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March 03, 2005
Lip Lauck

The Thune/bloggers partnership is its own little interesting phenomenon, but where does Gannon fit it into it, if at all?

Well, I noticed one interesting thing while reviewing the archives of Jon Lauck's blog, Daschle v. Thune. Check out this excerpt from an entry that Lauck posted during his first week of blogging: "Talon News looks like an all-web news service which offers news from the perspective of the right. It includes extensive commentary about the South Dakota race, which is quite interesting (and can be reviewed by reading the archives here)."

The phrase "Talon News looks like..." is a little curious, isn't it? It suggests that Talon News, and Jeff Gannon, are unfamiliar to Lauck: He's not quite sure about the organization, but it looks like it's an all-web news service...

Why is this strange? Because Lauck was one of the attorneys representing the owners of the website, which had been sued by a former senator from South Dakota named Jim Arbourezk on May 27, 2003 for including Arbourezk's name on a "Traitor List" that appeared on

On July 30, 2003, Lauck and another attorney filed a brief in response to the original complaint. Jon Lauck was one of the two attorneys who signed the brief. A day later, Gannon wrote an article about the lawsuit for Talon News.

Gannon also posted this message to Free Republic on August 4, 2003. Here's an excerpt: "The Free Speech Foundation, a Washington, DC-based First Amendment watchdog group announced Thursday that it would assist a Pennsylvania website owner hit with a libel lawsuit."

August 4, 2003 was a Monday; that means the "Thursday" Gannon refers to in his post was July 31, the same day he wrote his article on for Talon News.

Is it possible Lauck could have been working on the case and not know that his clients were also being represented by Jeff Gannon, the author of a Talon News article that was probably one of the only pieces to document the case at that point?

It doesn't seem very likely, does it? And, yet, several months later, in January 2004, Lauck writes as if he's just becoming familiar with Talon News and Jeff Gannon.

On a related note, Lauck mentions the case in this March 22, 2004 post without disclosing his role in it. Why the chronic pattern of secrecy? Only Lauck knows for sure, and he's not talking.

Posted by Greg Beato at 10:25 PM
March 02, 2005
Out of Thune?

Today, a South Dakota TV station aired a piece on the roles blogs played in last fall's senate race between incumbent Tom Daschle and challenger John Thune.

Throughout the campaign, two blogs, South Dakota Politics and Daschle v Thune, hammered away at Daschle and won substantial praise for their efforts.

For example, on July 26, 2004, the Wall Street Journal's John Fund called these two blogs "a credible counterweight to local South Dakota papers such as the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, which too often falls into the habit of ignoring new angles to the race and uncritically running Mr. Daschle's press releases."

Ironically, Jon Lauck, the creator of Daschle v. Thune, had a habit of uncritically accepting $4500 checks from John Thune's campaign at the time Fund wrote that passage. And Jason Van Beek, the creator of South Dakota Politics, was about to go on the Thune payroll as well.

When the two bloggers started accepting their monthly checks from the Thune campaign, neither mentioned it on their websites. And ever since word of their paid status got out, they've maintained that they were compensated for research consulting, not blogging. When I called up Thune spokesperson Alex Conant yesterday and asked him what Lauck did for those $4500 monthly payments, Conant said, "We paid him to do research and debate prep."

OK, that's the backstory. Now here are some excerpts from the TV news piece that caught my attention. (You can view the actual broadcast here.)

REPORTER: Jon Lauck is what's known as a blogger. The SDSU history professor started the website Daschle v. Thune last year because he wanted to write a book about the 2004 senate race.

LAUCK: I thought one way of writing that would be to keep a daily log or journal of what was going on in the race.

THUNE: I wasn't acquainted with what it was or who was behind it, but then I started, yeah, somebody would say, "You need to check this, there's a great post on there..."

The key passage here is Thune's declaration that he "wasn't acquainted with what it was or who was behind it..."

Thune's ignorance is somewhat understandable, because Lauck didn't post much information about himself on his site. But he did post his name, so here comes the fun part...

