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House speaker: Phone campaign threatens integrity of Ravnsborg impeachment inquiry

Gov. Kristi Noem says she only found out this week about the calls to the impeachment committee members.

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Gov. Kristi Noem applauds members of law enforcement during her state of the state address alongside Speaker of the House Spencer Gosch on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022 in the house chambers in the South Dakota State Capitol in Pierre.
Matt Gade / Mitchell Republic
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PIERRE, S.D. β€” After a week of telemarketer-induced calls from citizens angry about the lack of impeachment charges against Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, House Speaker Spencer Gosch lashed out on Thursday in a statement to reporters about an organized effort that he says threatens the integrity of the impeachment committee's work.

β€œIt is clear to me that whoever is behind this movement is trying to impede, influence, or taint the ongoing investigation of this committee," said Gosch, R-Glenham, in a news release on Thursday morning, Jan. 27. "We are looking into who is behind this.”

This week, the nine lawmakers on the committee have said they've received phone calls regarding the impeachment inquiry from residents who were directly transferred to the lawmakers by a telemarketer.

Gov. Kristi Noem β€” who has aggressively sought to apply pressure on Ravnsborg to step down from his post for his role in a fatal traffic death β€” disavowed knowledge of the phone campaign.

"The speaker's the one who told me about them and made me aware of them," Noem said Thursday during her weekly news conference. Noem added Gosch had texted her earlier in the week with concerns about the phone campaign.

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Details about the campaign remain foggy, but members of the House Select Committee on impeachment invariably say an organization is contacting state residents, asking a series of questions about the impeachment of Ravnsborg, and then transferring the respondents to legislators.

The Argus Leader reported on Thursday the calls are linked to an Ohio-based company. Attempts by Forum News Service to contact the owner of the company have not been successful.

The impeachment committee is slated to meet again on Monday, Jan. 31. Last week, the committee heard testimony from two North Dakota detectives who expressed incredulity at Ravnsborg's insistence he did not know he'd hit a human being until returning the morning after the September 2020 crash to the collision site west of Highmore , South Dakota.

In the incident, Ravnsborg drove his vehicle onto the shoulder of U.S. Highway 14 and struck and killed pedestrian Joe Boever, 55, of Highmore.

Ravnsborg last year pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor unsafe driving charges.

Christopher Vondracek covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at cvondracek@forumcomm.com or follow him on Twitter at @ChrisVondracek.
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