Ronald Reagan is “a nice soft silky pillow … but if you took a hard punch, you would find in the middle a solid tempered-steel bar. That was the real Ronald Reagan. That was the essence of Ronald Reagan.” (Martin Anderson, 1936-2015)

In 1981, when I moved to DC to work for Senator Abdnor, there were two “social” Republican groups. These groups regularly met in the evenings, adult beverages were served, off the Capitol campus but near Capitol Hill. The members/attendees were mostly Senate and House staffers, and, with the recent inauguration of President Reagan, a sprinkling of lower level White House or Cabinet staffers. Lobbyists weren’t barred from coming but they weren’t really welcome. Members of Congress were usually only there if they were the speaker.

The Coolidge Society comprised GOP conservatives in the Dewey/Taft tradition: Socially conservative, international isolationists, and strong states rights advocates. With the recent take-over of the Senate and the new Reaganites in town, the Coolidge Society was ascendant.

The Ripon Society members were from the GOP’s more liberal and libertarian wing in the Wilkie/Eisenhower tradition. Socially liberal (affiliated with the gay Log Cabin Republicans and pro-abortion), willing to be internationally active on economic and military fronts, and libertarian on civil rights type issues. I was surprised that many of Goldwater staffers were more likely to be here than at Coolidge.

Because many of Ripon’s members had been pro-John Anderson in the 1980 Presidential election, the Ripon Society was definitely on the decline and its members were primarily from the Northeast part of the country.   It seemed the Reagan staffers who belonged to the Ripon Society seemed to be those with an international focus because the isolationism of the Coolidge Society wasn’t warm to Reagan’s Cold War strategy. While Ripon was formed in Wisconsin, it really had become the home of the “Yankee Republicans.”

Despite (and maybe because of) the differences, there was substantial cross-over members because:

  1. We were Republicans and mostly worked for Republican Congressional members. Even though we disagreed on some matters, the success of our boss’ agenda depended on us having relationships with each other.
  2. On taxes, spending, and regulation, there wasn’t a lot of difference between the Societies except often times it seemed Coolidge was more pro-regulation while Ripon had greater fidelity to the free market and civil liberties.
  3. Because these two groups were competitive for standing in town, they both worked hard at having quality speakers and the Q&A was extremely topical. Sometimes as an Abdnor staffer, I was able to get insight into the view of another Senator because of the questions another staffer was asking.
  4. In reality, these gatherings were an “excuse” to leave the office before 7 p.m. and socialize.  Congressional staffers work hard and by necessity most of our friends were from our home state. Frankly, I mostly went to the Ripon Society gatherings because a cute girl from Pennsylvania was a member.  Whether true or not, when I see Ashton Kucher’s girlfriend, I remember this gal, whose name escapes me.  Maybe I didn’t even know her name and had a crush from a distance.

I probably should say “membership” was a loose term. I don’t remember there being dues to either group or even a cover charge. I just kinda remember you labeled yourself as a member of one and a guest of the other and maybe paid a nominal amount to get an occasional newsletter. And, you seemed to be more diligent to going to one group’s gatherings or the other.

Why am I giving this background today? Last night, I saw that Martin Anderson had died.  It got me thinking of one time I was in his presence.  I never really met him but was a few times where he was.

Anderson was a long-time fellow of the Hoover Institution, Reagan’s Chief Domestic Policy Advisor, White House point person on Reaganomics, and member of the Economic Policy Advisory Board. Anderson was credited for articulating the intellectual underpinning for the Reagan-Kemp-Roth tax cuts. Even if you aren’t a Reaganite, I urge you to read something from Anderson. Anything. Personally, I think his “Reagan, in his own hand” is the best biography of Reagan out there where Anderson was essentially the editor of Reagan’s letters and speeches with commentary for context.

Martin Anderson was alternatively called a right-wing radical or the “Reagan’s Conscience” or something like that.   Senators were often frustrated because he seemed insensitive to “political realities.” Senator Abdnor as Co-Chair of the Joint Economic Committee once said to him before a committee meeting something to the effect- “This is what we are talking about. Don’t go off on your crazy economic theories.” But, another time I remember Abdnor saying to Anderson “It isn’t the same since you aren’t around all the time (Anderson commuted to and from California after a few years). Those guys need you back here.”

Anyway, probably late in Reagan’s first term but before the re-election campaign was in full swing, Anderson was the speaker at a Coolidge Society gathering. I think his talk was about what was coming with regard to economic policy now that the tax cuts had passed. I don’t remember it very well.

But, what I’m reminded of today was, when he was thanking Coolidge for the invitation to speak, he made a point to say he wanted to be invited to the Ripon Society too. My first reaction was that it is a slap in the face to his Coolidge hosts.

