Mysteries surround anti-'RINO' robo call, e-mail distributors - KOTA Territory News

Mysteries surround anti-'RINO' robo call, e-mail distributors


Phone calls from candidates seeking office are nothing new in the political arena.

But a new trend sweeping South Dakota phone lines has some voters and legislators seeking answers, and even litigation.

The robo calls, e-mails, and letters target specific legislators whom the distributors refer to as "RINOs," Republicans In Name Only.

The problem is figuring out who those distributors are.

"If someone wants to call me a RINO," said District 33 Rep. Jacqueline Sly, "that's okay."
Sly is one of the targets of e-mails calling out certain politicians for their supposedly liberal voting records in the state legislature.

It's part of an effort to keep Republicans in the statehouse in line with the party platform and get rid of those who stray from it.

Sly, a former teacher, calls it bullying.
"The difference between kids and adults with some of that is that adults put on the mask and the gloves to cover their trial," she said.
In an e-mail to state Republican groups, Gov. Dennis Daugaard went so far as to call the distributors "cowards" for not attaching their names to the materials.
"I think it needs to be investigated," Sly said.
Multiple state agencies agree.

Both the Attorney General's office and the Division of Criminal Investigation are looking into it, as are lawmakers.

Sen. Dan Lederman filed a lawsuit in September, but only two groups are identified as defendants, Republican Values Voters and Veterans Against Unethical Politicians.

The rest of the defendants are called, simply, "John Does 1-100."

As far as the content is concerned, even the politicians being attacked agree it's legal on First Amendment grounds.

The lawsuit takes issue with campaign finance laws, because most of the materials don't include a "paid for by" line.

(You can read the full lawsuit here.)

"I'd prefer they come forward and say who they are rather than doing it anonymously," Sly said of the groups sending the information out.
KOTA Territory News e-mailed questions to the addresses from which the original messages were sent, as well as to the veterans' group responsible for one of the robo calls, but didn't receive any responses.

And attempts to track down any other contact information proved fruitless.

The Secretary of State's office doesn't have any record of registered Political Actions Committees by either of those names, either.

"I think it takes more courage," said Sly, "to stand beside who you are and what you have to say" than to send out calls and e-mails anonymously.

We also talked to prominent Rapid City conservative writer Bob Ellis Tuesday, and he said his only complaint with the calls and letters is that they look unprofessional.

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