Tom Daschle

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Posted by r2d2 04/11/2009 @ 06:10

Tags : tom daschle, democratic party, politics

News headlines
As Medicare Feels Pinch, Sebelius Puts Health-Reform Odds at 75-25 - Wall Street Journal Blogs
In the wake of Tom Daschle, a one-time candidate for Sebelius's job, putting the odds of health reform this year at 50-50, the NewsHour's Gwen Ifill pushed Sebelius to place her own bet on the odds. Sebelius's response: 75-25....
GE commits US$6bn to healthcare innovation - MTBeurope
GE will engage experts; and leaders on policy and programs and create a GE Health Advisory Board, which will include former US senators Bill Frist and Tom Daschle and other global healthcare leaders. Healthymagination will draw on capabilities from...
Dearth of challengers could mean a free ride for Harry Reid - Politico
... and marked him for the full Daschle treatment — recruiting an A-list challenger, pouring millions into the race and unloading the full party arsenal on him, the strategy successfully employed against then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle in 2004....
Republicans block Obama pick for Interior deputy - The Associated Press
Earlier this year, three of Obama's Cabinet-level nominees withdrew their names from consideration — Health and Human Services nominee Tom Daschle over tax problems, Commerce nominee Bill Richardson because of an investigation into contracts,...
General Electric to spend $6B to improve health care - Dallas Morning News
Former US Senator Tom Daschle will serve on the program's advisory board. “We can only find real solutions in health care when business, government and their partners work together,” Daschle said in a statement. GE's healthymagination program will draw...
Back Into the Fray: Daschle Talks Health Care - ABC News
By KATE BARRETT He's been a longtime force inside Washington's most influential circles, so perhaps it's no surprise that Tom Daschle says it's an adjustment to be out of the loop. The former Senate majority leader explains how health care can be...
How the Antiabortion Movement Sees Obama's First 100 Days - U.S. News & World Report
November 19th, 2008 President-elect Obama nominates pro-abortion former Senator Tom Daschle (DS.D.) as his Health and Human Services Secretary. December 10th, 2008 The Obama transition team publishes a wish list from radical pro-abortion groups of...
Obama discovers fiscal restraint, slashes budget - Pajamas Media
A trifling 100 percent increase in the IRS enforcement budget, an initiative headed up by Tom Daschle with advice from Timothy Geithner. • A spartan increase $178 billion to help preserve jobs of unions whose contributions to the Democratic party...
Utahn was last Bush holdout in Cabinet level job - Salt Lake Tribune
Obama had already tapped former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to head the large department and senators historically are reluctant to reject one of their own in a confirmation hearing. But a tax scandal derailed Daschle's chances, forcing him to...
Ted Kennedy puts up his dukes - Boston Herald
Tom Daschle, turned down an Obama administration post and is instead working as Kennedy's top health-care liaison. Childress will be the senator's point man in the battle, which Kennedy is leading from his chairman's post on the Senate Health,...

Tom Daschle

Tom Daschle

Thomas Andrew Daschle (born December 9, 1947) is a former U.S. Senator from South Dakota and former U.S. Senate Majority Leader. He is a member of the Democratic Party.

A South Dakota native, Daschle obtained his university degree there, and served in the United States Air Force. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1978 and served four terms. In 1986 he was elected to the Senate, becoming minority leader in 1994. Defeated for re-election in 2004, he took a position as a policy advisor with a lobbying firm, and also became a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. He co-authored a book advocating universal health care.

Daschle was an early supporter of Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy, and was offered the position of Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services after the 2008 election. He was President Barack Obama's nominee to serve as the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) in Obama's Cabinet, but withdrew his name on February 3, 2009 amid a growing controversy over his failure to accurately report and pay income taxes.

Daschle was born in Aberdeen, South Dakota, to Elizabeth B. Meier and Sebastian C. Daschle. His paternal grandparents were ethnic Germans from Russia. Daschle grew up in a working-class Roman Catholic family as the eldest of four brothers. He became the first person in his family to graduate from college when he earned a political science degree from South Dakota State University in 1969. While attending South Dakota State University, Daschle became a brother of Alpha Phi Omega. From 1969 to 1972, Daschle served in the United States Air Force as an intelligence officer with the Strategic Air Command.

In the mid-1970s Daschle was an aide to then Senator James Abourezk of South Dakota.

Daschle has been married to Linda Hall, Miss Kansas for 1976, since 1984, one year after his marriage to his first wife, Laurie, ended in divorce. Hall was acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration in the Clinton administration; she is now a Washington lobbyist. Her lobbying clients have included American Airlines, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing, Senate lobbying records show. Daschle has three children from his first marriage: Kelly, Nathan, and Lindsay. His son, Nathan, is Executive Director of the Democratic Governors Association.

In 1978, Daschle was elected to the United States House of Representatives, winning the race by a margin of 110 votes, following a recount, out of more than 129,000 votes cast. Daschle served four terms in the House of Representatives and quickly became a part of the Democratic leadership.

At the 1980 Democratic National Convention Congressman Daschle received 10 (0.30%) delegate votes for Vice President of the United States. Although he was not a candidate, Daschle (along with others) received votes against incumbent Walter Mondale, who was renominated easily.

In 1986, Daschle was elected to the Senate in a close victory over incumbent Republican James Abdnor, becoming the nation's 1,776th senator. In his first year, he was appointed to the Finance Committee. In 1994, he was chosen by his colleagues to succeed the retiring Senator George Mitchell as Democratic Minority Leader. In the history of the Senate, only Lyndon B. Johnson had served fewer years before being elected to lead his party. In addition to the Minority Leader's post, Daschle also served as a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. South Dakotans re-elected Daschle to the Senate by overwhelming margins in 1998. At various points in his career, he served on the Veterans Affairs, Indian Affairs, Finance and Ethics Committees.

When the 107th Congress commenced on January 3, 2001, the Senate was evenly divided -- that is, there were 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. Outgoing Vice President Al Gore acted in his constitutional capacity as ex officio President of the Senate, and used his tie-breaking vote to give the Democrats the majority in that chamber. For the next two weeks, Daschle served as Senate Majority Leader. Then, upon the commencement of the Bush administration on January 20, 2001, Dick Cheney became President of the Senate, thereby returning Democrats to the minority in that body; Daschle reverted to the position of Senate Minority Leader. However, on June 6, 2001, Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont announced in that he was leaving the Senate Republican caucus to become an independent and to caucus with Democrats; this once again returned control of the body to the Democrats and Daschle again became Majority Leader.

Democratic losses in the November 2002 elections returned the party to the minority in the Senate in January 2003 and Daschle once more reverted to being Minority Leader.

Daschle recounted his Senate experiences from 2001 to 2003 in his first book, Like No Other Time: The 107th Congress and the Two Years That Changed America Forever, published in 2003.

In October 2001, while he was the Senate Majority Leader, Daschle's office received a letter containing anthrax, becoming a target of the 2001 anthrax attacks. Many of his staffers were confirmed to have been exposed, as well as several of Sen. Russ Feingold's staffers and Capitol police officers.

In the 2004 Congressional elections, John Thune prevailed by a narrow 51%-49% margin, which was just over 4,500 votes. Senate majority Leader Bill Frist visited South Dakota to campaign for Thune.

Throughout the campaign, Thune — along with Frist, President George W. Bush, and Vice President Cheney — frequently accused Daschle of being the "chief obstructionist" of Bush's agenda and charged him with using filibusters to block confirmation of several of Bush's nominees. The Republican candidate also drove home his strong support for the war. In a nationally televised debate on NBC's Meet the Press, Thune accused Daschle of "emboldening the enemy" in his skepticism of the Iraq war.

When the race began in early 2004, Daschle led by 7 points in January and February. By May, his lead minimized to just 2 points and into the summer polls showed a varying number of trends: either Daschle held a slim 1 to 2 point lead or Thune held a slim 1 to 2 point lead or the race was dead even. Throughout September, Daschle led Thune by margins of 2 to 5 percent while during the entire month of October into the November 2 election, most polls showed that Thune and Daschle were dead even, usually tied 49-49 among likely voters. Some polls showed either Thune or Daschle leading by extremely slim margins.

Following his election defeat, Daschle took a position with the lobbying arm of the K Street law firm Alston & Bird. Because he was prohibited by law from lobbying for one year after leaving the Senate, he instead worked as a "special policy adviser" for the firm.