Anderson then explained when he was a young man just out of college it was the Ripon wing of the GOP that advanced GOP support of the Civil Rights Acts over its state’s rights inclination. And then during Anderson’s tenure with Nixon, it was Ripon that supported his intellectual thesis we should end the military draft and stood behind Nixon’s trip to China.

Anderson’s point was clear. Both Coolidge and Ripon had a role in stimulating ideas within the GOP body of thought.

Martin Anderson was more than the economic and philosophical conscience in the White House.   He was a thinker and loved ideas, even those ideas he opposed. But there are a lot of people who are like that. Abdnor and Illinois Senator Paul Simon weren’t friends because they agreed. They were friends because they disagreed.

What makes Martin Anderson special to me is that he was more than a critical cog in what we recognize as the Reagan legacy.

As Reagan began to drift away from Alzhiemers, Anderson knew the Reagan greatness might never be known to the next generation. So Anderson began his last endeavor* to use his up-close and personal experience in the Reagan inner circle to give us a glimpse of Reagan the deep thinker who mulled and contemplated both his positions and how to present them to the American people, Reagan’s basic understanding America is the people’s requiring Reagan to do more than rule but to also convince the people on the issues, and Reagan’s personal courage to see things through to the end.

In one of Anderson’s books (maybe “Revolution”), Anderson gives his explanation of Reagan’s charisma via a story where Reagan was asked why people like him and are willing to trust him. Reagan humbly replied, “When they look at me, they see themselves.”

As we now start to turn our attention to the 2016 Presidential election, maybe we should be looking for another deep thinker with great personal courage who recognizes the President is a steward of the American Experiment and not its author, one in whom we see our best selves.

Martin Anderson, American. Rest In Peace.

*Anderson’s final book will be released next month: “Ronald Reagan: Decisions of Greatness.”

(Sidenote: I’m writing this from memory. I apologize to Anderson and you if I have inadvertently misquoted him, especially the reference to “Revolution” which I can’t find anywhere (Schoenbeck, did I give you my copy?) and exactly the subject of his Coolidge talk. It has been almost 30 years.  Speaking of “Revolution” which I read about the time Reagan’s Alzheimers became public.  At the end of the book, Anderson talks about Iran-Contra.  My impression was Anderson felt Reagan had lost his physical energy because of age and being in the mid to late 70’s.  My reaction was maybe the disease had started to manifest itself, especially how Reagan could remember so little during the investigation.)

Secretary of State hasn’t seen language on Felon voting bill, feels 2012 measure is appropriate.

In recent days, much has been written about State Senator Craig Tieszen’s proposal to relax the current voting prohibition on convicted felons voting until completion of their sentence. But don’t look for the Secretary of State to support Tieszen’s proposal.

In fact, it remains to be seen whether anyone has asked the incoming Secretary of State for input on the measure being proposed.

In an interview with, Secretary of State Shantel Krebs, while she cedes authority to propose the measure rests with the legislative branch; as the person who would work with the court system to implement it, Krebs notes that she “hasn’t seen the language in the bill” yet. Krebs went on to note that ultimately, “any changes would be voted on by the legislature.”

While the American Civil Liberties Union was active in lobbying for relaxed voting restrictions on convicted felons in 2012, as the state’s chief elections officer, Krebs hasn’t heard from any outside groups on the bill at this point.

Krebs told SDWC that “Anything that has to do with felons voting is a public policy issue that rests with the legislature.” And, while she “can’t speak for the legislature,” Krebs doesn’t “see supporting any changes to current statute,” and feels that the changes in the 2012 proposal primed by State Senator Gene Abdallah “are what’s appropriate.”

Krebs went on to say that she is in “approval of the current law.“

Press Release: Americans For Prosperity South Dakota Calls on President to Sign Legislation

Congress Votes For South Dakota Jobs In Passing Keystone Pipeline Bill
AFP South Dakota Calls on President to Sign Legislation

Sioux Falls, S.D. – Americans for Prosperity South Dakota released the following statement after today’s vote of overwhelming support for the Keystone Pipeline by the U.S. House of Representatives.

AFP South Dakota Director Ben Lee said:

“We applaud Congresswoman Noem on her vote to provide much needed relief for middle class families. With 8.7 million Americans still out of work, we simply cannot afford to deny access to 42,000 good-paying jobs. American families need secure jobs and the American economy needs secure energy. The Keystone Pipeline provides both. The President and Senate should act quickly to sign this bill into law and get Americans back to work.”



