Home > South Dakota > Will South Dakota be the spotlight in a political corruption scandal for the US Senate and SD Governors race

Will South Dakota be the spotlight in a political corruption scandal for the US Senate and SD Governors race

October 31, 2013

scales-of-justiceThe big political news in South Dakota was reported by the Mitchell Republic yesterday with an eye-catching title: ‘Misconduct’ at state office was under investigation prior to former official’s death. This investigation revolved around alleged misconduct by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) before Duagaard took office in 2011. The Mitchell Daily Republic sheds a light on the connection between this investigation that has been going on and a recent death:

The body of Richard Benda, 59, who oversaw the GOED as state secretary of tourism and development from 2006 to 2010, was found Oct. 22 in rural Lake Andes. The death is still under investigation, but authorities have said Benda died of a gunshot wound.

According to the story Governor Daugaard released this statement yesterday:

“Earlier this year, I became aware of alleged misconduct, prior to my administration, at the economic development office,” Daugaard said in the statement. “I asked the state Attorney General to investigate and provided all relevant materials to him. There has also been a federal investigation. I refer any further questions regarding the investigations to the Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney.

At this point I would like to highlight the fact Daugaard said “prior to my administration” in his statement. That is ‘trueish’. The prior Governor was current US Senate candidate Mike Rounds. Daugaard was the Lieutenant Governor during the Rounds administration. It is too early to know if this story will blow up into a full-blown scandal. If this does become a full-blown scandal it will be hard for Daugaard to disconnect himself from it since he was a part of the administration in question. Plus pointing too hard at Rounds will potentially kill the Senate campaign.

The other big news from this story is the fact that Brenden Johnson is involved in the investigation. Here are some snippets from the Argus Leader story by David Montgomery:

Daugaard referred all further questions to Attorney General Marty Jackley and U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson.

Johnson said he “can’t confirm or deny the existence of any federal investigation” despite statements by Daugaard and Jackley that it exists, citing his office’s policies and ethical guidelines.

If Benda was related to the investigation, his death wouldn’t necessarily halt it. Speaking in general terms, Johnson said in some cases investigations continue even if the central figure dies during the process.

Even though Johnson won’t admit to being a part of the investigation, the circumstantial evidence seems to point towards his involvement. I concur with Mr Heidelberger at the Madville Times when he connects the dots of Johnson working on this case and choosing not to enter the US Senate race. This could be the big story for the 2016 election (assuming it is too late for Johnson to enter any 2014 race when this investigation is done). If this story becomes a full-blown scandal and Johnson is spearheading this investigation it will make him a tough opponent to beat for Senator Thune’s Senate seat. That is a big ‘IF”, but I would say it is likely. I wonder if that possibility would change Thune’s motions towards running for President?

When more information actually becomes available I will post more. Right now there is honestly too little information available to analyze the situation. It will be interesting to see if Rounds or Daugaard are involved in this potential scandal and how that will impact their support from DC special interest groups. It will also be interesting to see if this investigation will turn Brendan Johnson into a political powerhouse. Finally I would be interested to know if whispers of DCI misconduct also ring true. It is definitely looking like 2014 will be an interesting campaign season! We may see South Dakota highlighted for the wrong reasons in the Mainstream Media (they are going to love a Republican political corruption story!)

  1. Merlyn Schutterle
    October 31, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    If you want to get Daugaard in a sticky spot, email me. mschutterle@hotmail.com

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