Why Won’t Gov. Daugaard Stand for South Dakota?

Phil Jensen


cashWe’ve recently learned that the Obama Administration plans to bring at least ten thousand additional Syrian refugees into the United States in the next year.

From a recent Breitbart article:

Citing the applicable federal statute, the Commissioner added that “until recently the United States was unable to accept more than a few hundred Syrian refugees per year because federal law excluded any refugees who had provided material support to a terrorist organization.” Traylor noted that President Obama unilaterally exempted Syrian refugees from the ban in order to increase the number of refugees to 10,000 this year.

Rick Kriebel 2016


In light of these reports, and the fact that at least two of the shooters in the recent Paris terror attack originally entered that country as “refugees,” many in our country are expressing legitimate public safety concerns about whether or not some of these alleged refugees could actually be terrorists trying to enter our country under false pretenses.

Several state governors have spoken out publicly about this national security issue, including Governor Greg Abbott of Texas and Governor Rick Scott of Florida who were both recently interviewed on Fox News.

During that interview, Governor Abbott asserted that state governors do indeed have every right to control refugee resettlement programs in their states. Abbott specifically referred to Title 8, Section 1522 of the U.S. Code as evidence of that.

Woodrow Wilcox


Governor Abbot also pointed out that federal money for refugee resettlement flows through the state governments–so governors can choose to withhold that money from any agencies assisting in refugee resettlement if they determine that certain refugees could be potential security threats to the people of their state.

Unfortunately, in the state of South Dakota, Governor Dennis Daugaard has claimed that he is unable (or perhaps just unwilling?) to prevent refugees who could potentially have ties to terrorist groups from settling in South Dakota.

Now to his credit, Gov. Daugaard eventually called for stronger background checks for Syrian refugees, but this statement appears to be a public relations ploy at best and a possible diversion tactic at worst.

After all, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) has publicly stated that DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and FBI Director James Comey have both admitted that they “do not currently have the ability to properly screen and conduct sufficient background checks on these refugees”.

Given the fact that directors from two national security agencies admit that these refugees could potentially be a terror threat, the people of South Dakota must ask ourselves: “Why in the world is the governor of our state not taking a stronger stand when it comes to this important issue?”

A little digging reveals at least one possible reason for Daugaard’s reluctance to oppose the Obama Administration’s Syrian refugee resettlement proposal, and that reason is the almighty dollar.

According to a recent Breitbart News article, there is at least “$1 BILLION in annual revenue that goes to voluntary agencies (‘VOLAG’s), several of which are Christian non-profits.”  The article goes on to mention that the voluntary/non-profit agency of record (and recipient of federal money) which conducts refugee resettlement efforts in South Dakota is none other than Lutheran Social Services (LSS).

A check of LSS’s website shows a list of their current officers and board members, and when you take a quick look at several campaign finance reporting websites, we find that at a minimum, there has been at least TWENTY-FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS donated to Daugaard’s political campaigns over the past 5 years by individuals who are LSS employees or LSS Board members.

For starters, it appears that former DSS director and Daugaard Administration advisor Deb Bowman who holds a lofty position on the LSS Foundation Board of Directors has donated at least $5,000.00 to the Daugaard campaign over the last five years.


In addition, current LSS CEO Betty Oldenkamp has funneled $5000.00 in cash to Daugaard’s political campaigns and at least $1,000.00 more to his predecessor Mike Rounds.


Not to be outdone, the current secretary/treasurer of the LSS Board, Rita Karels, and her husband Ken have contributed at least $5,000.00 to Daugaard over the past three years.


And last but not least,  LSD PAC, a Political Action Committee (PAC) chaired by LSS Board of Directors member (and former state senator) Russ Olson has injected at least $8,000.00 in campaign cash into the Daugaard machine’s political operations over the past three years.


At this point, it seems only fair to ask whether or not these large campaign contributions constitute a conflict of interest, and whether these campaign dollars might perhaps be the cause of Daugaard’s seemingly nonchalant attitude toward the safety and well-being of South Dakotans.

Perhaps his close relationships with LSS board member Bowman and LSS Vice President of Development Bill Peterson (who helped Daugaard get his start in politics) might be making him reluctant to take a stronger stand on this important issue?  At this point, we certainly can’t rule that possibility either.

Could it be that he is afraid of upsetting the federal refugee resettlement gravy train that financially rewards a powerful and politically well-connected organization whose employees and board members have provided him with tens of thousands in donations to his past political campaigns?    In stark contrast to what is going on in South Dakota, the state of Texas is now suing agencies that resettle refugees in that state against the wishes of their governor and may also terminate their funding if they don’t comply.

It seems like the same tale over and over and over again among South Dakota “Republicans.”  Whether it’s selling out the people of South Dakota for federal ObamaCare cash, selling out the people of South Dakota for “education” cash, or selling out the people of South Dakota for social services cash, it seems South Dakota’s “Republicans” care more about funneling federal money to their campaign donors (with many of these same donors funneling money to their campaign coffers) than in protecting the constitution, the liberty, and the safety of the people they are ostensibly elected to serve.

Republicans don’t want to think ill of public officials in their party. That’s understandable. But when things don’t add up, most of us seek answers. We know that Republicans know better; they usually say the right things on the campaign trail (whether they actually believe them or not), so they have to know what is right in order to say the right things. Since they know better, we are left with few options to explain behavior that is counter to Republican principles.  It could be cowardice; the Lord knows moral courage (or courage of any type) is rare, these days.  But the well-known sayings such as “Connect the dots” and “Follow the money” exist for a reason–because too often this leads us to hard answers to painful questions.

Surely the people of South Dakota deserve some answers.  And if our governor continues to apparently place the financial interests of his political donors ahead of his obligation to address the valid security concerns of everyday South Dakotans, then perhaps the people of South Dakota ought to seriously consider asking him to step aside for someone who will take their safety and well-being more seriously.



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Bob Ellis has been the owner of media company Dakota Voice, LLC since 2005. He is a 10-year U.S. Air Force veteran, a political reporter and commentator for the past decade, and has been involved in numerous election and public policy campaigns for over 20 years. He was a founding member and board member of the Tea Party groups Citizens for Liberty and the South Dakota Tea Party Alliance. He lives in Rapid City, South Dakota with his wife and two children.
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  • Sharia law makes very clear the intention of domination, a worldwide caliphate, which directly goes against the law of our land, the beloved and wonderful constitution.

    There is no reason to allow people who are members of the Islamic theocratic cult into our country. Period.

    • franklinb23

      Okay, how do we do stop it? Someone who is determined will lie. We can’t even base it on locale. It’s not like Islam is bound by race or even geography anymore. After all, Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, was a British citizen who converted to radical Islam.

      In other words, the only thing I think we can do is to make things slightly more inconvenient for the determined, and that’s about it, but I agree with you in principle.

      • Good points.

        I’m no Trump fan, but maybe he has a point? Until the Islamic community starts policing its own, maybe the civilized world needs to hold them at arm’s length.