SD ALEC Queen Kristie Fiegen

This is an interesting turn. As we work on the our ALEC funded SOS Mr. Gant, we keep turning more corners in our journey.  Now we find out how needy Ms. Fiegen has been for attention from all the wrong people and companies. As we have been digging we wondered why and then how Ms. Fiegen was receiving money from the out of state Koch Brother allies and then this showed up in our mailbox.

You see, Kristi Fiegen has been running for one office or another for several years now with a curious string of money, legislative and PUC decisions trailing behind her. Why would a keeper of the public trust, with a position to hold the utility companies feet to the ‘fire’, cave into every big utility companies at every turn. All you farmers, do you know what will be happening to your local REA once ALEC controlled Chris Nelson and Kristi Fiegen have their full terms? Kristi has been going to training ALEC sessions paid for by the State of South Dakota.

We find Ms. Fiegen begged the 1999 Republican led Legislative Interim Executive Board for some special funding.  According to Item #6: “The Board reviewed a letter from Representative Kristie Fiegen, state chair of ALEC, requesting that registration fees and up to $250 of travel expense be authorized for ten legislators to attend the 1999 ALEC convention.” This is $2,500 plus registration fees to learn how to ‘legally’ rip-off the people of South Dakota.

You see, ALEC is an organization operated by the billionaire Koch Brothers for the benefit of their friends. These brothers are the sons of one of the founding financiers of the John Birch Society, an organization known for advocating some very non-Christian, anti-South Dakota, anti-family farmer, small business positions.

Kristi Fiegen was asking, in her position as the South Dakota ALEC Leader, to have the State of South Dakota pay the trip expenses and registration fees for a select group of legislators to the next training sessions. These training sessions teach “our” representatives how to rape and pillage the treasury, resources and people of the State of South Dakota in creative ways.  As a side benefit, these representatives get to learn how to be good ALEC members in order to receive money in the form of campaign contributions. If the ALEC members are really nice to the out of state money changers, money will come their way.  This will give them the ability to run for bigger and better offices. Governmental offices like SOS, PUC, judgeships, legislative leadership, Attorney General, Congress and more become available if the game is played right. If you are ambitious with low standards, ethics or morals, sign up to be an ALEC member and rip-off your neighbors.

When you look at the finance records of your GOP legislators and consider this question, “What part of their souls did they have to sell to get the out of state money contributions?”

Kristie has also been busy with some other ‘projects’

Cosponsored legislation to eliminate the one-year ban on lobbying by former state employees:
http://legis.state.sd.us/sessions/1999/1291.htm
Voted to raise gas taxes in 1997:
http://legis.state.sd.us/sessions/1997s/1001.htm

 

12 comments ↓

#1 Testor15 on 09.09.12 at 10:21 pm

How many GOP lawmakers received the trips and do they still subsidize these trips?

#2 Guest Poster on 09.10.12 at 8:29 am

Notice how they were afraid this would set an example for funding trips by other groups, not of their liking?

Good government is not a winner take all game. If you retired or spurned legislators, staff, interested parties who are reading these posts have more information on anything including ALEC membership lists, we sure would love to have it. Just keep sending us anything you might have to L3wis by clicking the ‘About’ button at the top of this page. These tips help us bring facts to the front where everyone can read and decide.

#3 Helga on 09.10.12 at 3:45 pm

Manny Steele gets paid for trips to ALEC meetings. He is one of many.

#4 Guest Poster on 09.10.12 at 3:57 pm

Does anyone know who finances the trips now? Where is best place to find attendees lists?

#5 Jo on 09.10.12 at 10:06 pm

Don’t forget Hal Wick and Kristi Noem.

#6 Jo on 09.10.12 at 10:07 pm

Argus Leader

February 7, 2010

Legislator trips: $900K in 4 years

Defenders say out-of-state travel gives S.D. voice in national issues

Jonathan Ellis
Megan Luther

South Dakota lawmakers took 575 out-of-state trips to conferences and meetings the past four years at a cost to taxpayers of nearly $900,000.

That list includes dozens of trips by lawmakers who were months and, in some cases, weeks from retiring.

The high-water mark came in 2007, a year in which they spent more than $322,837 on airfare, hotel bills and conference registration fees, according to an Argus Leader analysis of travel records.

With the decline in state revenues and cuts to programs, out-of-state travel dropped 50 percent in 2008 and sunk to $150,000 in 2009 amid a new policy restricting such trips.

Now, faced with even deeper cuts to the budget, some lawmakers argue that almost all trips outside South Dakota should be eliminated – at least temporarily. A two-year hiatus would add up to serious money at a time when more state programs are on the chopping block.

Others argue that travel is important to South Dakota’s interests. Eliminating it – even for a brief period – would harm the state in the long run. The conferences and committees in which lawmakers participate are venues where national policies are developed, and it’s important for South Dakota to have a role in shaping those policies.