Press Release: With Noem Support, Keystone XL Approved by the U.S. House

With Noem Support, Keystone XL Approved by the U.S. House

kristi noem headshot May 21 2014Washington, D.C. – Rep. Kristi Noem today joined House Republicans and Democrats in passing H.R.3, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act, which would authorize the long-awaited pipeline’s construction and operation. The vote in the U.S. House of Representatives comes in the wake of a Nebraska Supreme Court decision this morning that lifted one of the final state-based barriers on the project.

“The only thing stopping Keystone is the President and his far-left political agenda – and that’s flat-out wrong,” said Noem. “Delaying Keystone is depriving South Dakota of good jobs, millions of dollars in revenue for cash-strapped counties, and relief for the roads and rails that are currently crowded with oil transit. The President has no more excuses. His own administration has released more than 20,000 pages of reviews showing Keystone is in the best interest of our economy and the environment. Now is the time to build.”


Rothenberg Report predicting Thune seat “Safe Republican” for 2016 cycle.

It’s a John Thune news day apparently.

Our Senior US Senator was officially installed as the chair on the Senate’s Commerce Committee. He commented on Nebraska’s Supreme Court tossing a Keystone XL pipeline court case which was holding Obama back from action on Keystone.

And now the Senator’s seat is in the mix for predictions from the The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call Race Ratings.

What’s the verdict for Thune’s South Dakota seat in 2016? It’s a no-brainer, considering that Democrats failed to run a candidate for the office in 2010. Thune’s Senate Seat is listed as Safe Republican.


With South Dakota Democrats at lows in terms of voters as well as potential candidates who could run at the level of US Senate, it’s doubtful that it’s going to move from a “safe Republican” status anytime between now and November 8th, 2016.

Commerce Committee makes Thune Chairmanship official

Thune Officially Designated as Commerce Chairman

WASHINGTON, D.C.— The U.S. Senate yesterday officially ratified U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) as chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee for the 114th Congress. Sen. Thune issued the following statement on taking the gavel for the committee:

“It is an honor to serve as chairman of the Commerce Committee at the forefront of the new Congress as we work to create jobs and grow our economy. I am eager to begin work with the new ranking member, Sen. Bill Nelson, and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on pressing business before the committee. Continuing to serve South Dakota in the United States Senate is the highest public service opportunity afforded to me, and I look forward to addressing several issues important to our state during this session of Congress including, rural broadband, rail service, aviation, cybersecurity, and an overhaul of our telecommunications policy.”


John Thune: Obama’s Keystone Excuses Hit Another Dead End

Obama’s Keystone Excuses Hit Another Dead End

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) today issued the following statement on the Nebraska Supreme Court decision on the Keystone XL pipeline:

John_Thune_official_photo“The president’s litany of excuses for delaying the Keystone XL pipeline has hit yet another dead end. This court decision further erodes the president’s obstruction of the bipartisan, job-creating Keystone XL. Soon the president will have a clear opportunity to sign a bipartisan bill into law approving the construction of this common-sense infrastructure project. The president is out of excuses, and it is time for him to act. Will he stand for the American people, or will he continue to stand for his far-left liberal allies?”


Press Release: Matching Funds Awarded by Governor To Communities For Workforce Plans

Matching Funds Awarded To Communities For Workforce Plans

DaugaardPIERRE, S.D. – Gov. Dennis Daugaard has awarded nearly $1 million in matching funds to help communities across the state take an active role in addressing their own workforce issues.

In September, the Governor challenged the business, education, government and other sectors to work together to submit plans for the South Dakota Workforce Development Council to consider. Sixteen applications were received.

“I wanted to hear community-specific ideas and innovative plans to meet communities’ workforce needs,” said Gov. Daugaard. “Applications addressed a variety of topics, such as housing, internships, certification and training programs, and English as a Second Language classes.”

Communities receiving awards include:

  • Aberdeen Development Corporation, $60,000
  • Associated General Contractors of South Dakota, $50,000
  • Belle Fourche Development Corporation, $175,200
  • Black Hills Community Economic Development, $70,000
  • Brookings Economic Development Corporation, $174,750
  • City of Pierre, $20,480
  • DeSmet Development Corporation, $8,100
  • Greater Huron Development Corporation, $125,000
  • Gregory Business and Industrial Development Corporation, $7,000
  • Mitchell Technical Institute and Mitchell School District, $115,332
  • Wagner Area Growth, Inc., $22,239
  • Watertown Development Company, $50,000
  • Yankton Area Progressive Growth, Inc., $60,000
  • Yankton Rural Area Health Education Center, $50,000

The council evaluated the proposals on several criteria, including cross-sector involvement, sustainability in the community, consistency with statewide initiatives and quality of matching funding. The application narrative needed to detail the targeted workforce need and the proposed activity, as well as the cross-sector engagement each community used to develop the proposal.

The program is being administered by the Department of Labor and Regulation and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. For more information and to view all submissions, visit