OUR VIEW: Political operative is wrong person for state postGov. Dennis Daugaard has done a lot right during his two years as governor, but he got it wrong last week when he appointed Rob Skjonsberg to the state Board of Economic Development.
By: Editorial board, The Daily Republic
Gov. Dennis Daugaard has done a lot right during his two years as governor, but he got it wrong last week when he appointed Rob Skjonsberg to the state Board of Economic Development.
The board is in charge of awarding state economic development loans. It’s a plum position, and one that carries power, since it can directly make or break potential development projects in the state.
Skjonsberg, a Pierre resident, has previously worked in the banking industry. He also worked for a time for the ethanol producer Poet, and has a background in real estate and insurance. He is a Republican.
Judging by his list of professional achievement, Skjonsberg does have a résumé that seems to justify his spot on the Board of Economic Development. We don’t doubt that.
The problem is that Skjonsberg is a close associate of Mike Rounds, former governor of South Dakota and declared Republican candidate for the United States Senate. Skjonsberg was Rounds’ chief of staff when Rounds was governor and is now chief of staff at Rounds’ Fischer-Rounds and Associates real estate and insurance firm. Skjonsberg also is an official member of the Rounds for Senate campaign team.
South Dakota Democrats are riled by the appointment, and we feel rightly so. Democratic Party Chairman Ben Nesselhuf said Skjonsberg’s appointment appears to be an effort to help the Rounds campaign, because those who benefit from state development loans could feel pressure to contribute to Rounds’ Senate run.
We understand the chess match that accompanies all politics, even here in South Dakota. We also realize that political parties cry foul all the time, about all kinds of things real and imagined.
But in this case, we side with Nesselhuf.
We can only assume everything is on the level, since Daugaard, Rounds and Skjonberg all have solid records in public service. But why would the governor choose to open this can of worms?
Because of his relationship with what will be a red-hot Senate campaign, every decision Skjonsberg makes could be interpreted as political gamesmanship. No public board — and especially not a public board with such fiduciary power — should be so encumbered by the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Skjonsberg has the resume. And while we make no accusations that he will abuse his new power, we also know that the state Board of Economic Development is no place for an active political operative.