But even defenders of travel acknowledge that some trips are inappropriate and that cuts could be made without hurting the state’s interest. Among the Argus Leader’s findings:

· Most lawmakers don’t travel outside the state on the taxpayer dime, or they do so sparingly. Others are frequent fliers. One senator and two former senators spent more than $165,000 on 131 trips since 2004. The three served, or serve, as officers of national legislative organizations, which requires extensive travel.

· Lawmakers about to be term limited out of office have taken dozens of trips following their last session. Others traveled after retiring or after losing elections. Since 2004, those trips have cost taxpayers nearly $90,000.

· Numerous lawmakers sometimes go on the same trip. An annual meeting sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures – Aug. 5-9, 2007, in Boston – was the most expensive single conference for South Dakota taxpayers. Twenty-nine lawmakers attended at a cost of more than $65,000.

· Expenses vary. The single most expensive trip was $4,065, according to the state’s data. Others were less than $100. Most of the cheaper trips involved airfare and hotel stays, but those costs were defrayed through stipends or scholarships.

· Lawmakers have taken about three dozen trips during legislative sessions. They collected their $110 per diems for being in Pierre on the days they were gone, and taxpayers picked up their expenses for traveling.

· The Legislative Research Council started keeping a precise accounting of travel expenses after some lawmakers began questioning the system. The LRC has a database of travel for trips after July 1, 2008. To account for trips before that date, the Argus Leader used paper vouchers and other data to reconstruct several years of expenses. The $900,000 figure probably is low, because some vouchers do not include the costs of conference registration fees, which typically range from $300 to $400. Lawmakers have spent tens of thousands on them in the past few years.

Rep. Rich Engels, D-Hartford, is among lawmakers who question the need for out-of-state travel. In November 2008, during a meeting of the Legislature’s Executive Board, Engels tried to cap out-of-state travel to national conferences at $3,000 a year per legislator. His proposal failed.

Last year, 17 lawmakers spent more than $3,000 on travel outside South Dakota, with two spending more than $10,000. In 2007, 42 spent more than $3,000 with six spending more than $10,000.

Engels also presented a motion requiring the Legislature to post travel records on the Legislative Research Council Web site – including lawmaker names, the conference, the location of the conference and the costs. It failed by a voice vote, meaning there’s no record of who voted for and against the motion.

But questions about travel revealed this: Legislative officials had little data from which to make judgments. Staff members with the Legislative Research Council went to work assembling the data, allowing the leadership of the Legislature to better track expenses, and note who is taking trips and for what conferences.

At the same time, South Dakota started feeling the pinch of recession. Programs came under threat of budget cuts as revenues declined. Last year, the Executive Board voted to cap legislative travel at two trips per lawmaker, per year. The only exception to that cap is for lawmakers who represent the state on the Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board, a national group working on legislation that would enable states to levy sales taxes on Internet sales.

From 2009 to 2010, the Legislature cut its travel budget from $195,000 to $155,000 – although that part of the budget does not pay conference registration fees.

Sen. Jean Hunhoff, R-Yankton, chairwoman of the Executive Board, said lawmakers reacted by reining in their travel.

“Travel seemed to be something we could impact,” she said.

But for some, that two-trip cap doesn’t go far enough.

“It’s a huge expense for the state, and there are people who go on numerous trips to the extent that the costs of those far exceeds their legislative salaries by a long ways,” Engels said. “There are people who go on those trips, I’ve been told, who don’t go to meetings. They treat it as a vacation, and that’s not appropriate.”

Legislators make $6,000 a year, plus $110 a day for expenses during legislative sessions.

Gordon Pederson of Wall, who served in the House for 30 years before retiring in 2008, was a frequent traveler who represented South Dakota on national boards for commerce and transportation issues. Pederson recalls one trip to San Francisco in which other South Dakota lawmakers brought their families. After breakfast, the lawmakers took their families sightseeing to Alcatraz and other locations instead of attending meetings.

That wasn’t unusual.

“They’d be gone all afternoon or all morning or whatever the case may be,” Pederson said. “We had a lot of that. I would not say it was excessive. In some cases, maybe one or two here or there, it might have been.”

For that reason, Pederson said lawmakers probably could make cuts to the travel budget without harming the state. “It may be that they need to sit down and just see what’s available and take a good hard look at it before they make any decisions.”

Rep. Shantel Krebs, R-Renner, has introduced legislation to eliminate almost all out-of-state travel for two years. Krebs, who hasn’t taken a taxpayer-funded trip outside South Dakota, said the meetings offer valuable information, but it can be gleaned on the Internet or by teleconferences.

But others argue it’s important for South Dakota lawmakers to have a presence on the boards and committees of national legislative organizations. It’s not only about learning, it’s about shaping policies. That can’t be done via teleconferencing or the Internet.

“The world is run by those who show up,” said Jim Fry, the executive director of the Legislative Research Council. “Small states, by their very nature, are going to be left at the gate most of the time because we don’t have any clout unless you serve on those committees. If you serve on those committees, your voice counts as much as anybody else’s.”

