Sad News. Long-time right hand to South Dakota Governors, Jim Soyer passes away

From the SoDak Governors Blog, Former Chief of Staff and member of the Board of Regents Tony Venhuizen eulogizes fellow former Chief of Staff Jim Soyer, who passed away yesterday:

Jim Soyer, a former chief of staff to Gov. Bill Janklow and longtime Governor’s Office staffer, has passed away.

Jim Soyer was, to my knowledge, the longest-tenured employee in the history of the South Dakota Governor’s Office. With only a couple of short interruptions, he served in the Governor’s Office in various capacities from 1979 to 2015.


One rule in particular always stayed with me: “Always do the right thing, and don’t consider the politics. Once you’ve decided what to do, politics will help you decide how to explain it and achieve it. But never let politics stop you from doing the right thing.”

Read the entire post here.

Please keep Jim’s family in your prayers.

PUC Commissioner Gary Hanson announces this term is his last

From an article in the Argus Leader, PUC Commissioner Gary Hanson has announced that his current term is his last:

Gary Hanson had been attending to the affairs of his father, as well as his duties on the PUC, this summer.

Next year will mark his 20th year on the PUC, having won a new six-year term in 2020. And when that term is over, Hanson said he is done with political office.


All told, Hanson has run in 18 elections, including primaries, runoffs and general elections. He hasn’t lost one of them.

“Politics is my life,” he says.

Read the entire article here.

I’ve said before that 2026 is going to be the biggest year in politics that we’ve seen in a decade or two, and that continues to hold true.

“Ripple Effect” group recruiting candidates for legislature & other offices, also said to be recruiting precinct people for GOP takeover. Good reminder that the world is run by those who show up.

Had a lot of chatter and tips this week that seems to circle back to an organization I’ve recently written about, the Patriot Ripple Effect Group/Political Action Committee based out of Sioux Falls. The group is chaired by Adam Broin, with former Minnehaha GOP Chair Dave Roetman serving as treasurer and main contact for the committee.


I’m told that new Sioux Falls at-large city council candidate Bobbi Andera is a very politically conservative recruit of this group in one of their first forays into finding candidates. She is running to take on incumbent Janet Brekke for one of the at-large Sioux Falls City Council spots. (City Council race watchers should also be aware that word is also that a not-so-hard-right candidate with broad based support will also be getting in the race.)

But even more interesting, I’m also being told that this race was NOT Andera’s first choice. I was told last night that she was originally recruited to run in a primary election against State Representatives Sue Peterson and Richard Thomason in whatever ends up as the reconfigured District 13 legislative district. And that information was in the wild as much as 2-3 months ago, and the switch to City Council is only a very recent development.

The word is that the intent was to try to take out Thomason because there are those who view him as not being one of the hard right members of the Sioux Falls legislative delegation. And the group has eyes on replacing several incumbents they see as not following their dogma.

Where are they coming from in philosophy? You might say that it is reflected by the Ripple Effect’s participation in the anti-incumbent rally this summer.. not to mention the COVID anti-vax protest they recently helped sponsor across the street from the Sanford Hospital.

Now that brings me up to this afternoon. In conjunction with tracking down some calls being made by one of the leaders of this group in the race for AG, I’m told that the Patriot Ripple Effect group is ALSO recruiting for Republican Party precinct positions in hopes of influencing candidate selection.

While legislative races are selected in primaries among Republicans in the population at large, this push for precinct people is a very big deal for Constitutional office candidates; those offices from Lt. Governor down through Public Utilities Commission, as those delegates are the ones who directly select those offices at the State Republican Convention which will be in Watertown next June.

In recruiting for precinct slots, with enough people they could hold sway over who wins the contested races at the next Republican Convention. Which at the moment are currently Attorney General & Commissioner of School & Public Lands.  But, there could be more in this environment of political conflict.

The number of precinct people I was given was that they may be hoping to recruit was around 250 precinct people statewide to help forward their agenda.

With precinct people, that group can also further influence races, as party committee precinct people are the ones who make the replacement selections if legislative candidates drop out of running during the election cycles. Of course, wielding that influence also continues in races in late 2022/early 2023 for county party officials.

