerpt:

The Republicans don't have a candidate to seriously challenge him, but Sen. Tom Daschle remains a concern among Democratic Party officials, who say their leader in the Senate is showing increasing signs of not having his heart in a campaign....

"We're worried about him," says a DNC political staffer. "If Daschle's heart isn't in this, and if he doesn't have the right people helping him, this could be long year for us. We need him focused and ready to get down and dirty. He doesn't look like he's ready at all for that."

posted by Jason | 9:23 AM

Monday, October 13, 2003  

DASCHLE VOTES TO REPEAL ELEMENTS OF BUSH TAX CUT: Christine Iverson, John Thune's former spokeswoman, and currently the spokeswoman for the RNC, gets quoted in the Hill today in a story entitled Rollback vs. tax cut hike appearances matter for Democratic hopefuls.

Christine Iverson, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said all the Democrats’ plans “have one thing in common. They all want to raise taxes. It’s just a question of who wants to raise taxes higher. It’s an argument that we would love to have with the Democrats any day.”

Elsewhere in the same story:

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), whose support of the tax cut last year helped her win reelection by a narrow 52-48 margin, voted for Biden’s proposed rollback of tax cuts to pay for military operations in Iraq.

She was joined by Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), who opposed the original Bush tax cuts and later efforts to repeal them, saying there was not sufficient support for doing so. Daschle first stated that position when he was considering running for president, at a time when Bush’s popularity was considerably higher. It was the first time Daschle, who faces a tough reelection fight this year, has voted for repealing elements of the Bush tax cut.

So Daschle originally opposed efforts to repeal the Bush tax cuts, and now is voting for repealing elements of the Bush tax cut. He's having it both ways again, isn't he?

posted by Jason | 10:28 PM

An interesting story on the gun issue from Fox News has recently been put up on the network's website: Analysts: Gun Control a Non-Issue in 2004.

posted by Jason | 10:20 PM

Ron Volesky, a former Democratic candidate for state attorney general, is exploring the possibility of legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes in South Dakota: Former legislator exploring marijuana ballot measure.

posted by Jason | 4:18 PM

Sunday, October 12, 2003  

The New York Times has a report today entitled Republicans Run From Risk in Some Senate Fights. Excerpt:

Republicans considered able to knock off seasoned Democrats like Mr. Reid, Tom Daschle in South Dakota, Byron L. Dorgan in North Dakota, Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas or Patty Murray in Washington have ruled out a race or are still thinking it over.

In South Dakota, former Representative John Thune, a Republican who lost last year in a squeaker to Tim Johnson, is weighing a run against Mr. Daschle, but cannot afford to lose again....

"We had some states that didn't fall into place," said Dan Allen, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "But over all, we are in a position where we are going to be on offense and the Democrats are going to be on defense."

Many analysts agree and give the edge to the Republicans in terms of holding their slim majority. But if there is any more slippage, the pressure will be on potential candidates like Mr. Thune to step up for the good of the party, a plea that can be difficult to resist if it comes from the White House.

posted by Jason | 3:46 PM
Ungarnered Praise
Talon News Series on Argus Leader Bias