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Friday, October 8, 2010

Katus Questions Cabin; Governor Says No Fat Cats, Just Mice

State Tresurer candidate Tom Katus is raising questions about favoritism in the use of the state-owned "Valhalla," Peter Norbeck's old Black Hills hideaway. Katus tells KELO he's concerned that Governor Rounds has been, shall we say, arbitrary in deciding which taxpayers get to use this public property and which ones don't. Governor Rounds fires right back:

"My strong suspicions [sic] is the big Republican heavy hitters have been in there either at no cost or subsidized by someone else or some big corporation is paying for, you know, some of their buddies to be in there," Katus said.

"If Mr. Katus can name the big wigs that are supposedly staying there, then we will respond accordingly. We're not having big wigs stay at Valhalla," Rounds said [Austin Hoffman, "Governor's Cabin Questions," KELOLand.com, 2010.10.07].

Governor Rounds, via Game Fish & Parks, has generally declined to give us a list of Valhalla guests. But in the KELO interview, Rounds slips and reveals the identity of some regular guests:

"It's still a cabin. It still has mice in it. But it's got beautiful scenery around. It's rustic. It's not designed to be something that you take and you put people in like a motel," Rounds said [Hoffman, 2010].

Ah ha! Mice!

But wait a minute: we spent over $200,000 renovating the cabin, and it still has mice?! Now there's some state spending that needs to be reviewed.


  1. If this issue is such a big concern for Tom, why didn't he act on it when he was a legislator, and had an opportunity to actually do something?

    I don't think the custodian of state funds has much of a say over who stays in a cabin, and who doesn't.

  2. Miranda Flint10/09/2010 12:44 AM

    What are your thoughts on making The White House and Camp David available to the public?

  3. My initial thought is that suggestion of an analogy between the primary office space and secure retreat of the leader of the free world and a cabin used by the governor of South Dakota is absurd. The President requires a greater degree of security and access to those federal assets than the governor of South Dakota requires of a historic cabin in the Black Hills.

    That said, the White House is more open to the public right now than Valhalla. Kevin Woster had to get permission from GF&P to visit, and he still couldn't take pictures inside (because what, we're respecting the privacy of the mice?).

    but to the extent possible, I want the public to be able to at least visit the White House and Camp David. I don't think we can rent those federal properties out for camping the way we can Valhalla. But I'd be as displeased with the President using those properties as plums for his fat-cat cronies and as demanding of a guest list (remember the Lincoln bedroom?) as Katus and others are of Gov. Rounds's favoritist use of Valhalla.

  4. Miranda Flint10/11/2010 2:20 AM

    I think that's a fair response! However, presumably, Governor Rounds does see opening up Valhalla to the public as a security issue as well. The reporter here hints at that here:

    I don't necessarily agree with rounds, but if we are to justify making the "secure retreat" of the president private, I'm not certain we can't justify it for the governor.

    And while Obama has not, to my knowledge, ever rented out Camp David, he HAS had cronies stay there.

    The renting out part, however, might be a bit more shady.

  5. Miranda, I guess I find the whole notion of a "secure retreat" for the governor of South Dakota absurd. The governor works in an unsecured office. He drives (and flies) himself around the state without bodyguards. I can walk up to the door of his house, knock, and quite possibly be greeted by him directly. Were I governor and were I to want to get away and not be bothered, I wouldn't need GF&P to maintain a separate cabin for me; I'd just drive back to my own house on Lake Herman.

    Renting: I think we could avoid the shadiness but leaving it under direct control of GF&P and not the Governor. If GF&P ran it just like the lodges at Custer State Park or other camping facilities (with the governor perhaps maintaining an option to block out 2-4 weeks a year for his use), then there's no cronyism, right?


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