Alston & Bird's health care lobbying clients include CVS Caremark, the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, Abbott Laboratories and HealthSouth. The firm was paid $5.8 million between January and September 2008 to represent companies and associations before Congress and the executive branch, with 60 percent of that money coming from the health industry. Daschle was recruited by the former Republican Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole. Daschle's salary from Alston & Bird for the year 2008 was reportedly $2 million.

Daschle was also a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. In addition, he served as National Co-Chair of ONE Vote ‘08 (an initiative of ONE.org), along with former Senator Bill Frist. He and former Senators George Mitchell, Bob Dole, and Howard Baker formed the Bipartisan Policy Center, dedicated to finding bipartisan solutions for policy disputes.

In late September 2005, Daschle caught the attention of the media by reactivating his political action committee, changing its name from DASHPAC to New Leadership for America PAC and procuring a speaking slot at the Iowa Democratic Party's annual Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner. He has continued to keep a relatively high profile among Democratic interest groups. These moves were interpreted by the media as an exploration of a potential 2008 Presidential candidacy. On December 2, 2006, announced he would not run for President in 2008.

In an appearance on Meet the Press on February 12, 2006, former Senator Daschle endorsed a controversial warrantless surveillance program conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA); Daschle explained that he had been briefed on the program while he was the Democratic leader in the Senate.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Daschle served as a key advisor to Obama and one of the national co-chairs for Obama's campaign. On June 3, 2008, Obama lost to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary in Daschle's home state of South Dakota, although that night Obama clinched his party's nomination anyway.

Two days later, sources indicated Daschle "is interested in universal health care and might relish serving as HHS secretary." In the general election campaign, Daschle continued to consult Obama, campaign for him across swing states, and advise his campaign organization until Obama was ultimately elected the 44th President of the United States on November 4, 2008.

Some organizations objected to Daschle's selection, arguing that his work at Alston & Bird was tantamount to lobbying and therefore his selection violated Obama's promise to keep special interests out of the White House. According to Ellen Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, Daschle technically complies with the transition rules against lobbyists but "many power brokers never register as lobbyists, but they are every bit as powerful". Stephanie Cutter, a spokeswoman for the Obama transition, responded that Daschle's work "does not represent a bar to his service in the transition" since "he was not a lobbyist, and he will recuse himself from any work that presents a conflict of interest".

When Daschle was officially nominated for his Cabinet position on January 20, 2009, confirmation by the Senate was required. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a confirmation hearing for Mr. Daschle on January 8, 2009. A second Senate committee, the Finance Committee, also traditionally reviews HHS Secretary nominees; the committee discussed his nomination behind closed doors on February 2, 2009.

On January 30, 2009, it was reported that Daschle's friendship and business partnership with businessman Leo Hindery could cause problems for Daschle's Senate confirmation. Daschle has been a paid consultant and advisor to Hindery's InterMedia Partners since 2005, during which time he received from Hindery access to a limousine and chauffeur. Daschle reportedly did not declare this service on his annual tax forms as required by law. A spokeswoman for Daschle said that he "simply and probably naively" considered the use of the car and driver "a generous offer" from Hindery, "a longtime friend". Daschle told the Senate Finance Committee that in June 2008 -- just as he was letting the press know he would like to be HHS secretary in an Obama administration -- that "something made him think that the car service might be taxable" and he began seeking to remedy the situation.

Daschle reportedly also did not pay taxes on an additional $83,333 that he earned as a consultant to InterMedia Partners in 2007; this was discovered by Senator Daschle's accountant in December 2008. According to ABC News, Daschle also took tax deductions for $14,963 in donations that he made between 2005 and 2007 to charitable organizations that did not meet the requirements for being tax deductible.

The former Senator paid the three years of owed taxes and interest -- an amount totaling $140,167 -- in January 2009, but still reportedly owed "Medicare taxes equal to 2.9 percent" of the value of the car service he received, amounting to "thousands of dollars in additional unpaid taxes".

On Tuesday, February 3, 2009, Daschle withdrew his nomination, saying that he did not wish to be a "distraction" to the Obama agenda. He was forced to withdraw because, even though he had a sufficient number of Democratic votes for nomination, he became an untenable political liability for the President. Many news sources reported that the controversy had begun to undercut President Obama's promise to run a more ethical, responsible and special interest-free administration.

Daschle co-wrote the 2008 book Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis. He and his co-authors point out that "most of the world’s highest-ranking health-care systems employ some kind of 'single-payer' strategy - that is, the government, directly or through insurers, is responsible for paying doctors, hospitals, and other health-care providers". They argue that a single-payer approach is simple, equitable, provides everyone with the same benefits, and saves billions of dollars through economies of scale and simplified administration. They concede that implementing a single-payer system in the United States would be "politically problematic" even though some polls show more satisfaction with the single-payer Medicare system than private insurance, and that it would be socialized medicine.

A key element of the single-payer plan that Daschle and his co-authors propose in the book is a new "Federal Health Board" that would establish the framework and fill in the details. The board would somehow be simultaneously "insulated from political pressure" and "accountable to elected officials and the American people". The board would "promote 'high-value' medical care by recommending coverage of those drugs and procedures backed by solid evidence". This proposal has been criticized by conservatives and libertarians who argue that such a board will lead to rationing of health care, and by progressives who believe the board will, as one writer put it, "get defanged by lobbyists immediately".

One of Daschle's co-authors, Jeanne Lambrew, had been slated before his withdrawal to serve as his deputy in the White House Office of Health Reform.

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Trent Lott

United States Senate

Chester Trent Lott Sr. (born October 9, 1941 in Grenada, Mississippi) is a former United States Senator from Mississippi and a member of the Republican Party. He has served in numerous leadership positions in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, including House Minority Whip, Senate Majority Leader, Senate Minority Leader, and Senate Minority Whip. Lott is the first person to have served as whip in both houses of Congress.

On December 20, 2002, after significant controversy following what were viewed as racist comments regarding Strom Thurmond's presidential candidacy, Lott resigned as Senate Majority Leader in the Senate. In December 2007, he resigned from the Senate entirely and became a Washington-based lobbyist. Lott's resignation from the Senate came just two days before the federal indictment of his brother-in-law trial lawyer Richard Scruggs. Scruggs plead guilty to conspiring to bribe a Mississippi Judge by promising him a federal judgeship appointment using his influence over Lott. Lott ruled out any health concerns affecting his resignation. At a press conference on December 31, 2007, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour appointed Roger Wicker to fill temporarily the Senate seat vacated by Lott. On November 4, 2008, a special election Senate race was held to replace him. He was succeeded in office by Republican Roger Wicker.

Lott was born in Grenada, Mississippi. His father, Chester Paul Lott, was a shipyard worker; his mother, Iona Watson, was a schoolteacher. He attended college at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, where he obtained an undergraduate degree in public administration in 1963 and a law degree in 1967. He served as a Field Representative for Ole Miss and was president of his fraternity, Sigma Nu. Lott was also an Ole Miss cheerleader, coincidentally on the same team with U.S. Senator Thad Cochran. He married Patricia Thompson on December 27, 1964. The couple has two children: Chester Trent "Chet" Lott, Jr., and Tyler Lott.

Lott was raised as a Democrat. He served as administrative assistant to House Rules Committee chairman William M. Colmer, also of Pascagoula, from 1968 to 1972.

In 1972, Colmer, one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, announced his retirement after 40 years in Congress. He endorsed Lott as his successor in Mississippi's 5th District, located in the state's southwestern tip, even though Lott ran as a Republican. Lott won handily.

Lott's party switch was part of a growing trend in the South. During the 1960s, cracks had begun to appear in the Democrats' "Solid South", as many whites, motivated in part by the national Democratic Party's stance on African American civil rights, began to switch parties. For example, 1964 Republican nominee Barry Goldwater carried Mississippi by winning an unheard-of 87 percent of the popular vote even as he was routed nationally.

It is very likely that Lott would have won even without Colmer's endorsement, as in that year's presidential election, Richard Nixon won reelection in a massive landslide. Nixon won 49 states and 78 percent of Mississippi's popular vote. Lott and his future Senate colleague, Thad Cochran (also elected to Congress that year), were only the second and third Republicans elected to Congress from Mississippi since Reconstruction. Lott's strong showing in the polls landed him on the powerful House Judiciary Committee as a freshman, where he voted against all three articles of impeachment drawn up against Richard Nixon during the committee's debate. After Nixon released the infamous "Smoking Gun" transcripts (which proved Nixon's involvement in the Watergate cover-up), however, Lott announced that he would vote to impeach Nixon when the articles came up for debate before the full House (as did the other Republicans who voted against impeachment in committee).

