Campaigns say robo calls are effective; voters say they're annoying. But a new round of anonymous political phone messages might be illegal.
In an email Wednesday morning, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard said the calls criticizing Republican leadership in the legislature are a “threat to the integrity of the election process."
Now, Attorney General Marty Jackley is investigating and a Republican Political Action Committee is preparing to file a lawsuit against the unnamed sponsors.
Many of the calls are attacking Republican leaders by name, such as House Majority Leader David Lust, Speaker Pro Tempore Brian Gosch and Senate Majority Leader Russell Olson. They claim that the group voted against education benefits for South Dakota veterans. But what they don't say is that their support for the bill in question was an effort to spare benefits for a more popular veterans program amidst the statewide cuts made in 2011.
The content of the robo calls being investigated by Jackley dates back nearly 20 months when all state agencies were making cuts.
During that year, the legislature voted on Senate Bill 188, eliminating a tuition reimbursement program for South Dakota veterans enrolling in graduate programs. The undergraduate program was more popular with veterans and state officials wanted to give it more support. It was a move sponsored by the governor and even the South Dakota Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
So while the calls claim that Republican leaders are against veterans, they actually voted for the bill to ensure a popular program continued for veterans.
The bill eventually failed so the measure never passed the legislature.
In an email sent by Daugaard Wednesday to his supporters, he says the anonymous calls are, “Using misleading half-truths to target state legislative candidates."
Daugaard calls the callers "cowards" who are using "underhanded tactics that are a threat to the integrity of the election process."