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Billboards calling for Jason Ravnsborg's impeachment go up in Sioux Falls

The digital billboards that went up on Saturday are paid for by an organization registered as a nonprofit and supportive of Gov. Kristi Noem. Lawmakers on the impeachment committee signaled last week a report will come by end of month on their findings.

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A billboard urging the impeachment of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg as spotted on Saturday, March 12, 2022.
Contributed / Dakota News Now
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A nonprofit that claims to support the legislative agenda of Gov. Kristi Noem has posted billboards around Sioux Falls calling for the impeachment of the South Dakota attorney general.

Paid for by Dakota Institute for Legislative Solutions , the billboards carry the image of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg behind large text reading, "Impeach the Attorney General Now!"

But it's the top half of the message — which names a number of top lawmakers and asks, "What is Spencer Gosch trying to hide???" — that has drawn questions from state lawmakers.

As first reported by Dakota News Now , the billboards have referenced not just House Speaker Gosch, R-Glenham, but House Minority Leader Jamie Smith, D-Sioux Falls; Rep. Steve Haugaard, R-Sioux Falls; Rep. Jon Hansen, R-Dell Rapids, and Rep. Scott Odenbach, R-Spearfish.

All but Odenbach serve on the nine-member House select committee.

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Ravnsborg is the focus of an impeachment inquiry because of a fatal September 2020 crash. In the incident, Ravnsborg drove his vehicle onto the shoulder of U.S. Highway 14 west of Highmore, South Dakota, and struck and killed pedestrian Joe Boever, 55, of Highmore. Ravnsborg last year pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor unsafe driving charges.

On Saturday, the nonprofit's executive director, Rob Burgess, emailed reporters a statement taking credit for the billboards.

"We will not be making any further comment," Burgess said. "The message conveyed on the billboards speak for themselves."

Burgess did not respond to questions sent to him by Forum News Service on the morning of Monday, March 14.

Ian Fury, spokesman for Noem, distanced the governor from Burgess' group in an email to FNS.

"The Governor's Office is not coordinating with that organization either generally or on those billboards specifically," Fury said.

Questions have emerged about whether the billboards amount to lobbying by the Dakota Institute for Legislative Solutions, which is registered as a 501(c)(4), or tax-exempt social welfare organization , with the Internal Revenue Service.

In a tweet on Sunday, Smith — who is Noem's Democratic opponent for governor — pushed back against the billboard's insinuation that he and other members of the committee were covering up for Ravnsborg.

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"I'm not hiding anything (which is why I don't use dark money donors to buy my billboards)," said Smith.

Smith also noted he was among the first House members to co-sponsor impeachment articles against Ravnsborg.

In a post to Facebook, Rep. Charlie Hoffman, R-Eureka, also expressed disdain for the billboards.

"Regardless of the outcome of impeachment," wrote Hoffman, "if I find that Governor Kristi Noem paid for these billboard ads in any way, shape, or form I will immediately withdraw my support for her in her current campaign."

In January, a robo-call campaign attempted to ratchet up legislative support for the impeachment by forwarding citizens — apparently unsuspectingly — to members of the committee's home phone numbers.

Last week, the committee's chair, Gosch, announced they'd tasked the staff attorney to write up their report , which will be made public either on Veto Day — March 28 — or the day after.

Two weeks later, on April 12, the full House will meet again to decide whether to bring an article of impeachment against Ravnsborg for his role and behavior following the fatal traffic death.

Last week, Public Safety Secretary Craig Price wrote to Gosch saying Ravnsborg was "unfit" to stay in his job.

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Christopher Vondracek is the South Dakota correspondent for Forum News Service. Contact Vondracek at cvondracek@forumcomm.com , or follow him on Twitter: @ChrisVondracek .

MORE FROM CHRISTOPHER VONDRACEK:
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Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Christopher Vondracek covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at cvondracek@forumcomm.com or follow him on Twitter at @ChrisVondracek.
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