Three months later, in November 1974, Lott and Cochran became the first Republicans re-elected to Congress from Mississippi since Reconstruction, in both cases by blowout margins. Lott was re-elected six more times without much difficulty, and even ran unopposed in 1978. He served as House Minority Whip (the second-ranking Republican in the House) from 1981 to 1989; he was the first Southern Republican to hold such a high leadership position.

Lott ran for the Senate in 1988, after 42-year incumbent John Stennis announced he would not run for another term. He defeated Democratic 4th District Congressman Wayne Dowdy by almost eight points. He has never faced another contest nearly that close. He was re-elected in 1994, 2000, and 2006 with no substantive Democratic opposition. He gave some thought to retirement for much of 2005, however, after Hurricane Katrina, he announced on January 17, 2006 that he would run for a fourth term.

He became Senate Majority Whip when the Republicans took control of the Senate in 1995, succeeding as Majority Leader in 1996 when Bob Dole resigned from the Senate to focus on his presidential campaign. As majority leader, Lott had a major role in the Senate trial following the impeachment of Bill Clinton. After the House narrowly voted to impeach Clinton, Lott proceeded with the Senate trial in early 1999, despite criticisms that the Republicans were far short of the two-thirds majority required under the Constitution to convict Clinton and remove him from office. He later agreed to a decision to suspend the proceedings after the Senate voted not to convict Clinton.

After the 2000 elections produced a 50-50 partisan split in the Senate, Vice President Al Gore's tie-breaking vote gave the Democrats the majority from January 3 to January 20, 2001, when the George W. Bush administration took office and Vice President Dick Cheney's tie-breaking vote gave the Republicans the majority once again. Later in 2001, he became Senate Minority Leader again after Vermont senator Jim Jeffords became an independent and caucused with the Democrats, allowing them to regain the majority. He was due to become majority leader again in early 2003 after Republican gains in the November 2002 elections. Shortly after the Strom Thurmond controversy, however (see below), he resigned from his leadership positions.

Since he lost the Majority Leader post, Lott was less visible on the national scene while breaking with some standard conversative positions. He battled with President Bush over military base closures in his home state. He showed support for passenger rail initiatives, notably his 2006 bipartisan introduction, with Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, of legislation to provide 80 percent federal matching grants to intercity rail and guarantee adequate funding for Amtrak. On July 18, 2006, Lott voted with 19 Republican senators for the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act to lift restrictions on federal funding for the research. On November 15, 2006 Lott regained a leadership position in the Senate, when he was named Minority Whip after defeating Lamar Alexander of Tennessee 24-23.

Lott faced no Republican opposition in the race. State representative Erik Fleming placed first of four candidates in the June Democratic primary, but did not receive the 50 percent of the vote required to earn the party's nomination. He and second-place finisher Bill Bowlin faced off in a runoff on June 27, and Fleming won with 65% of the vote. Fleming, however, was not regarded as a serious opponent, and Lott handily defeated him with 64% of the vote.

On November 26, 2007, Lott announced that he would resign his Senate seat by the end of 2007. According to CNN, his resignation was at least partly due to the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, which forbids lawmakers from lobbying for two years after leaving office. Those who leave by the end of 2007 are covered by the previous law, which demands a wait of only one year. In his resignation press conference, Lott said that the new law had no influence in his decision to resign.

Lott's resignation became effective at 11:30 p.m. on December 18, 2007. On January 7, 2008 it was announced that Lott and former Senator John Breaux of Louisiana, a Democrat, opened their lobbying firm about a block from the White House.

In 1998, Lott caused some controversy in Congress when as a guest on the Armstrong Williams television show, he equated homosexuality to alcoholism, kleptomania and sex addiction. When Williams, a conservative talk show host, asked Lott whether homosexuality was a sin, Lott replied, "Yes, it is." Lott's stance against homosexuality was disconcerting to some members of the public, who argued that his views were discriminatory.

Thurmond had based his presidential campaign largely on an explicit racial segregation platform. Lott had attracted controversy before in issues relating to civil rights. As a Congressman, he voted against renewal of the Voting Rights Act, voted against the continuation of the Civil Rights Act and opposed the Martin Luther King Holiday. The Washington Post reported that Lott had made similar comments about Thurmond's candidacy in a 1980 rally. Lott gave an interview with Black Entertainment Television explaining himself and repudiating Thurmond's former views.

Lott wrote a memoir entitled Herding Cats: A Life in Politics. In the book, Lott spoke out on the infamous Strom Thurmond birthday party gaffe, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and about his feelings of betrayal toward the Tennessee senator, claiming "If Frist had not announced exactly when he did, as the fire was about to burn out, I would still be majority leader of the Senate today." He also described former Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota as trustworthy. He also reveals that then-President Bush, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, and other GOP leaders played a major role in ending his career as Senate Republican Leader.

Trent Lott was a member of the Washington, D.C.-based band, The Singing Senators.

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South Dakota

Flag of South Dakota

South Dakota ( /ˌsɑʊθ dəˈkoʊtə/ (help·info)) is a state located in the Midwestern region of the United States of America. It is named after the Lakota and Dakota Sioux American Indian tribes. The former territory was admitted to the Union on November 2, 1889. Centrally-located Pierre, is the state capital and Sioux Falls is the state's largest city.

South Dakota is bisected by the Missouri River, dividing the state into two socioeconomically distinct halves, known to residents as "West River" and "East River". Fertile soil in the eastern part of the state is used to grow a variety of crops, while ranching is the predominant agricultural activity in the west. The Black Hills, a group of low pine-covered mountains, is located in the southwest part of the state. The area is of great religious importance to local American Indian tribes. Mount Rushmore is a major state tourist destination in the Black Hills.

Historically dominated by an agricultural economy and a rural lifestyle, South Dakota has recently sought to diversify its economy to attract and retain residents. However, it is still largely rural and has the fifth-lowest population density among U.S. states. While several Democratic senators have represented South Dakota for multiple terms at the federal level, the state government is largely dominated by the Republican Party, which has carried South Dakota in the last eleven presidential elections.

South Dakota is situated in the north-central United States, and is considered to be a part of the Midwest by the U.S. Census Bureau, although the Great Plains region also covers the state. Additionally, the culture, economy, and geography of western South Dakota has more in common with the West than the Midwest. South Dakota has a total land area of 77,116 sq. miles (199,905 km2), making the state the 17th largest in the Union. South Dakota is bordered to the north by North Dakota; to the south by Nebraska; to the east by Iowa and Minnesota; and to the west by Wyoming and Montana. The geographical center of the U.S. is 17 miles (27 km.) west of Castle Rock in Butte County.

The Missouri River is the largest and longest river in the state. Other major South Dakota rivers include the Cheyenne, James, Big Sioux, and White Rivers. Eastern South Dakota has many natural lakes, mostly created by periods of glaciation. Additionally, dams on the Missouri River create four large reservoirs: Lake Oahe, Lake Sharpe, Lake Francis Case, and Lewis and Clark Lake.

South Dakota can generally be divided into three regions: eastern South Dakota, western South Dakota, and the Black Hills. The Missouri River serves as a boundary in terms of geographic, social and political differences between eastern and western South Dakota, and the geography of the Black Hills differs from its surroundings to such an extent that it can be considered separate from the rest of western South Dakota. South Dakotans also at times combine the Black Hills with the rest of western South Dakota, and refer to the two resulting regions, divided by the Missouri, as West River and East River.

Eastern South Dakota generally features higher precipitation and lower topography than the western part of the state. Smaller geographic regions of this area include the Coteau des Prairies, the Dissected Till Plains, and the James River Valley. The Coteau des Prairies is a plateau bordered on the east by the Minnesota River Valley and on the west by the James River Basin. Further to the west, the James River Basin is mostly low, flat, highly eroded land, following the flow of the James River through South Dakota from north to south. The Dissected Till Plains, an area of rolling hills and fertile soil that covers much of Iowa and Nebraska, also extends into the southeastern corner of South Dakota. Layers deposited during the Pleistocene epoch, starting around two million years ago, cover most of eastern South Dakota. These are the youngest rock and sediment layers in the state, and are the product of several successive periods of glaciation which deposited a large amount of rocks and soil, known as till, over the area.

