PIERRE, SD — A telemarketing campaign seeking the impeachment of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg may have come from a political actor in South Dakota.
But the uncertainty around Ravnsborg’s allies and enemies created more confusion around the campaign.
On Monday, South Dakota state lawmakers serving on the committee reviewing Ravnsborg’s impeachment began receiving calls from Grand Solutions Inc., a political telemarketing firm based in northeast Ohio. . The appeals, targeting voters of state lawmakers, were intended to drum up support for Ravnsborg’s impeachment.
Since then, Dakota News Now has obtained a voicemail that has raised the suspicions of many lawmakers. Voicemail captures what appears to be a telemarketer employee who didn’t realize he was still on the line.
It is unclear whether the governor the caller is referring to is South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem. However, the call referred to Ravnsborg and was aimed at residents of South Dakota.
Lawmakers who received the phone calls and were able to speak with management were directed to a woman named “Angel.” A number of committee members were able to corroborate Angel’s voice with that on the recording.
Angel Kane and Ciero Johnson II are listed as founders of Grand Solutions Inc., according to Open Corporates. Kane is listed as a Grand Solution holder with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office.
Jonathan Petrea, who identified himself as a spokesman for Kane, said the part of the call that identifies the governor was nothing more than a motivational tactic on his part to make the most of his workers.
“She was trying to move her workers,” Petrea said. “She uses this tactic to increase productivity.”
Petrea said no “politician, political campaign or party” facilitated the robocalls, but declined to disclose who did.
House Speaker Spencer Gosch (R-Glenham), chairman of the impeachment committee, declined to speculate on the origins of the calls or where they came from.
“We have a meeting coming up on Monday, that’s something we’re going to have to talk about. what maybe the next step is,” Gosch said.
Noem has been accused by lawmakers of inserting herself into the impeachment process. On Monday, Noem pushed House lawmakers to release the investigative report into the investigation into the fatal crash involving Ravnsborg.
The Governor’s campaign vehemently denied any connection to the telemarketing campaign.
“There is no wiggle room, no doubt the campaign or the governor directed this, wanted it, allowed it, paid for it, whatever,” said Noem’s campaign manager, Joe Desilets.
Desilets suggested the call may have come from someone else.
Currently, Noem’s only primary opponent for the upcoming gubernatorial election is Rep. Steve Haugaard (R, Sioux Falls). In 2017, gubernatorial candidate Haugaard’s campaign manager, Dennis Fusaro, was embroiled in his own campaign finance scandal. Fusaro was accused of sending mass robocalls to voters during a Maryland County Board race. According to the Maryland Capital Gazette, Fusaro was accused of sending misleading robocalls about a rival candidate. A subsequent appeal by Fusaro was successful and he was later cleared.
Fusaro and Haugaard also denied any involvement in the telemarketing campaign.
The calls are just the latest in a string of unlabeled communications across the state over the past few years. Last year, State Rep. Taffy Howard (R-Rapid City) was the subject of an anonymous text message campaign for her efforts to free Gov. Noem’s travel security costs. Noem denied any involvement in the texting scheme. This claim is still under investigation by the South Dakota Department of Criminal Investigations (DCI).
Banalized political communications and interference in a state’s legislative process are subject to criminal penalties.
“We take the protection and privacy of all lawmakers very seriously,” Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg said of the telemarketing campaign. “Since taking office in January 2019, I have received similar complaints of anonymous robocalls, robotext messages and/or death threats against lawmakers. We will investigate these new allegations of criminal conduct potential as we have done in the past… with vigor.”
Copyright 2022 Gray Television. All rights reserved.