SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — This story has been updated to include comments from Rep. Scott Odenbach.
Drivers passing through some of Sioux Falls’ main intersections this week may have noticed some rather unique billboards, featuring the face of South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, and the names (as of Monday afternoon) of five state legislators.
Those five legislators are House Speaker Spencer Gosch (R-Glenham), Jon Hansen (R-Dell Rapids), Steven Haugaard (R-Sioux Falls), Jamie Smith (D-Sioux Falls) and Scott Odenbach (R-Spearfish).
On the billboards the message “What is (name of each legislator) trying to hide???”, along with “IMPEACH THE ATTORNEY GENERAL NOW!!”
The billboards were paid for by the Dakota Institute for Legislative Solutions, a 501c (4) non-profit (according to the release on its website) with a stated goal of generating support for Governor Kristi Noem’s agenda.
As of Monday afternoon, no filings for Dakota Institute for Legislative Solutions could be found in the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Tax Exempt Organization database. A search of the South Dakota Campaign Finance Reporting system and Federal Election Commission (FEC) also turned up no results.
The release announcing the formation of the Dakota Institute for Legislative Solutions states that the organization currently has a budget of $800,000 for the calendar year, and $1.5 million planned for the next two years. It is not readily apparent where the $800,000 claimed to be in the budget has come from.
According to the IRS, 501c (4) organizations are not required to disclose the names of individuals who contribute donations, with the exception of private foundations and political organizations.
The following communications disclosure statement was received by KELOLAND News Monday afternoon. The document connects the organization to a mailing address in Springfield, Virginia, and names Stacy Goede as treasurer, along with executive director Rob Burgess, who authorized the expenditure for the billboards. Below are the names of the five legislators targeted by the billboards, which the document describes as ‘grassroots lobbying activity.’
Of the legislators targeted on the billboards, two of them, Haugaard and Smith, are challenging Noem in the 2022 South Dakota Gubernatorial race. Haugaard is challenging Noem in the Republican primary race.
Haugaard and Smith, along with Hansen and Gosch, are also members of the House Select Committee on Investigation, which was been tasked with deciding whether to recommend the impeachment of the attorney general.
Of the five lawmakers featured, only Odenbach is not a member of the committee.
Odenbach has however been at odds with Noem in recent times, joining Hansen in calling for a special session to debate COVID-19 vaccine exemptions; something that Noem opposed. He also voted against a resolution calling for the House to open an investigation into Ravnsborg.
KELOLAND News reached out to Obenbach for comment, and received this response via email:
I can only speculate that the Governor and her minions in the institute for negative campaign solutions think I may have some better connection to Ravnsborg than other House members since he and I were law school classmates and I’ve spoken to him on a number of occasions since the accident. I’ve been open about that, and he’s never said anything to me he’s not also said publicly or to the investigators. I think it’s also personal with the governor. She can’t stand that I think for myself and have crossed her in the past regarding her failure to take meaningful action regarding Covid vaccine mandates, among other things. I think the Governor is so desperate to have AG Ravnsborg impeached sooner rather than later because she as governor then gets to appoint her own person as A.G. That should come in handy if/when the Government Accountability Board sends findings to the DCI under SDCL3-24 for further investigation into her possible misuse of the state airplane or the firing of Sherry Bren.Rep. Odenbach
Noem has taken a particular interest in the impeachment process, at times drawing criticism from lawmakers, including Gosch, who earlier this month said that she had attempted to influence the investigation. Gosch told reporters that Noem had been asked multiple times to stop, and that a cease and desist letter is being sent.
Noem has previously called for Ravnsborg to resign.
Governor Noem’s Communications Director Ian Fury stated in an email to KELOLAND News that Noem is not involved with the billboards.