But first, I must address the court records publicized by Pat Powers at Dakota War College. Last week an anonymous source pointed Mr. Powers toward online documents from the state of Minnesota. The first document, from the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings in 1995, indicates that
Clark Schmidtke, Sr., Independent/Democratic candidate for District 8 State Senate, admitted that he had forged two checks in the names of individuals in his care. The associated report recommended disciplinary action against Mr. Schmidtke's adult foster care license. The second document, from the Ethical Practices Board of Minnesota's Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board in 1997, indicates that Clark Schmidtke failed to file a final campaign finance report for his 1994 campaign for District 22B State Legislature and accepted a campaign contribution exceeding the 1994 contribution limit. Schmidtke owed $347.80 in filing fees and judgment interest. That amount appears to include a $200 civil fine that the Minnesota previously recommended against pursuing, since collecting it would not be cost effective.
Since Mr. Powers's post and my tentative response on Friday, some commenters have generously suggested that...
- the documents may refer to a different Clark Schmidtke,
- neither of the documents refers to the final disposition of the cases, and
- such court records are unwanted distractions from the discussion we should be having about the right policies for District 8 and South Dakota.
To the second, I agree that the two documents do not tell us the whole story, let alone the final outcome of these cases in Minnesota. I have Facebooked and e-mailed Mr. Schmidtke and await his filling in of that story. I have not heard back, although I have received an invitation to hear from Mr. Schmidtke in person at tonight's Moody County Democrats meeting. I will, alas, be unable to attend, so other bloggers are welcome to scoop me.
But permit me this snark: if I were running for office, and some blogger connected my name with past criminal activity with just eleven days left before the election, I wouldn't wait four days to stomp out the fire. Knowing past issues could bubble up in opposition research, I'd be online immediately with either, "It ain't me!" or "I was framed!" or full disclosure of what I did, why I did it, why I am deeply deeply deeply sorry I did it, and why I am still the better choice for the office I'm seeking.
And to the third: yes, I would rather talk entirely about policies and voting records. On those points alone, Clark Schmidtke can mop up the floor with Senator Russell Olson. Every policy statement I've heard Schmidtke make, with perhaps the exception of his willingness to entertain the possibility of charter schools in South Dakota, is right on. Olson has a record of bad votes, wimpy votes, and Big Biz/Big Oil apologetics that are wrong for South Dakota.
Yet I believe past wrongdoings and interactions with the legal system are relevant to discussions of candidates' qualifications. When I ran for school board two years ago, the first question from a voter here on the blog was about my firing at the hands of the Madison Central School Board in 2001, a public employment matter that led to a board hearing and court appeal. (Add that to my three speeding tickets, and you have the full record of my interactions with the South Dakota court system.) More people than I have pointed to Kristi Noem's lengthy record of traffic violations, failures to appear in court, and arrest warrants, not to mention her subsequent unapologetic self-justifications, as indications of her unfitness for high office.
Forgery and failure to follow campaign finance rules are significant crimes. I cannot ignore the association of candidate Clark Schmidtke with such crimes.
And thanks to Mr. Powers's raising of the issue, I can no longer ignore Russell Olson's record of interaction with the South Dakota judicial system. Following is a list of some South Dakota court cases involving Russell D. Olson, a.k.a Russell Donovan Olson, Russell Dean Olson, and Russell Olson. The information comes from a record search conducted on October 23, 2010:
- Docket #39399M0702111: Municipal speeding, 25 mph in a 20 zone, Madison, Lake County, 11/28/2007. Pled guilty by POA 1/10/28, paid $69.
- #39399M0601101: County speeding, 65 in a 55, Lake County, 7/26/2006. Pled guilty by POA 8/24/2006, paid $76.
- #32399M0502504: Municipal speeding, 55 in a 35, Pierre, Hughes County, 12/19/2005. Pled guilty by POA 1/6/2006, paid $119.
- #50399M0201111: Speeding other roadways, 70 in 55, Moody County, 5/20/2002. Pled guilty by POA 6/10/2002, paid $91.
- #07399M0100396: Open alcoholic beverage container accessible in vehicle, Brule County, 6/22/2001. Pled guilty by POA 7/19/2001, paid $86.
- #17399M9802737: Failure to make proper stop, Davison County, 12/11/1998. Pled nolo contendre; disposition: stipulate to facts, found guilty 1/19/1999, paid $78.
- #50399M9800546: Speeding other roadways, 75 in a 55, Moody County, 5/2/1998. Pled guilty by POA 5/20/1998, paid $100.
- #17399M9502117: Speeding, 68 in a 55, Davison County, 11/13/1995. Pled guilty by POA 11/22/1995, paid $70.
- #13C95000220A0: Speeding, 33 in a 25; Fleeing from police; Clay County, 5/11/1995. No plea to either charge, both charges dismissed on motion by prosecutor; pled guilty by POA to careless driving, 9/5/1995, paid $75.
- #13C94000333A0: Simple assault, Clay County, 10/9/1994. Warrant issued 11/8/1994 for Failure to appear; no plea to original charge, charge dismissed on reduction; pled guilty to Disorderly conduct 11/15/1994, paid $200.
- #49399M9323207: Speeding, 75 in a 65, Minnehaha County, 8/13/1993. Pled guilty 9/17/1993, paid $60.
- #49399M9323208: Open alcoholic beverage container accessible in vehicle, Minnehaha County, 8/13/1993. No plea; dismissed on prosecutor's motion 9/17/1993.
- #50399M9300227: Speeding, 65 in a 55, Moody County, 3/8/1993. Pled guilty by POA, paid $50.
- #50399M9101291: Disorderly conduct, Moody County, 6/15/1991. Pled guilty 7/31/1991, paid $50.
- #50C91000127A0: Having an altered or invalid license in possession, Moody County, 6/15/1991. Pled guilty 7/31/1991, paid $120. Incarcerated to local jail for 30 days consecutive with 30 days suspended; conditions: pay fine and costs, obey all laws for one year.
- #13399S9001361: Possession of alcohol by minor, Clay County, 5/6/1990. Pled guilty by POA 7/18/1990, fine of $50 ($40 suspended), costs of $15.
- #13399S9001369: Possession of alcohol by minor, Clay County, 5/6/1990. Pled guilty by POA 7/18/1990, fine $50, costs $15. [This record appears to duplicate the preceding record.]
- #50399M8900259: Possession of alcohol by minor, Moody County, filed 2/13/1989. No plea entered 2/22/1989; dismissed by motion of prosecutor 2/21/1990.
We will elect one of these men our state senator from District 8 next week. Voters, I welcome you to share how you reason out which of these men to vote for... or whether to vote on the District 8 Senate race at all.
p.s.: South Dakota does not allow write-in votes... but one write-in doesn't negate your votes on the other races.