SEPTEMBER 12, 2022

South Dakota Democrats Continue to Lead the Way on Government Accountability

Sioux Falls – Though small in number, Democrats in Pierre continue to lead the way on accountability in South Dakota government. Here’s how Democrats have fought for a more open and transparent government: 

Democrats Rep. Ryan Cwach and Rep. Jamie Smith were the only votes on the House Select Committee on Investigation Committee to recommend the impeachment of former Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg. 

Argus Leader: “The decision was not unanimous, however. The two Democrats on the committee, Reps. Jamie Smith, D-Sioux Falls, and Ryan Cwach, D-Yankton, issued a minority report in which impeachment is recommended.”

AP: “The two Democrats on the nine-member committee issued a minority report that recommended [Ravnsborg] be impeached.”

While most Republicans eventually came to their senses and voted to impeach Ravnsborg, throughout the process Democrats were often the lone voices calling for accountability.

As the investigation by the South Dakota ethics board into Kristi Noem’s potential ethics violations continues, Rep. Jamie Smith called for a special prosecutor for the case.

Argus Leader: “​​In his statement, Smith said because Attorney General Mark Vargo had been appointed by Noem, he should recuse himself from the investigation. ‘I have always known Attorney General Vargo to be a hard-working and honest public servant,’ Smith said. ‘However, his appointment by the governor calls into question the neutrality of his office.’”

Rep. Jamie Smith’s request for a special prosecutor led to Attorney General Vargo recusing himself from the investigation. 

Keloland: “In a news release sent out Friday, acting Attorney General Mark Vargo announced the supervision of the investigation and any charging decisions will be undertaken by Jessica LaMie, the Hughes County State’s Attorney.”

In addition, Democratic Senator Reynold Nesiba was the first to question potential ethics violations regarding Gov. Kristi Noem’s use of the state plane. 

Argus Leader: “Democratic Sen. Reynold Nesiba asked Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, who is tasked with issuing legal opinions to lawmakers, to open an investigation into whether Noem used state-owned airplanes for ‘personal use, out-of-state political campaigning, and attending partisan political events,’ in a letter dated Wednesday.”

AP: “‘It does look like there’s been personal use, as well as political use,’ Nesiba said of the Republican governor’s flights.’”

While Kristi Noem and her Republican colleagues are stretching ethical and legal boundaries (and in Jason Ravnsborg’s case, getting impeached), Democrats are delivering results on transparency and accountability in government.