SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A South Dakota lawmaker is being tied to an extremist, anti-government, militia group, according to a story published Tuesday morning by the Rolling Stone.
The story cites data provided to Distributed Denial of Secrets by a hacker which shows longtime Rapid City Republican lawmaker Phil Jensen signed up for an annual membership to the Oath Keepers in 2014. The story, written by Tim Dickinson, says the Oath Keepers data used Jensen’s state legislative email address. Jensen did not respond to the Rolling Stone for comment about being tied to the Oath Keepers data.
Oath Keepers are described by the Center for Strategic & International Studies as an “anti-government, right-wing political organization committed to supporting and defending their interpretation of the U.S. Constitution against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.”
The United States Department of Justice has reported arresting members of the Oath Keepers for “crimes related to the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, which disrupted a joint session of the U.S. Congress that was in the process of ascertaining and counting the electoral votes related to the presidential election.”
Dickinson said when he looked at the alleged Oath Keepers membership rolls, the people who possibly signed up with government email addresses stood out to him.
“It’s a funny thing to do if you’re joining an anti-government militia,” said Dickinson, who noted other people he’s contacted on the leaked list have verified to him that they are members of the Oath Keepers. “It appears to be panning out or people are just avoiding comment.”
Dickinson added he’d like to hear from Jensen and noted people on the list may have “reasonable explanations for one might have their name on this list.”
“There are folks who are on this list who signed up for a year and thought better of it,” Dickinson said. “I think it raises a lot of interesting questions as to why a member of state government would feel so comfortable signing up for this anti-government group if that’s indeed what he did.”
According to its website, the Distributed Denial of Secrets says it is a “journalist non-profit devoted to enabling the free transmission of data in the public interest.” The story quotes Emma Best, a co-founder of Distributed Denial of Secrets, saying “the group was able to run a technical analysis of the data dump, which the group found “persuasive” that the information was legitimate.”
“The pieces all fit together, and there was far too much data that was far too detailed for it to have been faked,” Best told the Rolling Stone.
KELOLAND News has reached out to Jensen as well as Senate President Pro Tem Lee Schoenbeck (R-Watertown) and Speaker of the House Spencer Gosch (R-Glenham) for comment. Schoenbeck declined to comment.
This story will be updated when we receive a response.
Jensen has served in both the South Dakota House of Representatives (2010 and 2020) and Senate (2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018).
During the 2021 legislative session, Jensen introduced a resolution celebrating Black History Month focusing on national history saying “many today overlook or ignore this country’s positive record on race and slavery.”
He also sponsored House Bill 1159 against vaccine mandates highlighting a “right to bodily integrity.” That failed bill said “no person, as a result of refusing to accept any vaccination, be subjected to discrimination or retaliation with respect to association, education, employment, housing, property rights, public accommodations, or public services.”