Jon Lauck is an Executive Board Member of the Minnehaha County GOP.

Jon Lauck once worked for former South Dakota senator Larry Pressler (he doesn't say when though). Kimberley Thune, John Thune's wife, is a former Pressler staffer.

Jon Lauck was, oh yeah, the Chairman of Lawyers for Thune, and "deeply involved [in] the nation's most-watched Senate race [of 2002]." In the wake of that race, which Thune lost to Democrat Tim Johnson by a mere 524 votes, there were many allegations of "voting improprieties" on Indian reservations. Lauck was reportedly involved in investigating these allegations. According to Indian Country Today, "Public records have shown that Lauck was paid travel money by the Republican Party to scour the offices of the County Auditors to find questionable American Indian registration cards and applications and then distribute them to the news media."

So...Jon Lauck was "deeply involved" in Thune's failed 2002 campaign, but in 2004, Thune "wasn't acquainted with what it was or who was behind" the Daschle v. Thune blog, even though it was maintained by a guy who had the exact same name as a prominent GOP activist who had volunteered for Thune in the past...

Now, maybe it was actually Van Beek's blog that Thune was talking about, but for whatever reasons, the segment's producer decided to cut it to make it sound like he was talking about Lauck's blog. So far, however, I haven't seen Lauck make that assertion. In fact, he says, "Other than that comment from Daschle's former campaign manager, the story seemed fine to me."

So, I'll take Lauck on his word, which basically means that Thune was saying, Lauck? Never heard of him, until we discovered that blog-thingie of, uh, yeah, his...

Now, here's another excerpt from the TV news piece:

REPORTER: By spring of 2004, the bloggers found that their online posting had landed them spots on Thune's payroll.

THUNE: Eventually, we got to the point where we thought these guys' research was so good we actually hired them to do research for us.

The passage that caught my eye here is Thune's declaration that "Eventually, we got to the point where we thought these guys' research was so good we actually hired them to do research for us."

To me, this passage implies the following: Lauck and Van Beek had no involvement with the Thune campaign until some Thune campaign staffers discovered their blogs, read them for a while, then eventually decided to hire the two men to do "research" for the campaign. To belabor the point: Only when they were hired to do research did the relationship start.

According to FEC filings, here are the first two payments Lauck received for "research consulting":

06/04/2004 (or maybe it's 05/04/2004).

But while those are the first times the Thune campaign gave money to Lauck for "research consulting," they're not the first time it gave money to him.

In fact, it gave money to him on three previous occasions, for "reimbursements" and "mileage reimbursement":

03/15/2004: $380.60 ("Reimbursement")
04/19/2004: $2459.42 ("Reimbursement")
05/14/2004:$100 ("Mileage reimbursement")

Is it possible to rack up around three grand in "reimbursements" when you're not involved in the campaign yet? I emailed Lauck about these reimbursements on Tuesday, but he hasn't responded.

UPDATE: Here's an excerpt from an entry Lauck posted on December 9, 2004: " I did a long post explaining the many problems I saw at the Argus long before I was a consultant."

The "long post" link leads to an entry Lauck posted on April 22, 2004. In his own words, then, April 22, 2004 was "long before [he] was a consultant." And yet on April 19, 2004, the Thune campaign had cut him a check for $2459.42 for "reimbursements."

Finally, Laucked also received $7950 from the Republican National Committee on December 22, 2003. I asked him what that payment was for in my email too. If he responds, I will post that here.

UPDATE II: South Dakota blogger Jer Bear has a similar take on the TV news piece, including this: "I mean, Jesus Christ -- Jon Lauck literally rode shotgun with Thune during the early campaigning days in March 2004. Eyewitnesses saw Lauck staffing the former congressman at this powwow on March 1, 2004." Read his entire post here.

Posted by Greg Beato at 11:37 PM
March 01, 2005
Biz Christ

Here's my latest piecefor The Rake, on Christian artist Nathan Greene. To see more of Greene's spectacular work, click here.

Posted by Greg Beato at 10:30 AM