It’s hard to guess whether the group is going to gain any traction or influence.

But, unless you are looking for the state legislature to turn into a complete sh*t show like the Rapid City School Board, it’s a good reminder.

If you want to be represented by the best candidates with broad-based support, the world is ran by those who show up.

So be a part of the solution for good government, and make sure you’re showing up. Volunteer, vote, and even better, give running for office a try.

Your community will be far better off if you do.

Guest Column – The Pandora Papers: Puff and Point

The Pandora Papers: Puff and Point
by Thomas E. Simmons

A tenured professor at the University of South Dakota School of Law, Thomas Simmons concentrates on trusts, estate administration, and the estate tax. Prior to joining the legal academy, he was a partner with the law firm of Gunderson, Palmer, Nelson & Ashmore, LLP

Since Monday, there has been a buzz – to put it mildly – relating to the trust administration industry in South Dakota. The leaking of 11.9 million private financial records was very big news and it’s reverberating around the globe.

Let me say that again: eleven-point-nine-million financial records. How much data is that?

Simmons is a professor at the University of South Dakota’s Knudson School of Law and concentrates on trusts, estate administration, and the estate tax. Prior to becoming an academic, he was a partner with the Rapid City law firm of Gunderson, Palmer, Nelson & Ashmore, LLP.
I think it’s fair to guess that some financial records are more than just one page long. Let’s say on average – conservatively – a financial record comprises three pages. (The records include a variety of documents; emails, spreadsheets, contracts, etc.) At three-pages each, that amounts to 35 million pages.

A full set of the Encyclopedia Britannica is about 32,000 pages. So, that’s 1,093 sets of encyclopedias worth of leaked documents.

I don’t know about you, but – despite my ambitions as a young person – I never finished reading our family’s encyclopedia set. (We had the World Books at our home, which are a slightly easier read than the Encyclopedia Britannica.)

I never completed even a single volume, although I made it partway through “L” if I recall correctly. If a person could finish reading a full set of the Encyclopedia Britannica at the near-maniac speed of six months, at that rate, it would still take over 500 years to sift through the entire Pandora Papers. Maybe you delegate the task to 100 persons; that way it would only take five years.

The project to bring the Pandora Papers to light reportedly engaged 150 news organizations, and you would need that kind of workforce to make even a small dent within a reasonable period of time – otherwise the information would be too stale to be newsworthy. And some of the information is too stale to be of much interest as it goes back to as early as the 1970s.

My point is this: It’s a lot of documents. An almost unmanageable volume of documents. The Washington Post refers to it as a “massive trove.” They’re not kidding.

Nevertheless, journalists have somehow managed to summarize them for the public. What do they show?

Thus far, the Pandora Papers journalism has identified several bad actors who have utilized trusts. There are, for example, indications that a Cambodian antiquities dealer named Douglas Latchford used trusts to traffic in looted cultural artifacts. The Department of Justice caught up to him and he hadn’t utilized a South Dakota trustee but rather a trust company in Jersey (one of the Channel Islands off the coast of France). Latchford died last August.

For trusts administered in South Dakota, there are accusations, too. The journalists list 30 South Dakota trusts holding shares in companies which have been accused of “corruption, human rights abuses or other wrongdoing.” That’s a concern, and one which should be taken seriously by professional trustees and government regulators of trust companies alike. But it’s also important to note what the allegation says – and what it doesn’t say.

The allegation is that some trusts administered in South Dakota hold shares in companies which have been accused of wrongdoing.

My friend owns shares in Volkswagen AG, a Germany company not just accused of wrongdoing, but guilty of violating the Clean Air Act by fraudulently manipulating emissions test results (the “diesel dupe”).

I personally used to hold some shares in Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., an American company not just accused of wrongdoing, but actually guilty of an account fraud scandal of such staggering proportions that it generated a $3 billion dollar fine. (That’s billion – with a “b.”)