The Great Plains cover most of the western two-thirds of South Dakota. West of the Missouri River the landscape becomes more arid and rugged, consisting of rolling hills, plains, ravines, and steep flat-topped hills called buttes. In the south, east of the Black Hills, lie the South Dakota Badlands. Erosion from the Black Hills, marine skeletons which fell to the bottom of a large shallow sea that once covered the area, and volcanic material all contribute to the geology of this area.

The Black Hills are in the southwestern part of South Dakota and extend into Wyoming. This range of low mountains covers 6,000 sq. mi (15,500 km².) with peaks that rise from 2,000 to 4,000 feet (600 to 1,200 m) above their bases. The Black Hills are the location of Harney Peak (7,242 ft or 2,207 m above sea level), the highest point in South Dakota and also the highest point in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. Two billion-year-old Precambrian formations, the oldest rocks in the state, form the central core of the Black Hills. Formations from the Paleozoic Era form the outer ring of the Black Hills; these were created between roughly 540 and 250 million years ago. This area features rocks such as limestone which were deposited here when the area formed the shoreline of an ancient inland sea.

Much of South Dakota, not including the Black Hills, is dominated by a temperate grasslands biome. Although grasses and crops cover most of this region, deciduous trees such as cottonwoods, elms, and willows are common near rivers and in shelter belts. Mammals in this area include bison, deer, pronghorn, coyotes, and prairie dogs. The state bird, the ring-necked pheasant, has adapted particularly well to the area after being introduced from China, and growing populations of bald eagles are spread throughout the state, especially near the Missouri River. Rivers and lakes of the grasslands support populations of walleye, carp, pike, and bass, along with other species. The Missouri River also contains the pre-historic paddlefish.

Due to higher elevation and precipitation, the ecology of the Black Hills differs significantly from that of the plains. The mountains are thickly blanketed by various types of pine, mostly of the ponderosa and spruce varieties. Black Hills mammals include mule deer, elk (wapiti), bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and mountain lions, while the streams and lakes contain several species of trout.

South Dakota has a continental climate with four distinct seasons, ranging from very cold winters to hot summers. During the summers, the average high temperature throughout the state is often close to 90 °F (32 °C), although it generally cools down to near 60 °F (15 °C) at night. It is not unusual for South Dakota to have severe hot, dry spells in the summer with the temperature climbing above 100 °F (38 °C) several times every year. Winters are cold with January high temperatures averaging below freezing and low temperatures averaging below 10 °F (- 12 °C) in most of the state.

Average annual precipitation in South Dakota ranges from semi-arid in the northwestern part of the state (around 15 inches, or 381 mm) to semi-humid around the southeast portion of the state (around 25 inches, or 635 mm), although a small area centered around Lead in the Black Hills has the highest precipitation at nearly 30 inches (762 mm) per year.

South Dakota summers bring frequent, sometimes severe, thunderstorms with high winds, thunder, and hail. The eastern part of the state is often considered part of Tornado Alley, and South Dakota experiences an average of 23 tornadoes per year. Winters are somewhat more stable, although severe weather in the form of blizzards and ice storms can occur during the season.

South Dakota contains several sites that are administered by the National Park Service. Two national parks have been established in South Dakota, both located in the southwestern part of the state. Wind Cave National Park, established in 1903 in the Black Hills, contains an extensive cave network as well as a large herd of bison. Badlands National Park was created in 1978. The park features a highly eroded, brightly-colored landscape surrounded by semi-arid grasslands. Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills was established in 1925. The sculpture of four U.S. Presidents were carved into the mountainside by sculptor Gutzon Borglum. Other areas managed by the National Park Service include Jewel Cave National Monument near Custer, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, which features a decommissioned nuclear missile silo and a separate missile control area located several miles away, and the Missouri National Recreational River. The Crazy Horse Memorial is a large mountainside sculpture near Mt. Rushmore that is being constructed with private funds.

Humans have lived in what is today South Dakota for at least several thousand years. The first inhabitants were Paleolithic hunter-gatherers, and disappeared from the area around 5000 BC. Between 500 AD and 800 AD, a semi-nomadic people known as the Mound Builders lived in central and eastern South Dakota, and by 1500 the Arikara (or Ree) had settled in much of the Missouri River valley. Nearly 500 people were the victims of the Crow Creek massacre that occurred early in the 14th century. European contact with the area began in 1743, when the LaVerendrye brothers explored the region. The LaVerendrye group buried a plate near the site of modern day Pierre, claiming the region for France as part of greater Louisiana. By the early 19th century, the Sioux had largely replaced the Arikara as the dominant group in the area.

In 1803, the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory, an area that included most of South Dakota, from Napoleon Bonaparte, and President Thomas Jefferson organized a group commonly referred to as the "Lewis and Clark Expedition" to explore the newly-acquired region. In 1817, an American fur trading post was set up at present-day Fort Pierre, beginning continuous American settlement of the area. In 1855, the U.S. Army bought Fort Pierre but abandoned it the following year in favor of Fort Randall to the south. Settlement by Americans and Europeans was by this time increasing rapidly, and in 1858 the Yankton Sioux signed the 1858 Treaty, ceding most of present-day eastern South Dakota to the United States.

Land speculators founded two of eastern South Dakota's largest present-day cities: Sioux Falls in 1856 and Yankton in 1859. In 1861, Dakota Territory was established by the United States government (this initially included North Dakota, South Dakota, and parts of Montana and Wyoming). Settlement of the area, mostly by people from the eastern United States as well as western and northern Europe, increased rapidly, especially after the completion of an eastern railway link to Yankton in 1873 and the discovery of gold in the Black Hills in 1874 during a military expedition led by George A. Custer. This expedition took place despite the fact that the western half of present day South Dakota had been granted to the Sioux in 1868 by the Treaty of Laramie as part of the Great Sioux Reservation. The Sioux declined to grant mining rights or land in the Black Hills, and war broke out after the U.S. failed to stop white miners and settlers from entering the region. The Sioux were eventually defeated and settled on reservations within South Dakota and North Dakota.

An increasing population caused Dakota Territory to be divided in half and a bill for statehood for both Dakotas titled the Enabling Act of 1889 was passed on February 22, 1889 during the Administration of Grover Cleveland. His successor, Benjamin Harrison, signed proclamations formally admitting both states on November 2, 1889. Harrison had the papers shuffled to obscure from him which he was signing first and the actual order went unrecorded.

On December 29, 1890, the Wounded Knee Massacre occurred on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Commonly cited as the last major armed conflict between the United States and the Sioux Nation, the massacre resulted in the deaths of an estimated 300 Sioux, many of them women and children. Twenty-five U.S. soldiers were also killed in the conflict. The Wounded Knee area was later the site of a prolonged siege between members of the American Indian Movement and the United States Marshals Service in 1973.

During the 1930s, several economic and climatic conditions combined with disastrous results for South Dakota. A lack of rainfall, extremely high temperatures and over-cultivation of farmland produced what was known as the Dust Bowl in South Dakota and several other plains states. Fertile topsoil was blown away in massive dust storms, and several harvests were completely ruined. The experiences of the Dust Bowl, coupled with local bank foreclosures and the general economic effects of the Great Depression resulted in many South Dakotans leaving the state. The population of South Dakota declined by more than 7% between 1930 and 1940.

Economic stability returned with the U.S. entry into World War II in 1941, when demand for the state's agricultural and industrial products grew as the nation mobilized for war. In 1944, the Pick-Sloan Plan was passed as part of the Flood Control Act of 1944 by the U.S. Congress, resulting in the construction of six large dams on the Missouri River, four of which are at least partially located in South Dakota. Flood control, hydroelectricity, and recreational opportunities such as boating and fishing are provided by the dams and their reservoirs.

