The state’s annual, invitation-only pheasant hunt brings state leaders together with major business interests to showcase South Dakota’s investment opportunities.6 Although the hunt is state-organized, Gov. Rounds has refused to release the list of invitees and has even gone to court to keep the information secret.7
Gov. Rounds vetoed a popular transparency bill during the 2008 legislative session.8 The legislature failed to override his veto by two votes.9 In the next session, Gov. Rounds signed South Dakota’s first disclosure measure into law.10 Open records advocates have noted that the statute maintains exclusions and loopholes, including exemptions for official correspondence and internal memoranda.11And who can forget about Mike Rounds belief that the state's planes were for his personal use.
In 2005, a review of the state’s air travel logs revealed that Gov. Rounds routinely used state aircraft for non-official travel.12 During the 2004–2005 high school basketball season, Gov. Rounds used state planes to ferry himself, family, and friends to five of seven of his son’s road games.13 Gov. Rounds also acknowledged using state planes to attend Republican Party political functions; a certified pilot, he has frequently flown the planes himself. 14 Under state law, the governor is not barred from using state planes for personal use.15 He has, however, reimbursed the state for his personal travel with political contributions from his Governor’s Club; this private fund has raised serious legal questions, including possible breaches of federal policy pertaining to third party financing.16 A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigation, however, found no violations of federal regulations.17 Following the revelation of Gov. Rounds’s personal use of state aircraft, South Dakota residents voted by referendum to restrict state aircraft use to official purposes.18This could become a huge problem for Rounds. Maybe Bob Mercer had some deep down feeling when he wrote back in July
Let’s assume a worst-case scenario for Rounds in 2014: He is in a three-way race, just like the 2002 primary for governor, and he gets 44.4 percent again. That would mean a Rhoden or a Nelson or a Bosworth would need to get 44.4 percent plus one to place ahead of Rounds. Short of some immense scandal or unforgivable misstep by Mike Rounds, there isn’t any reason to expect he would get less than the 44.4 percent again in 2014.It may be a bit difficult to collect all the information surrounding the EB-5 scandal thanks to loopholes and other issues surrounding South Dakota law as David Montgomery reminded us in February:
South Dakota’s open records law specifically excludes “correspondence, memoranda, calendars or logs of appointments, working papers, and records of telephone calls of public officials or employees.”So, remember that if you want a candidate that prefer to operate in the dark and known for his scandals, than you can vote for Rounds, but if you want a candidate that is straight forward and has nothing to hide, you should cast your vote this fall for Rick Weiland.