Those are examples of some pretty serious corporate wrongdoing and not mere allegations. Now, I could just as well own some Wells Fargo shares in trust, let’s say a college-savings trust I’m managing for my children’s future college costs. I’m pretty sure that would not make the front-page news.

There are some points in the Pandora Papers journalism which are emerging as concerns that deserve attention and perhaps even regulatory reforms. But, at least so far, there’s also quite a bit of puff. With such an enormous stack of documents, perhaps there are more serious concerns to come.

Or perhaps not.

These are the views and opinions of the writer and not those of the University of South Dakota, its Knudson School of Law, or the South Dakota Board of Regents.

Flags at Half-Staff in Honor of Victims of Kabul Terrorist Attacks

Flags at Half-Staff in Honor of Victims of Kabul Terrorist Attacks

PIERRE, S.D. – Governor Kristi Noem has ordered that flags be flown at half-staff statewide, effective immediately, until sundown on Monday, August 30, 2021, in honor of the American servicemembers and other victims killed in the terrorist attacks in Kabul, Afghanistan on Thursday, August 26, 2021.

“My thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Afghanistan – Americans and Afghans alike. My heart breaks for the families who lost loved ones and friends today and those who were injured in these attacks,” said Governor Kristi Noem.


Rep. Howard “considering” Congress for few weeks until her already planned announcement.

It’s a bit anti-climactic by now, but as I’d heard from Dakotafest and as noted on-line today, apparently State Rep. Taffy Howard is making little secret that she has already scheduled her announcement for Congress:

With that as a clearly confirmed fact by Taffy herself, the claim of “considering” and “exploring” the race as noted in her speeches and media interviews seems a bit silly.

Americans for Prosperity Taps Long-Time South Dakota Grassroots and Policy Leader as Regional Director

Americans for Prosperity Taps Long-Time South Dakota Grassroots and Policy Leader as Regional Director

SIOUX FALLS, SD – Americans for Prosperity today announced its promotion of long-time South Dakota legislative leader, Don Haggar. Previously leading the charge as state director of Americans for Prosperity-South Dakota (AFP-SD), Haggar brings extensive knowledge and a rolodex of legislative accomplishments to his new position where he will oversee the operations of several states across the country for AFP. Prior to serving as state director for AFP-SD, Haggar spent 5 years in the South Dakota House of Representatives and ultimately served in a leadership role as President Pro Temp.

New AFP Regional Director Don Haggar released the following statement accompanying the announcement:

“After such a successful legislative session in South Dakota, I’m excited for what the future holds for our Americans for Prosperity across the state. We have taken such great strides for South Dakotans, and will continue with the same fervor under our next state director. AFP-SD is strongly positioned to continue this great work, and I cannot wait to see how we continue advocating for South Dakotans for years to come.”

Don’s years of service have produced major wins for South Dakotans in removing barriers to opportunity, improving education, health care and criminal justice reforms. His promotion leaves the role of State Director open for applications. Please contact [email protected] if you are interested in applying for this opportunity.

For further information or an interview, reach Nicole Tardif at [email protected]

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) exists to recruit, educate, and mobilize citizens in support of the policies and goals of a free society at the local, state, and federal level, helping every American live their dream – especially the least fortunate. AFP has more than 3.2 million activists across the nation, a local infrastructure that includes 36 state chapters, and has received financial support from more than 100,000 Americans in all 50 states. For more information,


Congratulations to State Rep. Taylor Rehfeldt

Congratulations to State Rep. Taylor Rehfeldt for being named as a recipient of a 4 under 40 Award from the Young Professionals Network with the Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce. According to the Argus Leader:

The award is given to young professionals younger than 40 who are leaders in their business, industry and community

  • Taylor Rehfeldt, Sanford Health: Taylor Rehfeldt is a Nurse Anesthetist at Sanford Health and was one of the first people to graduate with a doctorate of anesthesia in South Dakota. She is also a public servant who is serving her first term as representative in the South Dakota State Legislature. She was instrumental in passing Senate Bill 50, which granted certified nurse anesthetists full practice authority in the state of South Dakota.

Read the entire story here.