Nelson courts conservative groups in D.C.

Weiland endorsed by anti-nukes group

U.S. Senate candidate Rick Weiland was endorsed today by the Council For A Livable World, a group dedicated to opposing nuclear weapons.

I hadn’t heard of this group, but a little research suggests I should have. This isn’t just a vague statement of support — in the 2012 election cycle, CLW’s Candidate Fund spent $1.17 million on elections, mostly supporting Democrats.

Both Weiland and former Sen. Tom Daschle (previously endorsed by CLW) contributed quotes to the endorsement announcement.

"In a world where too many fight for profit and power, I am proud to stand with the Council for a Livable World in its fight for peace,” said Rick Weiland. “The Council believes the light of America’s freedom shines brightest to the world when it is not obscured by the fog of war, and so do I.”

“I’m glad to see Rick being endorsed by the same organization that supported me when I was running to represent the people of South Dakota in the U.S. Senate,” said Senator Tom Daschle. “I have known the Council and Rick for many years and I know they have a shared vision for an America that is safe and secure thanks to a common sense national security policy that meets the needs of the 21st century.”

Ex-Rep. Clint Roberts endorses Rounds

Clint Roberts, who served one term as congressman from South Dakota’s now-defunct western district, endorsed Mike Rounds today in a video released by the Rounds campaign.

Roberts won Jim Adbnor’s U.S. House seat when Adbnor entered the Senate, but almost immediately redistricting forced South Dakota to condense from one district to two. In a matchup against fellow Rep. Tom Daschle, Roberts came in second place.

UPDATE: There’s a connection here worth noting that slipped my mind at first. Clint Roberts is the father-in-law of Pam Roberts, the current South Dakota Labor Secretary, a longtime cabinet member and government official including under Rounds.

He probably doesn’t have much sway these days, but it’s still an interesting development and the kind of incremental move Rounds is trying to roll out on a regular basis.

Have any of South Dakota’s other former federal officeholders endorsed in the U.S. Senate primary? Daschle and Jim Abourezk are on board with Rick Weiland; I’m not sure if anyone else has picked sides.

Here’s the Roberts video:

Thune giving low-key support to Rounds’ senate bid

Earlier this year, Sen. John Thune suggested he’d likely stay out of a potential Republican primary for South Dakota’s other U.S. Senate seat.

But Thune is now taking public steps to boost one of those candidates, former Gov. Mike Rounds, as he faces off against three other contenders.

In recent months Thune has given Rounds money, introduced him to fellow Republican senators and says he’s likely to do more for the former governor’s campaign.

The support, Thune said, is because he believes Rounds is “a very viable candidate” who would help Thune’s goal of making sure “an electable Republican” wins the party’s nomination.

"My goal in this is to have an electable Republican come out of the process so we can get the seat back in 2014," Thune said.

Thune didn’t disparage any of the other candidates in the race. He gave advice to both Annette Bosworth and Larry Rhoden before they entered the race, and talked to Rep. Kristi Noem before she decided not to run. He hasn’t spoken to Stace Nelson, the most recent Republican to enter the U.S. Senate race. 

"I don’t discourage people from running," Thune said.

Rounds, though, was urged to run when the two men talked last year.

In a statement, Rhoden said he has “great respect for Sen. Thune” but is running for Senate because “people across all parts of South Dakota have encouraged me to run because they want a conservative leader who will stand up to the Obama Administration and the Washington establishment of both parties.”

Nelson, who will formally enter the race on Sunday, said he doesn’t “begrudge the good senator his rights to support any candidate of his choosing.” He argued he, or other candidates who are further right than Rounds, have “an excellent chance of being able to win in the general election.”

Bosworth could not be immediately reached for comment.

Thune’s Heartland Values PAC gave Rounds’ Senate campaign $5,000 in June. Rounds also got more than $40,000 from other members of the Senate in the second quarter of the year, something he chalked up to Thune’s introductions in Washington, D.C.

"In Washington, what we’ve learned is, unless you have the support of the other member of your party who’s already in Congress, the chance of actually getting endorsements or assistance from other members of the Senate is nearly impossible," Rounds said. "Without John’s endorsement and introductions it would have been very difficult to have obtained support (from Republican senators)."

In May, when asked if he would endorse in the Senate primary, Thune said it was unlikely.

"I have a hard time featuring a scenario where I would be in the middle of something like that," Thune told the Argus Leader editorial board.

This week, Thune said he wasn’t likely to be too vocal in his support for Rounds.

