The Dead Cats and Boiling Frogs of South Dakota
January 30, 2023 By Breeauna Sagdal
-In an unprecedented move, the South Dakota State Senate has expelled Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller pending an investigation for allegations unknown. On the morning of Thursday Jan. 26, 2023 Senator Frye-Mueller introduced SB 125,
"An Act to prohibit the imposition of additional immunization requirements on children."
According to sources, Senator Frye-Mueller stopped into the LRC (Legislative Research Council) office that morning, in order to make revisions to her bill. Allegedly, a conversation took place at that time where the senator was asked for advice by a female staff member she considered to be a friend. What was stated during this conversation is said to have been germane to the topic of childhood vaccines, a topic that Frye-Mueller is very vocal about.
By that afternoon Senate President Pro-Tem Lee Schoenbeck (R-Watertown) made a motion to suspend the senate's rules and have Frye-Mueller relieved of her legislative authority, vote, and even her email access. Citing a 2006 sexual harassment case
, Schoenbeck argued that Frye-Mueller’s comment was considered misconduct, and therefore leadership has the authority to handle the case like an internal HR matter.
In February of 2006, an eighteen-year-old senate page accused Senator Dan Sutton of making unwanted sexual advances
towards him at a motel. Sen. Sutton was not removed from his seat, nor was he expelled, as the senate lacked the authority to do so. However, in the case of Sen. Frye-Mueller, she has been removed indefinitely without due process or a formal allegation of wrong-doing.
Per South Dakota Codified Law, a bill must be sponsored by a member of the legislature in order to advance, meaning Sen. Frye-Mueller’s medical freedom bill (SB 125) is also expelled, along with the voice of her entire district.
Given that South Dakota’s media apparatus has been swiftly and entirely bought-out over the last year-and-a-half, it might come as a shock for some to learn that this is only the most recent debacle in a battle that began during the pandemic.
As previously reported by The Dakota Leader
, Governor Kristi Noem used taxpayer dollars to fly to various events, including CPAC, where she told cheering crowds that she “listened to her people, trusted them to do the right thing, and kept South Dakota open.”
During that same time-frame, Health Freedom South Dakota was making headlines for a bill that would have made vaccine mandates illegal. In a state run by “the most conservative governor,” who values personal choice, one might imagine that a bill to prohibit mandates would have sailed through both chambers and now be law. So what happened?
On March 30, 2020, a slim majority of 29 lawmakers, led by Speaker Steve Haugaard, actually kept South Dakota open by killing various bills that would have closed businesses and schools during the pandemic. Over the next three years, these 29 members would be targeted and eliminated from office, one-by-one.
Ironically, the money raised by Gov. Noem's version of events would be used to primary the state’s most conservative members
, and begin reshaping the legislature from red to purple. And, days before being expelled
, Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller was on FOX news warning conservatives about Gov. Noem.
Gov. Noem and Sen. Schoenbeck worked together to create a "hit-list,"
of lawmakers they wanted removed from office. These actions have sparked a deep fracture and feud within the South Dakota Republican Party. Adding fuel to the feud, frustrated SDGOP members altered the power structure during convention this year—nominating Monae Johnson for Secretary of State and nearly removing Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden, and A.G Marty Jackley
Since that time, Sen. Schoenbeck et al, known colloquially as "the boy's club," have made their intentions to eradicate the state of "wack-a-doodles," very clear
. Legislation has even been proposed this session to eliminate Precinct Committee People from voting in future conventions.
Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, who helped to fund Frye-Mueller's primary opponents
in the last two elections, has made no secret of his hatred and desire to see her gone. Schoenbeck's lack of decorum has ranged from publicly ridiculing advocates of medical freedom on the floor, in social media posts, and in mailers.
In 2020, Schoenbeck and Pat Powers of Dakota War College created a campaign that targeted and attacked the sponsors of Health Freedom South Dakota’s bill
that would have made vaccine mandates illegal. The mailers were funded by Dana Dykhouse, the President of First Premier Bank, owned by Billionaire Denny Sanford. Sanford Health, the largest healthcare provider in South Dakota named after Denny Sanford, also donated to these efforts via Pac-N-Heat, and SDAHO (South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations). In the end, Frye-Mueller was the only lawmaker to have sponsored that bill and still won her re-election bid.
In an interview with SDBP,
Schoenbeck called Frye-Mueller and anyone who believes in medical freedom "crazy." During a town hall meeting, Schoenbeck referred to Frye-Mueller as a "wack-a-doodle," whom, "you wouldn't want taking care of your dog."
The Dead Cat
According to Lee Schoenbeck, Frye-Mueller is also a “dead cat,” a term used to underscore the political strategy of placing outlandish headlines
, to distract the public from important policy.
During a recent podcast hosted by “boys club” members Jake Schoenbeck (Sen. Schoenbeck’s son), political newcomer Noah Greble, and Pat Powers (Dakota War College), it’s clear that a personal vendetta exists, in addition to a power struggle for the future of the state. Less than three weeks into the 2023 session, over 80 bills deal with public-private partnership agreements for land trusts, banning puberty blockers in minors, abortion, vaccine mandates, housing, infrastructure, eminent domain, stripping away the rights of PCP’s at convention, Medicaid and more.
The Senate Committee on Discipline and Expulsion meets tonight at 5:30pm central time.
To learn more about the nine-member committee selected by Schoenbeck, use the search feature in the top right-hand-corner of our website to access our article archives.
Editor's Note: a former version of this article mistakenly shared Noah Greble was an intern for Tim Goodwin.
The Dakota Leader has dedicated the last year to investigating and uncovering these stories. We need your help to continue our efforts
|Post Date: 2023-01-30 08:41:29||Last Update: 2023-01-30 15:48:18|