In recent decades, South Dakota has transformed from a state dominated by agriculture to one with a more diversified economy. The tourism industry has grown considerably since the completion of the interstate system in the 1960s, with the Black Hills being especially impacted. The financial service industry began to grow in the state as well, with Citibank moving its credit card operations from New York to Sioux Falls in 1981, a move that has since been followed by several other financial companies, after South Dakota became the first state to eliminate caps on interest rates. In 2007, the site of the recently-closed Homestake gold mine near Lead was chosen as the location of a new underground research facility. Despite a growing state population and recent economic development, many rural areas have been struggling over the past 50 years with locally declining populations and the emigration of educated young adults to larger South Dakota cities, such as Rapid City or Sioux Falls, or to other states.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2006, South Dakota has an estimated population of 781,919, an increase of 27,075, or 3.6%, since the year 2000. 7.0% of South Dakota's population were reported as under 5, 24.9% under 18, and 14.2% were 65 or older. Females made up approximately 50.0% of the population. As of the 2000 census, South Dakota ranked fifth-lowest in the nation in both population and population density. The center of population of South Dakota is located in Buffalo County, in the unincorporated county seat of Gannvalley.

In 2005, the Census Bureau estimated that 88.5% of South Dakotans were White, 8.8% were American Indian or Alaskan Native, 2.1% were Hispanic (of any race), 0.8% were Black, 0.7% were Asian, and 2.1% belonged to more than one race. The five largest ancestry groups in South Dakota are: German (40.7%), Norwegian (15.3%), Irish (10.4%), Native American (8.3%), and English (7.1%). German-Americans are the largest ancestry group in most parts of the state, especially in the east, although there are also large Scandinavian populations in some counties. South Dakota has the nation's largest population of Hutterites, a communal Anabaptist group who emigrated from Europe in 1874.

American Indians, largely Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota (Sioux) are predominant in several counties. South Dakota has the third highest proportion of Native Americans of any state, behind Alaska and New Mexico. Five of the state's counties are wholly within Indian reservations. Living standards on many reservations are often very low when compared with the national average. The unemployment rate in Fort Thompson, on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation, is 70%, and 21% of households there lack plumbing or basic kitchen appliances. A 1995 study by the U.S. Census Bureau found that 58% of homes on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation did not have a telephone.

As of the 2000 census, 1.90% of the population aged 5 or older speak German at home, while 1.51% speak Dakota, and 1.43% Spanish.

South Dakota, in common with other Great Plains states, has been experiencing a falling population in many rural areas over the last several decades, a phenomenon known as "rural flight". This trend has continued in recent years, with 30 of South Dakota's counties losing population between the 1990 and the 2000 census. During that time, nine counties experienced a population loss of greater than 10%, with Harding County, in the northwest corner of the state, losing nearly 19% of its population. Low birth rates and a lack of younger immigration has caused the median age of many of these counties to increase. In 24 counties, at least 20% of the population is over the age of 65, compared with a national rate of 12.5%.

The effect of rural flight has not been spread evenly through South Dakota, however. Although most rural counties and small towns have lost population, the Sioux Falls area, the larger counties along Interstate 29, the Black Hills, and many Indian reservations have all gained population. In fact, Lincoln County, near Sioux Falls, is the ninth-fastest growing county (by percentage) in the United States. The growth in these areas has compensated for losses in the rest of the state, and South Dakota's total population continues to increase steadily, albeit at a slower rate than the national average.

The current-dollar gross state product of South Dakota was US$32.3 billion as of 2006. The per capita personal income was $26,894 in 2004, the 37th highest in the nation and 13.08 percent below the national average. 13.2% of the population is below the poverty line. As of October 2008, South Dakota's unemployment rate was 3.3%, the lowest jobless rate in the nation.

The service industry is the largest economic contributor in South Dakota. This sector includes the retail, finance, and health care industries. Citibank, which was the largest bank holding company in the United States at one time, established national banking operations in South Dakota in 1981 to take advantage of favorable banking regulations. Government spending is another important segment of the state's economy, providing over ten percent of the gross state product. Ellsworth Air Force Base, near Rapid City, is the second-largest single employer in the state.

Agriculture has historically been a key component of the South Dakota economy. Although other industries have expanded rapidly in recent decades, agricultural production is still very important to the state's economy, especially in rural areas. The five most valuable agricultural products in South Dakota are cattle, corn (maize), soybeans, hogs, and wheat. Agriculture-related industries such as meat packing and ethanol production also have a considerable economic impact on the state. South Dakota is the sixth leading ethanol-producing state in the nation.

Another important sector in South Dakota's economy is tourism. Many travel to view the attractions of the state, particularly those in the Black Hills region, such as historic Deadwood, Mount Rushmore, and the nearby state and national parks. One of the largest tourist events in the state is the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The five day event drew over 450,000 attendants in 2006, significant considering the state has a population of only 790,000. In 2006, tourism provided an estimated 33,000 jobs in the state and contributed over two billion dollars to the economy of South Dakota.

As of 2005, South Dakota has the lowest per capita total state tax rate in the United States. The state does not levy personal or corporate income taxes, inheritance taxes, or taxes on intangible personal property. The state sales tax rate is 4 percent. Various localities have local levies so that in some areas the rate is 6 percent. The state sales tax does not apply to sales to Indians on Indian Reservations, but many reservations have a compact with the state. Businesses on the reservation collect the tax and the state refunds to the Indian Tribes the percentage of sales tax collections relating to the ratio of Indian population to total population in the county or area affected. Ad valorem property taxes are local taxes and are a large source of funding for school systems, counties, municipalities and other local government units. The South Dakota Special Tax Division regulates some taxes including cigarette and alcohol related taxes.

South Dakota has a total of 83,609 miles of highways, roads, and streets, along with 679 miles of interstate highways. Two major interstates pass through South Dakota: Interstate 90, which runs east and west; and Interstate 29, running north and south in the eastern portion of the state. The I-29 corridor features generally higher rates of population and economic growth than areas in eastern South Dakota that are further from the interstate. Also located in the state are the shorter interstates 190, a spur into central Rapid City, and 229, a loop around eastern and southern Sioux Falls. Several major U.S. highways pass through the state. U.S. routes 12, 14, 16, 18, and 212 travel east and west, while U.S. routes 81, 83, 85 and 281 run north and south.

South Dakota contains two National Scenic Byways. The Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway is located in the Black Hills, while the Native American Scenic Byway runs along the Missouri River in the north-central part of the state. Other scenic byways include the Badlands Loop Scenic Byway, the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, and the Wildlife Loop Road Scenic Byway.

Railroads have played an important role in South Dakota transportation since the mid-19th century. Some 4,420 miles (7,110 km) of railroad track were built in South Dakota during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but only 1,839 miles (2,960 km) are active. BNSF Railway is currently the largest railroad in South Dakota; the Dakota, Minnesota, and Eastern Railroad is the state's other major carrier. Rail transportation in the state is confined only to freight, however, as South Dakota is one of the few states without any Amtrak service.

South Dakota's largest commercial airports in terms of passenger traffic are the Sioux Falls Regional Airport and Rapid City Regional Airport. Northwest Airlines, Frontier Airlines, and Allegiant Airlines, as well as commuter airlines using the brand affiliation with major airlines serve the two largest airports. Several other cities in the state also have commercial air service, some of which is subsidized by the Essential Air Service program.

Like that of other US states, the structure of the government of South Dakota follows the same separation of powers as federal government, with executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The structure of the state government is laid out in the Constitution of South Dakota, the highest law in the state. The constitution may be amended either by a majority vote of both houses of the legislature, or by voter initiative.

The Governor of South Dakota occupies the executive branch of the state government. The current governor is M. Michael Rounds, a Republican from Pierre. The state constitution gives the governor the power to either sign into law or veto bills passed by the state legislature, to serve as commander-in-chief of the South Dakota National Guard, to appoint a cabinet, and to commute criminal sentences or to pardon those convicted of crimes. The governor serves for a four-year term, and may not serve more than two consecutive terms.

Currently, there are 35 members of the state Senate and 70 members of the House of Representatives. The state is composed of 35 legislative districts, and voters elect one senator and two representatives from each district. The legislature meets for a 30-day session starting on the second Tuesday in January; the legislature also meets if the governor calls a special session.

The South Dakota Supreme Court is the highest court in South Dakota and the court of last resort for state appellate actions. The chief justice and four justices comprise the court. South Dakota is divided into seven judicial circuits; these circuits are served by 38 circuit judges. Circuit courts are the state's trial courts of general jurisdiction. There are 12 full-time and three part-time magistrate judges in the seven circuits. Magistrate courts assist the circuit courts in disposing of misdemeanor criminal cases and minor civil actions. These courts of limited jurisdiction make the judicial system more accessible to the public by providing a means of direct court contact for the average citizen.