"I don’t intend to play heavily in the primary, but I also am going to do what I can to make sure we get to that ultimate goal," he said. "We’ll probably do some other things to help out (Rounds). But when it comes to a full-throated endorsement in the race, it probably remains to be seen. I’ll be sitting and watching very carefully how this thing emerges."

Rounds said he understands why Thune hasn’t been more vocal.

"He’s done his best not to try to appear publicly as a promoter of my candidacy, so much as offering approval of my candidacy," Rounds said. "I think that’s good, because if you want to run for the office, you should do it on your own terms."

Bob Burns, a retired South Dakota State University political science professor, said Thune’s low-key approach to supporting Rounds seems to make sense.

"He’s following a good strategy in having a low-profile level of support for Mike Rounds," said Burns. "Of all the announced Republicans to date for the Republican nomination, Mike Rounds is the most electable and viable."

But Burns said there is the potential for backlash against Thune from South Dakota Republicans who aren’t fans of Rounds.

"I am a bit surprised, however, he would thrust himself in the middle of a Republican primary," Burns said. "It usually has a lingering effect and could erode some of his support within the Republican ranks."

That support, however, is extensive. A May poll by Nielson Brothers Polling found just under 90 percent of South Dakota Republicans approve of John Thune’s job performance.

Noem, South Dakota’s other Republican members of Congress, is remaining neutral in the Senate race after deciding not to run herself.

"It wouldn’t surprise me if a member of Congress decided to stay neutral, because they really have very little to gain by coming out and creating any kind of animosity among other members of the party," Rounds said.

Noem won’t endorse Rounds pre-primary

Kevin Woster of the Rapid City Journal today confirms what was implied by yesterday’s Kristi Noem announcement: the congresswoman won’t be endorsing Mike Rounds for U.S. Senate.

Woster quites Noem’s chief of staff:

"Kristi is not planning to endorse in the primary," Stoick said by email. "In making her decision not to run, Kristi also decided it is best for her to stay focused on her work in the House and not get involved in the primary."

Rounds did endorse Noem for U.S. House, though Rounds isn’t in office right now, which is arguably a different situation.

Daugaard endorses Rounds for Senate

"I don’t think this should be a surprise," Gov. Dennis Daugaard tells The Daily Republic, and indeed I’m not even sure to what degree it’s new information. Daugaard has always been supportive of Rounds and consulted with him prior to Rounds’ Senate announcement. But this may be the first time Daugaard has been recorded as explicitly saying he’s backing Rounds in the 2014 Senate primary, though this has clearly been a fact for a long time.

Of course, Daugaard and primary endorsements have a history of their own. Will the governor get any significant backlash from endorsing Rounds, as he did when he dipped his toe into legislative primaries?

Another paper cut for Gant

Secretary of State Jason Gant hasn’t had a good month.

Dating back to late May, Gant’s endured a handful of minor incidents (I don’t want to use the word “scandal,” which is probably too strong), none of which are (yet, at least) terribly damaging, but each of which has chipped away a little at Gant’s reputation.

First came Gant’s endorsement in a (losing) legislative primary race, which infuriated conservative Republicans but didn’t (unlike Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s primary endorsements) stir up many defenders of Gant’s action.

Other people questioned Gant’s decision to validate Rep. Brian Gosch’s petitions despite questions about how they were notarized.

Then came concerns about Gant’s employee Pat Powers, a former blogger and entrepreneur whose entrepreneurial activities continued part-time while Powers was employed by the Secretary of State. It’s unclear if Powers broke any laws or even any best practices, but he and Gant are under investigation by Attorney General Marty Jackley at the request of Powers’ old rival, Sen. Stan Adelstein. This investigation could lead to nothing, or could lead to a bigger headache for Gant and Powers.

As regards Gant’s official duties, a new campaign finance system drew mixed reviews when he unveiled it for the primaries. The system replaces an old, antiquated model with a new, capable website. But the rollout was sort of clunky, and some lawmakers said their reports had delays in posting even though they filed them on time. Others worried candidates were gaming the system to hide donations and expenditures until after the election. Gant’s now investigating delayed filings and will presumably improve the system when all candidates convert to it for the fall election. But it definitely could have gone more smoothly.

Now today, reporter Bob Mercer writes that Gant’s own consulting corporation appears to have had fictitious information in the corporate registry at Gant’s office — information that got fixed after Mercer started poking around online. Gant says this was just a mistake involving his staff uploading dummy information, and this may just end up being a minor embarrassment for the secretary of state.

