Virginia based corporation behind Ravnsborg impeachment calls

A corporation named the Government Integrity Initiative (GII) was behind the telemarketing campaign aimed at state lawmakers serving on the select committee considering the impeachment of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.
(Austin Goss DNN/KOTA)
Published: May. 23, 2022 at 6:37 PM CDT
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PIERRE, S.D. - A Virginia based corporation helped finance and facilitate a telemarketing campaign aimed at pressuring lawmakers to impeachment Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.

That is according to multiple sources familiar with the situation, who say that constituents in the districts of certain state lawmakers targeted by the telemarketing campaign were supposed to hear the disclaimer “paid for by the Government Integrity Initiative (GII).” More than 50 people who received the phone calls say that the disclosure, required by federal law, was not heard at the end of the call.

In February, state lawmakers on the House “Select Committee on Investigation,” tasked with considering the impeachment of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, began receiving calls from constituents in their districts about impeaching Ravnsborg. Those calls came as a result of constituents being patched through by an Ohio-based call center, Grand Solutions Inc.

A voicemail obtained by Dakota News Now/KOTA Territory News appeared to incriminate Governor Kristi Noem as being involved in the telemarketing campaign. In the voicemail, Angel Kane, a manager at Grand Solutions, can be heard explaining to call center employees that “the governor is actually involved” in the campaign. Noem has denied on multiple occasions being involved in the campaign.

Jonathan Petrea, a spokesperson for Kane, said at the time that no “politician, political campaign, party, or political organization” facilitated the calls, but refused to disclose who did.

According to a filing with the Virginia State Corporation Commission, GII was incorporated in April 2021 by Christopher Marston of Arlington, Virginia. As of April 30th, the company’s annual report is past due. As a result, their entity status with the Corporation Commission is listed as “pending inactive.”

According to his LinkedIn, Marston serves as the head of “Election CFO,” a political consulting company also based out of Arlington. Additionally, Marston serves as a part-time partner at Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig, an area law firm. Marston is also active in the Virginia Republican Party, having served as chair of the Arlington GOP chapter recently.

Marston attended the state GOP convention earlier this month, where Governor Kristi Noem was a keynote speaker.

Marston did not respond to several requests for comments on this story.

The legislative committee tasked with investigating matters around impeachment referred further investigation into the robocall scheme to the South Dakota Attorney General’s office.

“That is an open investigation, and as such our office will not make any comment regarding it,” said Chief of Staff Tim Bormann.

The call campaign was one of several tactics used to mount public pressure on House lawmakers to impeach Ravnsborg.

“There have been a few attempts to use dark money to influence the official work of the legislature,” said House Speaker Spencer Gosch (R-Glenham). “I am confident that the authorities will investigate further into this matter and that the truth will be revealed.”

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