South Dakota is represented at the federal level by Senator Tim Johnson, Senator John Thune, and Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. Johnson and Herseth Sandlin are Democrats and Thune is a Republican. South Dakota is one of seven states with only one seat in the US House of Representatives.

In US presidential elections, South Dakota is allotted three votes in the electoral college, out of a total of 538. Like most states, South Dakota's electoral votes are granted in a winner-take-all system.

South Dakota politics are generally dominated by the Republican Party, and the state has not supported a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964 — even George McGovern, the Democratic nominee in 1972 and himself a South Dakotan, did not carry the state. Additionally, a Democrat has not won the governorship since 1978. As of 2006, Republicans hold a 10% voter registration advantage over Democrats and hold majorities in both the state House of Representatives and Senate.

Despite the state's general Republican and conservative leanings, Democrats have found success in various state-wide elections, most notably in those involving South Dakota's congressional representatives in Washington. Two of the three current members of the state's congressional delegation are Democrats, and until his electoral defeat in 2004 Senator Tom Daschle was the Senate minority leader (and briefly its majority leader during Democratic control of the Senate in 2001–02).

Contemporary political issues in South Dakota include the costs and benefits of the state lottery, South Dakota's relatively low rankings in education spending (particularly teacher pay), and recent legislative attempts to ban abortion in the state.

Much of South Dakota's culture reflects the state's American Indian, rural, Western, and European roots. A number of annual events celebrating the state's ethnic and historical heritage take place around the state, such as Days of '76 in Deadwood, Czech Days in Tabor, and the annual St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo, and Oktoberfest festivities in Sioux Falls. Many pow wows are held yearly throughout the state, and Custer State Park's Buffalo Roundup, in which volunteers on horseback gather the park's herd of around 1,500 bison, is a popular annual event.

Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose semi-autobiographical books center around her experiences as a child and young adult on the frontier, is one of South Dakota's best-known writers. She used her experiences growing up on a homestead near De Smet as the basis for four of her novels: By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, and The First Four Years. Another literary figure from the state is Black Elk, whose narration of the Indian Wars and Ghost Dance movement and thoughts on Native American religion forms the basis of the book Black Elk Speaks.

South Dakota has also produced several notable painters. Harvey Dunn grew up on a homestead near Manchester in the late 19th century. While most of his career was spent as an illustrator, Dunn's most famous works, showing various scenes of frontier life, were completed near the end of his career. Oscar Howe was born on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation and won fame for his watercolor paintings. Howe was one of the first Native American painters to produce works heavily influenced by abstraction, as opposed to ones relying on more traditional styles. Terry Redlin, originally from Watertown, is an accomplished painter of rural and wildlife scenes. Many of Redlin's works are on display at the Redlin Art Center in Watertown.

Sioux Falls is the largest city in South Dakota, with an estimated 2007 population of 151,505, and a metropolitan area population of 227,171. The city, founded in 1856, is located in the southeast corner of the state. Retail and financial services have assumed greater importance in Sioux Falls, where the economy was originally centered on agri-business and quarrying.

Rapid City, with a 2007 estimated population of 63,997, and a metropolitan area population of 120,279, is the second-largest city in the state. It is located on the eastern edge of the Black Hills, and was founded in 1876. Rapid City's economy is largely based on tourism and defense spending, due to the close proximity of tourist attractions in the Black Hills and Ellsworth Air Force Base.

Aberdeen, is the 3rd largest city in South Dakota, with an estimated population of 24,410, and a micropolitan area population of 39,827. Located in the northeast corner of the state, it was founded in 1881 during the expansion of the Milwaukee Railroad.

The next seven largest cities in the state, in order of descending 2007 population, are Watertown (20,530), Brookings (19,463), Mitchell (14,832), Pierre (14,032), Yankton (13,643), Huron (10,902), and Vermillion (10,251). Pierre is the state capital, and Brookings and Vermillion are the locations of the state's two largest universities. Of the ten largest cities in the state, Rapid City is the only one located west of the Missouri River.

Several large Indian reservations are located in the western half of the state including, but not limited to, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, and the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

South Dakota's first newspaper, the Dakota Democrat, began publishing in Yankton in 1858. Today, the largest newspaper in the state is the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, with a Sunday circulation of 63,701 and a weekday circulation of 44,334. The Rapid City Journal, with a Sunday circulation of 32,638 and a weekday circulation of 27,827, is South Dakota's second largest newspaper. The next four largest newspapers in the state are the Aberdeen American News, the Watertown Public Opinion, the Huron Plainsman, and the Brookings Register. In 1981, Tim Giago founded the Lakota Times as a newspaper for the local American Indian community on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The newspaper, now published in New York and known as Indian Country Today, is currently available in every state in the country.

There are currently nine television stations broadcasting in South Dakota; South Dakota Public Television broadcasts from a number of locations around the state, while the other stations broadcast from either Sioux Falls or Rapid City. The two largest television media markets in South Dakota are Sioux Falls-Mitchell, with a viewership of 246,020, and Rapid City, with a viewership of 91,070. The two markets rank as 114th and 177th largest in the United States, respectively. The first television station in the state, KELO-TV, began airing in Sioux Falls in 1953. Among KELO's early programs was Captain 11, an afternoon children's program. Captain 11 ran from 1955 until 1996, making it the longest continuously running children's television program in the nation.

A number of South Dakotans are famous for their work in the fields of television and publishing. Former NBC Nightly News anchor and author Tom Brokaw is from Webster and Yankton, USA Today founder Al Neuharth is from Eureka and Alpena, gameshow host Bob Barker spent much of his childhood in Mission, and entertainment news hosts Pat O'Brien and Mary Hart are both from Sioux Falls.

As of 2006, South Dakota has a total primary and secondary school enrollment of 136,872, with 120,278 of these students being educated in the public school system. There are 703 public schools in 168 school districts, giving South Dakota the highest number of schools per capita in the United States. The current high school graduation rate is 89.9%, and the average ACT score is 21.8, slightly above the national average of 21.1. 84.6% of the adult population has earned at least a high school diploma, and 21.5% has earned a bachelor's degree or higher. South Dakota's average public school teacher salary of $34,040, compared to a national average of $47,674, is the lowest in the nation.

The South Dakota Board of Regents, whose members are appointed by the governor, controls the six public universities in the state. South Dakota State University (SDSU), in Brookings, is the largest university in the state, with an enrollment of 11,377. The University of South Dakota (USD), in Vermillion, is the state's oldest university, and has the only law and medical schools in the state. South Dakota also has several private universities, the largest of which is Augustana College in Sioux Falls.

Because of its low population, South Dakota does not host any major league professional sports franchises. The state does have a number of minor league teams, all of which play in either Sioux Falls or Rapid City. Sioux Falls is currently home to four teams: the Sioux Falls Canaries (baseball), the Sioux Falls Skyforce (basketball), the Sioux Falls Stampede (hockey), and the Sioux Falls Storm (arena football). The Canaries play at Sioux Falls Stadium, while the others play at the Sioux Falls Arena. Rapid City has a hockey team named the Rapid City Rush. The Rush recently began their inaugural season at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

Universities in South Dakota host a variety of sports programs. For many years, South Dakota was one of the only states in the country without a NCAA Division I football or basketball team. However, several years ago SDSU decided to move their teams from Division II to Division I, a move that has since been followed by the University of South Dakota. Other universities in the state compete at the NCAA's Division II or III levels, or in the NAIA.

Famous South Dakota athletes include Billy Mills and Adam Vinatieri. Mills is from the town of Pine Ridge and competed at the 1964 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, becoming the only American to win a gold medal in the 10,000 meter event. Vinatieri is an NFL placekicker who grew up in Yankton and attended SDSU.

Fishing and hunting are both popular outdoor activities in South Dakota. Fishing contributes over $170 million to South Dakota's economy, and hunting contributes over $190 million. In 2007, over 275,000 hunting licences and 175,000 fishing licences were sold in the state; around half of the hunting licences and over two-thirds of the fishing licences were purchased by South Dakotans. Popular species of game include pheasants, white-tailed deer, mule deer, and turkeys, as well as waterfowl such as Canada geese, snow geese, and mallards. Targets of anglers include walleye in the eastern glacial lakes and Missouri River reservoirs, chinook salmon in Lake Oahe, and trout in the Black Hills.