The national organizations develop policies that eventually end up in Washington. South Dakota, Fry said, has benefited by participating.

“The best example I could give you is the highway funding act,” he said. “We get $1.97 for every dollar we send in. How do you think that happens? It doesn’t happen because all those folks in the donor states like us so much. There are people that fight for that.”

The new policy capping travel to two trips a year was a “good first step,” Hunhoff said. Lawmakers could place additional restrictions during the appropriations process, but she agrees that South Dakota needs a presence in the national groups.

One area without policy is travel by lawmakers who are about to leave office. Fry said lawmakers who serve on national committees are encouraged to attend meetings, even if they are leaving in a few months. They have expertise, and they still represent the state in policy debates.

Pederson was an example, Fry said. The 30-year veteran took three trips after his last session before his term officially ended in 2008. Leadership asked him to go because he was the most knowledgeable about complex transportation issues.

“They wanted him to go because he was the only one who knew anything about it,” he said.

But others, such as Engels, are skeptical the trips are as important as others say they are. He has never taken a taxpayer funded trip outside of South Dakota, but he still has drafted legislation that passed. As for lawmakers traveling when they’re close to retirement, “There’s no benefit to the public at all,” he said.

Pederson calls the trips “a mixed bag.” Transportation committee meetings were good, he said, but the commerce meetings “left a little bit to be desired.”

“Some were just really good and some were just so-so.”

Reach Jonathan Ellis at jonellis@argus leader.com or 575-3629. Reach Megan Luther mmluther@argusleader.com or at 331-2318.

Additional Facts

Costliest trips

Single most expensive trips, according to state data:
1. Rep. Phil Jensen, July 15, 2009, to the American Legislative Exchange Council’s annual meeting in Atlanta. Cost: $4,064.51
2. Sen. Tom Hansen, July 23, 2007 to the American Legislative Exchange Council’s annual meeting in Philadelphia, followed by meetings in Arlington, Va. and Boston. Cost: $3,709
3. Sen. Tom Hansen, July 22, 2008, to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ annual meeting in New Orleans. Cost: $3,684
4. Sen. Tom Hansen, May 12, 2009 to a Streamline Sales Tax meeting in Arlington, Va. Cost: $3,524
5. Sen. Tom Hansen, July 29, 2005 to a Midwest Legislative Conference meeting in Regina, Saskatchewan followed by an American Legislative Exchange Council meeting in Grapevine, Texas. Cost: $3,395

Frequent travelers
Most expensive travelers since 2004:
Sen. Tom Hansen: $63,004
Former Sen. Orville Smidt: $53,387
Former Sen. Ed Olson: $49,248

Trips before term limits kick in
Number of trips taken in final year before being termed out:

· Former Sen. Ed Olson: seven

· Former Sen. Arnold Brown: five

· Former Sen. Ken Albers*: three

· Former Rep. Mary Glenski: three

· Former Sen. Arlene Ham: three

· Former Rep. Gordon Pederson: three

· Former Rep. David Sigdestad: three

· Former Rep. Burdette Solum: three
* Albers took three trips in 2004 after his final legislative session, a year in which he was termed out. He sat out one session before returning to the Senate for one more term in 2007.

Where they go
Some locations where lawmakers traveled for meetings:
Boston, National Conference of State Legislatures’ annual meeting, 2007
Gimli, Manitoba, Legislators Forum, 2009
Lake Tahoe, Calif., Council of State Governments, 2005
Philadelphia, American Legislative Exchange Council annual meeting, 2007
Puerto Rico, Council of State Governments, 2007
Regina, Saskatchewan, Midwest Legislative Conference, 2005
Salt Lake City, National Conference of State Legislatures’ annual meeting, 2004
Seattle, National Conference of State Legislatures’ annual meeting, 2005
Traverse City, Mich., Midwest Legislative Conference, 2007

Questions:

What trips are ethical in sense of taxpayer paid trips

ALEC is right wing and secret organization funded by big business to write state legislative policy

What costs are allowable on a trip?

Who can go on trips and spouses/family allowed?

What receipts are required and do legislators sign a reimbursement request verifying correct information

#7 l3wis on 09.10.12 at 10:15 pm

Jo, thanks for finding this story.

#8 rufusx on 09.10.12 at 10:30 pm

Ditto that – useful stuff.

#9 Detroit Lewis on 09.11.12 at 9:46 am

Looks like Kristie was looking for more ALEC money :)

http://politicalsmokeout.tumblr.com/post/31074547460/crossed-wires-at-the-secretary-of-states-office

#10 scott on 09.11.12 at 11:26 am

Just think of all the money the state will save when all those conventions and conferences are held at the new events center.

#11 Guest Poster on 09.11.12 at 11:30 am

Great Job Jo! Already digging

#12 l3wis on 09.11.12 at 9:40 pm

scott – the state might save money, but I have a feeling SF taxpayers would be taking it in the shorts.

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