UPDATE: Adelstein seeks review of 'impropriety ... possible illegal activity' at Powers' websiteSen. Stan Adelstein asks Attorney General Marty Jackley whether Secretary of State Jason Gant should be impeached or removed from office if impropriety or misbehavior is found.
By: Dirk Lammers, The Associated Press
SIOUX FALLS (AP) — A state senator has requested an investigation of the South Dakota Secretary of State's office after learning an employee has been operating an online business that sells campaign materials.
Sen. Stan Adelstein, R-Rapid City, asked Attorney General Marty Jackley to look into Dakota Campaign Store, which was run by secretary of state employee Pat Powers. The website was taken down within the past week, but its Google listing says it provides political printing, yard signs, bumper stickers, lapel stickers, political postcards and campaign supplies.
Jackley's spokeswoman Sara Rabern said Adelstein's request was received Tuesday and the matter is under review.
The office of Secretary of State Jason Gant supervises elections, and Adelstein said he's concerned about "allegations of impropriety, conflict of interest and possible illegal activity." He questioned whether Gant purchased campaign material from the store for his re-election campaign or made use of mailing lists, and whether the business used state computers, office space, lists or supplies.
"What happens if a race is very close or if there's a critical question about finance?" Adelstein said Tuesday. "The further I went, the more suspicious I became."
Gant, a Republican, did not immediately return a telephone message left by The Associated Press.
He told the Rapid City Journal he had no involvement in Powers' business and received no benefits from it. He said he knew Powers was running the company while on his staff from January 2011 through May but asked him to shut it down after people began questioning it.
Powers used to run a conservative blog called Dakota War College.
Adelstein said he emailed about three dozen current and former legislative colleagues after viewing the Dakota Campaign Store website early last week, asking if they knew about it.
"The next time I looked, it was gone," he said.
Adelstein said he's also troubled by Gant's endorsement last month of state Rep. Val Rausch in a Republican primary for state Senate, a race Rausch lost.
Previous secretaries would not have endorsed a particular candidate, Adelstein said, and the office has become "very politically personalized" under Gant's leadership.
Ben Nesselhuf, chairman of the South Dakota Democratic Party, said an election official endorsing a candidate is troubling, and an elections staff member operating a campaign store in his or her off time also is troubling.
"You put all of that together, and none of it really passes the smell test," Nesselhuf said. "It's inconceivable that they did not look at this and see a conflict of the public trust."
Adelstein asked Jackley whether impeachment or removal from office would be warranted if the attorney general's office found impropriety or misbehavior.
Under the South Dakota Constitution, the governor and other state and judicial officers, except county judges, justices of the peace and police magistrates, are liable to impeachment for "drunkenness, crimes, corrupt conduct, or malfeasance or misdemeanor in office."
The article gives the House of Representatives the sole power of impeachment, with a majority of 36 needed to impeach. An impeachment is then tried by the state Senate, with a two-thirds vote needed to remove the person from office.