Other sports, such as cycling and running, are also popular in the state. In 1991, the state opened the George S. Mickelson Trail, a 114 mile (183 km) rail trail in the Black Hills. Besides being popular with cyclists, the trail is also the site of a portion of the annual Mount Rushmore marathon; all of the marathon's course is at an elevation of over 4,000 feet (1,200 m). Other events in the state include the Tour de Kota, a 449 mile (772 km), eight-day cycling event that covers much of the eastern part of the South Dakota, and the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which draws thousands of participants from around the United States.

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Bill Frist

Bill Frist

William Harrison "Bill" Frist, Sr., M.D. (born February 22, 1952) is an American physician, businessman, and politician. Frist served two terms as a United States Senator where he became the Republican Majority Leader from 2003 until his retirement in 2007. During the 1994 election, he promised not to serve for more than two terms.

Frist was born in Nashville, Tennessee to Dorothy Cate Frist and Thomas Fearn Frist Sr. He is a fourth-generation Tennessean. His great-great grandfather was one of the founders of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and his father was a doctor.

Frist graduated from Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Tennessee and then from Princeton University in 1974, where he specialized in health care policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. In 1972 he held a summer internship with Tennessee Congressman Joe Evins, who advised Frist that if he wanted to pursue a political career, he should first have a career outside of politics. Frist proceeded to Harvard Medical School, where he received the degree of Doctor of Medicine with honors in 1978.

Frist joined the lab of W. John Powell Jr., M.D. at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1977, where he continued his training in cardiovascular physiology. He left the lab in 1978 to become a resident in surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital. In 1983, he spent time at Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, England as senior registrar in cardiothoracic surgery. He returned to Massachusetts General in 1984 as chief resident and fellow in cardiothoracic surgery. From 1985 until 1986, Frist was senior fellow and chief resident in cardiac transplant service and cardiothoracic surgery at the Stanford University School of Medicine. After completing his fellowship, he became a faculty member at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he began a heart and lung transplantation program. He also became staff surgeon at the Nashville Veterans Administration Hospital. In 1989, he founded the Vanderbilt Transplant Center. In 1991, Dr. Frist operated on then-Lieutenant Colonel David Petraeus after he'd been shot in a training accident at Fort Campbell.

He is currently licensed as a physician, and is board certified in both general surgery and thoracic surgery. He has performed over 150 heart transplants and lung transplants, including pediatric heart transplants and combined heart and lung transplants.

In spite of his specialization on heart and lung transplants, Frist seemed stumped and declined to answer a question in a December 2004 television interview on This Week with George Stephanopoulos as to whether or not HIV could be transmitted through tears or sweat. Frist has no training in epidemiology, the medical specialization of communicable disease and infection. At the time, a federal sex education program suggested that it was, in fact, possible to transmit HIV this way. After being repeatedly questioned by Stephanopoulos about it, Frist eventually stated that "it would be very hard" for HIV to be transmitted this way.

In 1990, Frist met with former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker about the possibilities of public office. Baker advised him to pursue the Senate, and in 1992 suggested that Frist begin preparations to run in 1994. Frist began to build support. He served on Tennessee's Governor's Medicaid Task Force from 1992 to 1993, joined the National Steering Committee of the Republican National Committee's Health Care Coalition, and was deputy director of the Tennessee Bush-Quayle '92 campaign. As part of Frist's preparations for political office, in December 1993 he ended his membership in Nashville, Tennessee's racially segregated Belle Meade Country Club, which he had joined in the 1980s, (following a family tradition).

During his first campaign, Frist repeatedly accused his opponent, incumbent Senator Jim Sasser, of "sending Tennessee money to Washington, DC, to Marion Barry ... While I've been transplanting lungs and hearts to heal Tennesseans, Jim Sasser has been transplanting Tennesseans' wallets to Washington, home of Marion Barry." During that campaign, he also attacked Sasser for his attempt to become Senate Majority Leader, claiming that his opponent would be spending more time taking care of Senate business than Tennessee business. Frist won the election, defeating Sasser by 13 points in the 1994 Republican sweep of both Houses of Congress, thus becoming the first physician in the Senate since June 17, 1938, when Royal S. Copeland died.

In his 2000 reelection campaign, Frist easily won with 66 percent of the vote. He received the largest vote total ever by a statewide candidate in the history of Tennessee, although Al Gore won a higher percentage of the vote (70%) in his 1990 Senate re-election. Frist's 2000 campaign organization was later fined by the Federal Election Commission for failing to disclose a $1.44 million loan taken out jointly with the 1994 campaign organization.

Frist first entered the national spotlight when two Capitol police officers were shot inside the United States Capitol by Russell Eugene Weston Jr. in 1998. Frist, the closest doctor, provided immediate medical attention (he was unable to save the two officers, but was able to save Weston). He also was the Congressional spokesman during the 2001 anthrax attacks.

As the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, he helped Republicans win back the Senate in the 2002 midterm election. His committee collected $66.4 million for 2001–2002, 50% more than the previous year. Shortly afterwards, Sen. Trent Lott made comments at a Strom Thurmond birthday celebration in which he said that if Thurmond's presidential bid of 1948 had succeeded, "we wouldn't have all these problems today". In the aftermath, Lott resigned his position as Senate Majority Leader and Frist was chosen unanimously by Senate Republicans as his replacement. He became the second youngest Senate Majority Leader in US history. In his 2005 book, "Herding Cats, A Lifetime in Politics", Lott accuses William Frist of being "one of the main manipulators" in the debate that ended Senator Lott's leadership in the Republican Senate. Lott wrote that Senator Frist's actions amounted to a "personal betrayal." Frist "... didn't even have the courtesy to call and tell me personally that he was going to run ... If Frist had not announced exactly when he did, as the fire was about to burn out, I would still be majority leader of the Senate today," Lott wrote.

In the 2003 legislative session, Frist enjoyed many successes. He was able to push many initiatives through to fruition, including the Bush administration's third major tax cut and legislation that was against partial-birth abortion. However, the tactics that he used to achieve those victories alienated many Democrats. In 2004, by comparison, he saw no major legislative successes, with the explanations ranging from delay tactics by Democrats to lack of unity within the Republican Party.

In a prominent and nationally broadcast speech to the Republican National Convention in August 2004, Frist highlighted his background as a doctor and focused on several issues related to health care. He spoke in favor of the recently passed Medicare prescription drug benefit and the passage of legislation providing for Health Savings Accounts. He described President Bush's policy regarding stem cell research, limiting embryonic stems cells to certain existing lines, as "ethical." In an impassioned argument for medical malpractice tort reform, Frist called personal injury trial lawyers "predators": "We must stop them from twisting American medicine into a litigation lottery where they hit the jackpot and every patient ends up paying." Frist has been an advocate for imposing caps on the amount of money courts can award plaintiffs for noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases.

During the 2004 election season, Frist employed the unprecedented political tactic of going to the home state (South Dakota) of the opposition party (Democrat)'s minority leader, Democrat Tom Daschle, and actively campaigned against him. Daschle's Republican opponent, John Thune, defeated Daschle. In Daschle's farewell address, Frist arrived late. After the 2004 elections, Frist played a role in the controversy over Arlen Specter's post-election remarks. Frist demanded a public statement from Specter in which Specter would repudiate his earlier remarks and pledge support for Bush's judiciary nominees. Frist rejected an early version of the statement as too weak, and gave his approval to the statement that Specter eventually delivered.

Frist received some criticism within the Republican caucus in the Senate over his handling of the Majority Leader position, and his near invisibility as a spokesman for the Republican caucus, which has damaged his reputation. His supporters within the caucus point to his success in moving tax legislation important to the executive branch as a sign that he is simply filling his place on the team, namely to bring important bills to a vote, and then ensure that gains made on the floor are preserved in the conference committee process.

Many of Frist's opponents have attacked him for what they see as pandering to future Republican primary voters. They claim that he has taken extreme positions on social issues such as the Terri Schiavo case in order to please them. On the other hand, Frist changed his position on stem cell research.

