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Monday, April 12, 2010

Noem Shoots Campaign Video in Capitol Office... Where's the Foul?

I really want to jump on the story Badlands Blue forwarded from the SDDP last week about Kristi Noem recording a campaign video in her Pierre Capitol office on the last day of the legislative session. But in my brief review of South Dakota election law, I can't find the statute her little Facebook video violates. The only crime I can identify is Noem's affected dropped g ("I'm runnin' for Congress"—no, Kristi, you are running. Please.).

The video actually starts with a little legislative update. Sure, it's GOP rah-rah propaganda, but it's still a legislator reporting on what's going on in Pierre. The opening text is no worse than the pablum Russell Olson puts in the Madison newspaper in his legislative-I-love-my-grandma-and-support-the-troops cheer sheets. And in one significant way, it's better: Noem does exactly what I've called on our mostly technophobic legislators to do more of, putting the Internet to use to communicate with constituents. The state Dems can say Noem turned her state office into "her personal campaign recording studio," but in the world of webcam-equipped netbooks and smartphones, the world is one big recording studio. Noem can communicate with us from pretty much anywhere. (And heck, someday if I have the pleasure of working in Pierre, I'll probably wear a live webcam on my lapel!)

Now I understand that campaigning while the Legislature is meeting and debating may be unseemly. One can argue that Rep. Noem cheated her constituents of 1:42 of recording time (and another minute or two to log in, upload, etc.) that she might have better spent twisting arms in committee to get more funding for education. But she probably also took five minutes out from politicking to eat a sandwich and take a leak that day, too. I have a hard time begrudging a tech-savvy candidate using the Interenet to communicate with the public.

I'm still open to someone pointing me to the statute or rule of the House that says campaign materials may not be produced or distributed from the State Capitol or other public facilities. At that point, I'll be happy to lambaste Noem. But as Bob Mercer notes, campaign regulations are muddy waters, and nuking Noem's Facebook video could lead to all sorts of other complications... and maybe even some free speech arguments.

I could be wrong, but after watching Noem's video and checking the books, I don't think I have a legal trigger to pull.

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