Governor Bill Janklow(R): SD Ethanol's best Unrecognized Friend

My regular meetings with Governor Janklow

Early 1984 as a complete political novice I (orrie swayze) began to write my first three or four letters to the editor ever and they challenged Janklow's press statements discrediting ethanol as fuel. Then just out of the blue the Governor personally called to invite me to the Governor's office for a discussion. Completely surprised I accepted what turned out to be the first of more than several invitations usually before every summer study committee meeting on ethanol incentives. Basically started a two year working relationship. 

. The first meeting was very cordial and my take away from the meeting was his comment: " You and your crowd make your case to me and I am with you". He kept his word

As the summer study on SD ethanol incentive committee meetings began I would usually ride along (four hour trip) with my neighbor and key leader,Representative Kent Frerichs. Kent had invited my friend Dave Hallberg ,founding president of the Renewable Fuels Association, to Pierre previously. I was heavily involved in writing the purposed legislation so was usually invited to the Governor's office before each committee meeting with Jim Myers, transportation department head, always present. Hallberg founder/CEO of RFA was still president and they wanted to know "What does Hallberg say?": Dave usually spoke to the committee meetings by teleconference for 15-20 minutes answering questions. 

I have copy of a September 7, 1987 AP story that summarized the final summer study committee meeting: "SD began a a sharp turn in rural policy for a bill to subsidize ethanol through a sales tax on motor fuels(pipeline tax)"........." Rural democrats 'pushed hardest" for the plan and the main author is Orrie Swayze who says "This is really a tax for agriculture" he told the committee. 

Early in the process, after several meetings with the Governor and Jim Myers the transportation secretary doing most of the talking, I remarked "You sit here and ridicule ethanol in this conversation. I want you to go and tell the committee what you are telling me today so at least we can have an honest debate". Janklow said "Yes Jim will do that today". 

He never did. The Governor's office usually put out a press release after the committee meeting and I usually wrote an editorial that was often quite widely published. I did not refer to our conversations before the meeting but I did use some exact quotes from those conversations of each ridiculing the ethanol industry. 

I expected to be and was invited back to the Governor's office the very next meeting because they knew why those quotes were in the editorial: Before the summer study meetings they usually wanted to discuss Hallberg's counter, which I freely shared, to the ridiculing ethanol propaganda they were dishing out to the media. 

For me humorously, at the very next committee meeting I was invited in and we were having the same type of discussion and Janklow looked at me with a quick "You are not going to put that in the paper are you?". I told him I was not and reminded him why I did put the quotes in the paper. He nodded in agreement with an uncomfortable something like "ya,ya I know". 

Though an early critic Janklow is probably one of the best unrecognized friends the SD ethanol industry ever had because he kept his word. As he told Representative Kent Frerichs when he entered a joint session for his last major speech before departing from his first term after the legislation was in place: " Your are going to like what I have to say about ethanol". 

In my view he, admittedly quite persuasively, provoked a needed debate and made ethanol supporters prove ethanol's case to him. He was not going to be part of leading SD into a big ethanol scam. Later, when ever our paths crossed he always had a big smile, hand shake and some small talk. Especially when we were both standing in line at Mitchell opening to buy ethanol plant shares. Click Read more to find Janklow's undeclared friendship with ethanol even went thirough his second term ending 16 years later.


Kiel Zinter