But altogether, Gant is undergoing a sort of death-by-paper-cut. Nothing has irrevocably tainted Gant’s image and reputation, but I bet he’d sure look forward to a few months of good news right about now.

The Noem endorsement

Earlier, I reported on furor over the endorsements of Rep. Val Rausch by Gov. Dennis Daugaard and Secretary of State Jason Gant. There was also a third statewide GOP bigwig who endorsed Rausch in that primary that the Speaker of the House lost to Sen. Tim Begalka: Rep. Kristi Noem.

Here’s the postcard in question, originally posted by Cory Heidelberger at Madville Times:

"Not only is Val Rausch a good friend, but he’s a serious legislator who cares deeply about his state and his district. — Congresswoman Kristi Noem"

I’ve gotten more than a few emails and comments from people angry over that, so reached out today to Noem’s office for a statement.

Her communications director, Andrea McCarthy, sent this in response:

Kristi and Val are good friends and served on the leadership team together in Pierre. He asked Kristi for a statement for a mail piece and she wanted to help him out because of their personal friendship and past work experience.

That answers one of my questions: this was a statement Noem provided directly to Rausch for this primary, not an old quote from a past election he dredged up. Noem and Rausch served together in the House Republican leadership for several years, while Noem and Begalka did not overlap in the Legislature.

McCarthy said Rausch was the only candidate Noem endorsed, and only because Rausch requested it. (That was the same story I heard from Gant — he only endorsed Rausch, an old friend, and only because Rausch asked for it.)

Begalka said he was “a little upset” over Noem’s statement at first, even removing his Kristi Noem bumper sticker from his car and replacing it with a Kristie Fiegen sticker. But he said he has since “got over it.”

Begalka said he still believes the endorsement was inappropriate, but predicted supporters who similarly got angry about Noem’s endorsement of Rausch wouldn’t hold it against her for long — especially since those conservatives would all prefer Noem to Democrat Matt Varilek.

"If she had a primary… this might hurt her," Begalka said.

Is Begalka right that this will blow over?

The value of polling

In the comments for my earlier post on what else Gov. Dennis Daugaard has provided to the candidate he’s endorsed, “Grumpy” raises a question:

So far I am not seeing the in-kind contributions these people recieved from the Governor being reflected properly on their pre-primary reports????

Is it because it was paid for by taxpayer monies or???

If it was paid for by the Daugaard Campaign, what do they have to hide? Law says they must declare the in-kind receipt of goods or services, clearly expensive polling is services they received.

The second question is easy: it was paid for by the governor’s campaign funds.

I put the other questions to Tony Venhuizen, Daugaard’s senior advisor who was also the governor’s campaign manager in 2010.

Venhuizen said providing polling data doesn’t count as an in-kind contribution to these lawmakers campaigns because “the Daugaard campaign didn’t incur any additional cost by sharing it.” The primary value of the polls, Venhuizen said, was to Daugaard himself. Value to the legislative candidates was secondary.

EDIT: Here’s a link to Daugaard for South Dakota’s campaign finance data so far this year. The new campaign finance system is having all sorts of problems, so take it with a grain of salt.

Whether that was the campaign’s true motivations or not is impossible to determine. But as a matter of law, it seems about right. Do people disagree?

What if Daugaard had endorsed the other guys?

There’s been widespread outrage in certain segments of the South Dakota Republican Party over Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s endorsements of five candidates in competitive primaries.

My story in today’s Argus Leader reported on a press conference by two of those ticked-off Republicans. It featured two types of criticisms of the endorsements, which I feel are pretty representative:

  • It’s inappropriate for a governor to intervene in a primary at all
  • By picking the less conservative candidates in primaries — including some candidates critics say aren’t really conservative at all — Daugaard is betraying the principles of his party

So here’s my hypothetical: if in each of these five races, Daugaard had endorsed the OTHER candidate, what would the reaction have been?

In other words, had Daugaard endorsed Lora Hubbel, Tim Begalka, Phil Jensen, George Ferebee and Bob Ewing, would conservative activists still be criticizing Daugaard on the grounds that a governor shouldn’t be endorsing?

Maybe some would. But my bet is that most would be praising the governor for supporting the right (no pun intended) side in an ideological war.

Similarly, would establishment Republicans be suggesting that maybe the Tea Party-backing Bizarro Daugaard really should stay neutral in GOP primaries? I’m betting some would.

Some people really care about process. Most people just use process as an argument, when convenient, to bolster their preferred political or policy outcomes.

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