Fallout from impeachment billboard campaign continues

Legal complaints about the billboards have been submitted to the Secretary of State’s office and other elected prosecutors.
(Dakota News Now)
Published: Mar. 15, 2022 at 6:59 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PIERRE, S.D. - A billboard campaign pushing for the impeachment of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg has come under intense scrutiny since its unveiling.

The billboards target political rivals of Governor Kristi Noem, who have become associated with the impeachment inquiry in way or another.

The lawmakers targeted are Speaker Spencer Gosch (R-Glenham), Rep. Jon Hansen (R-Dell Rapids), Jamie Smith (D-Sioux Falls), Scott Odenbach (R-Spearfish), and Steve Haugaard (R-Sioux Falls). All but Odenbach serve on the committee considering the impeachment of Ravnsborg. Odenbach consulted briefly with the Attorney General in the days following the September 2020 crash.

The billboards were rolled out in the Sioux Falls area on March 12th, and paid for by the “Dakota Institute for Legislative Solutions.” That group, which launched on March 7th, said in it’s initial announcement that they were founded to “generate support for Governor Noem’s agenda.”

“Right now, we have a budget of $800,000 for this calendar year with an additional $1.5 million for the next two years following,” wrote Rob Burgess, Executive Director of the Dakota Institute in a release announcing the formation of the organization. Burgess has not responded to several requests for an interview about the organization.

Governor Noem’s campaign and office have both denied having any involvement with the organization.

“In no way, shape, or form, is Kristi for Governor, anyone on our team, or the Governor involved with, controlling, or directing the Dakota Institute,” said Kristi for Governor Campaign Manager Joe Desilets.

But publicly and privately, state lawmakers have questioned the sincerity of that claim. Among those questioning that are Gosch, who filed a complaint about the organization and the advertisement with the Secretary of State’s office Tuesday.

A complaint was also submitted to the Minnehaha State’s Attorney office. State’s Attorney Daniel Haggar told Dakota News Now that he could not comment on the billboards due to “ongoing investigations.” Haggar could not say which agencies were behind the investigation, or whether his office was involved.

You’ve got the telemarketing campaign, she said she wasn’t behind that either, now you’ve got this billboard campaign,” Gosch said. “This mysterious company that just wants to help Governor Noem... You are going to say that is completely unrelated to her?”

Gosch and other lawmakers on the impeachment committee believe that the billboard advertisements violates South Dakota Codified Law 12-27-16.1, which states that political advertisements must include the disclaimer “this communication is independently funded and not made in consultation with any candidate, political party, or political committee.” If the communication does not include a candidate, than the statue states that the organization must list it’s 5 largest donors over the course of the last year.

The billboard advertisements do neither.

“None of us wants to be here, none of us would wish this (impeachment) on anybody,” said Rep. Odenbach. “We all want to take it seriously and not be constantly pressure one way or another by anybody.”

Despite the pressure campaign, lawmakers and impeachment committee members are confident in their ability to complete the process.

“We are dealing with what we are dealing with,” said Rep. Smith. “People get tired of it and I hope that they know that this is not everyone’s normal.”

The full State House will consider whether or not to impeach Ravnsborg on April 12th.

Copyright 2022 Gray Television. All rights reserved.