There are storm clouds on the political horizon. Withdrawal from the race, or special session to follow?

I've been piecing this puzzle together over the past few days. As I turned over one rock to look for a nugget of information, I'd find two in my quest to get the story.

I've been thinking how to do the set-up to preface this article, and most of my ideas have fallen flat, or they go into more detail than I care to give. There is rumor and innuendo surrounding this story without many of the facts being in the public domain at the moment. Given the magnitude of the tale, I'd prefer to keep it to the facts I have had verified.

So, what do I know?

The rumbling in the sky started last week. GOP campaigns were busy with the usual and frequent responses to press releases issued by the Democratic Party. And then the Democratic releases supposedly stopped, or at least took a significant dip in frequency. This coincided with a letter which went out from Senate President Pro Tempore Lee Schoebeck to a Democratic State Senator, which was copied to Senate Democratic Leadership.

The letter which seemingly stopped the political world for a day or so alleges violations of Senate rules of conduct on the part of a Democratic Senator. As it was put to me, the allegations were stated in a manner that was rather "stark" for lack of a better word.

This letter from President Pro Tempore Schoenbeck in turn set off a letter in support of Schoenbeck's position from Senate Minority Leader Garry Moore. I'm told he sent this to other members of the Democratic Party.

The whole situation also resulted in a Democratic Leadership conference call with others, including South Dakota Democratic Party Chairwoman Judy Olson Duhamel.

Why are these letters from Schoenbeck and Garry Moore, worth noting and why are they creating such a buzz in political circles? The Senate has few mechanisms available to address allegations of member misconduct. The Legislature's Executive Board has no disciplinary authority over members, so this leaves allegations of misconduct to be heard by the legislature itself.

The legislature would have two options. Not seating the member if they ran for election again and won, or going to the extraordinary step of calling a special session. As far as I understand it, the allegations contained in the letter from Schoenbeck are serious enough that the Senate would not let them lay there unanswered until next January.

Where do things sit at this point? I'm told that the letter contains a deadline of October 18th - this Wednesday - for a response from the Senator who allegedly committed the acts. By the 19th, we may be hearing of a withdrawal from the campaign, or angry refutations coinciding with a request for a special legislative session to address the allegations.

While I don't have either of the letters myself, I've had their existence and the contents of the first letter confirmed several times over from multiple sources. Even though noone would share them directly with me.

This is weighty business. And everyone is all business about it. Sources whom I can usually coax a comment from are pretty tight lipped. And it would seem that the Democrats are circling their wagons. Except surprisingly, not around the member in question.

The cynics among us would think that if a State Senator was accused of misconduct a few short weeks before the election, the party of the accused would write it off as a political charge. Not this time. It seems like they are as serious as a heart attack, and leaving the politics out of everything, with the letter from Moore supporting what Schoenbeck's letter said.

If someone out there has one (or preferably both) of these fabled letters, e-mail me at dakotawarcollege@yahoo.com. I'd like to look at them myself.

In the meantime, continue to watch the skies for the political storm clouds. I predict that they'll continue to form until Wednesday. We'll leave it to the elected officials to determine whether they'll break, or the storm will intensify.



** Just a note. I'm disabling comments for this post for various reasons, not the least of which are that I don't want any names named or allegations stated until I have physical (or electronic) documents in hand. I hope you understand.

If you have any questions or comments, e-mail me.

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