There has also been controversy regarding the "nuclear option," under which the Republicans would change a rule in the Senate to prevent the filibuster of judicial nominations. Although Frist claimed that "ever before has a minority blocked a judicial nominee that has majority support for an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor," critics pointed to the nearly two century history of the filibuster, including the successful four-day 1968 minority Republican filibuster of Lyndon Johnson's chief justice nominee, Abe Fortas. Also, in 1998 Frist participated in the Republican filibuster to stall the nomination of openly gay James C. Hormel to be ambassador to Luxembourg; Hormel eventually received a recess appointment from President Bill Clinton, bypassing a Senate vote. Frist also helped block the 1996 nomination of Richard Paez to the 3rd Federal Court of Appeals, a four-year filibuster that was defeated in 2000 when 14 Republicans dropped their support for it and allowed Paez to be confirmed by a simple majority.

More criticism of perceived weakness came in the midst of an extended confirmation fight over Bush's pick for US ambassador to the United Nations, John R. Bolton. Twice Frist failed to garner the 60 votes to break cloture, getting fewer votes the second time and even losing the support of one conservative Republican (George Voinovich of Ohio). On June 21, 2005, Frist said the situation had been "exhausted" and there would be no more votes. Only an hour later, after speaking to the White House, Frist said: "The president made it very clear he wants an up-or-down vote." This sudden switch in strategy led to charges of flip-flopping in response to pressure from the Bush administration. Nevertheless, no up-and-down vote was held, and Bush made a recess appointment of Bolton.

In September 2006, working with Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, Frist was a major Senate supporter of H.R. 4411 — the Unlawful Internet Gambling and Enforcement Act. Frist's bill called for the illegalization of online gambling, while Frist has received contributions from land-based casinos. He also allowed horse racing and lotteries to remain legal.

After his Senate career he became a Co-Chair of ONE VOTE '08, an initiative of the ONE campaign, with Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD). According to onevote08.org, "ONE Vote '08 is an unprecedented, non-partisan campaign to make global health and extreme poverty foreign policy priorities in the 2008 presidential election." He traveled to Africa in support of various initiatives for the ONE campaign in July of 2008 and an extensive blog about his trip exists, complete with videos.

Frist pledged to leave the Senate after two terms in 2006, and did not run in the 2006 Republican primary for his Senate seat. He campaigned heavily for Republican nominee Bob Corker, who won by a small margin over Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. in the general election.

Frist had been widely seen as a potential presidential candidate for the Republican party in 2008, much in the same tradition as Bob Dole, a previous holder of the Senate Majority Leader position. On November 28, 2006, however, he announced that he had decided not to run, and would return to the field of medicine.

Frist's name had been frequently mentioned as a possible candidate for Governor of Tennessee in 2010 when incumbent Governor Phil Bredesen will be barred from running again due to term limits. Though no official word has come from Frist on the subject, Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Bob Davis has said that "he'd have a lot of support" if he chose to run. However, Frist announced that he had decided not to seek for that office on January 2009.

In 2008 he became a partner in Chicago-based Cressey & Co. investing in the nation's health care market. In 2009, Frist begin teaching at Vanderbilt’s Owen School of Management and at the Medical School where he taught before his 1994 election, and also will continue to work as chairman of the Nashville-based nonprofit organization Hope Through Healing Hands that centers on health and education around the world. He also indicated plans to launch a statewide education initiative targeting K-12 education.

In 1982, Frist married Karyn McLaughlin, whom he met at a Boston emergency hospital. They have three sons: Harrison, Jonathan, and Bryan. Both Harrison and Jonathan have previously been the subjects of widely reported news items regarding their arrests for alleged alcohol and driving offenses. . The Frist family are members of the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C..

Frist has been a pilot since the age of 16. He holds commercial, instrument and multi-engine ratings. He has also run seven marathons and two half-marathons.

With J. H. Helderman, he edited "Grand Rounds in Transplantation" in 1995. In October, 1999, Frist co-authored Tennessee Senators, 1911–2001: Portraits of Leadership in a Century of Change with J. Lee Annis, Jr. In March, 2002, Frist published his third book, When Every Moment Counts: What You Need to Know About Bioterrorism from the Senate's Only Doctor. While generally well received, the book later spurred accusations of hypocrisy regarding his remarks about Richard Clarke. When Clarke published his book Against All Enemies in 2004, Frist stated "I am troubled that someone would sell a book, trading on their service as a government insider with access to our nation's most valuable intelligence, in order to profit from the suffering that this nation endured on September 11, 2001." In December, 2003, Frist and co-author Shirley Wilso released Good People Beget Good People: A Genealogy of the Frist Family.

In 1998 he visited African hospitals and schools with the Christian aid group Samaritan's Purse. Frist has continued to make medical mission trips to Africa every year since 1998. He has also been vocal in speaking out against the genocide occurring in Darfur. He is currently teaching a course on health care policy at Princeton University.

Frist has a fortune in the millions of dollars, most of it the result of his ownership of stock in Hospital Corporation of America, the for-profit hospital chain founded by his brother and father. HCA paid over $1.7-billion in criminal penalties for Medicare fraud. Frist's 2005 financial disclosure form lists blind trusts valued between $15 million and $45 million.

Members of the Frist family have been major donors to Princeton University, pledging a reported $25 million in 1997 for the construction of the Frist Campus Center. Frist has said that, a few years after his 1974 graduation from Princeton, "I made a commitment to myself that if I was ever in a position to help pull together the resources to establish a center where there could be an informal exchange of ideas, and to establish an environment that is conducive to the casual exchange of information, I would do so." Daniel Golden, a Wall Street Journal journalist and author of the book The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges — and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates, has suggested that two of Frist's sons (Harrison and Bryan) were admitted to Princeton as recognition of this donation rather than their own academic and extracurricular merit.

Frist and his wife are the sole trustees in charge of a family foundation bearing the senator's name, which had more than $2 million in assets in 2004. Frist and his siblings are vice presidents of another charitable foundation bearing their parents' names. Frist failed to list his positions with the two foundations on his Senate disclosure form. In July 2006, when the matter was raised by the Associated Press, his staff said the form would be amended. Frist has previously disclosed his board position with World of Hope, a charity that gives money to causes associated with AIDS. The charity has come under scrutiny for paying consulting fees to members of Frist's political inner circle.

In the Terri Schiavo case, a brain-damaged woman whose husband wanted to remove her gastric feeding tube, Frist opposed the removal and in a speech delivered on the Senate Floor, challenged the diagnosis of Schiavo's physicians of Schiavo being in a persistent vegetative state (PVS): "I question it based on a review of the video footage which I spent an hour or so looking at last night in my office." Frist was criticized by a medical ethicist at Northwestern University for making a diagnosis without personally examining the patient and for questioning the diagnosis when he was not a neurologist. After her death, the autopsy showed signs of long-term and irreversible damage to a brain consistent with PVS. Frist defended his actions after the autopsy. Various complaints against Frist, a licensed physician, were filed with medical oversight organizations, but no action was taken.

While in medical school, Senator Frist was involved in a lab project which entailed dissecting feline remains. In a 1989 autobiography, Frist described how he "spent days and nights on end in the lab, taking the hearts out of cats, dissecting each heart." After some time, Frist said " lost supply of cats." The project, which needed to be completed as part of the medical school curriculum, could not be finished without another supply of cats. Frist several times obtained cats from animal shelters, falsely suggesting that he wanted to adopt them as pets. In his autobiography, Frist attributed his behavior, which he described as "heinous and dishonest", to the pressures of school.

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) ushered in military commission law for US citizens and non-citizens alike. Text in the MCA allows for the institution of a military alternative to the constitutional justice system for “any person” arbitrarily deemed to be an enemy of the state, regardless of American citizenship. Senator Bill Frist and senator John Warner were the two co-sponsors of the bill.

Frist's primary legislative focus has been on issues of concern to the health care industry and on pro-life issues. The senator also opposes abortion and all federal funding of abortion. In the Senate, he led the fight against partial birth abortion, voted for the Partial-Birth Abortion Act of 2003 and against an amendment to include a woman's health exception (as he considered the procedure to be hazardous to a woman's health).

Frist supported a total ban on human cloning, including for embryonic stem cell research. Since 2001, Frist had stood beside Bush in his insistence that only currently existing lines be used for stem cell research. But in July 2005, after severely criticizing the MLO, Frist reversed course and endorsed a House-passed plan to expand federal funding of the research, saying "it's not just a matter of faith, it's a matter of science." Up to that point the legislation had been considered bottled up in the Senate. The decision quickly drew criticism from some Christian groups such as Dr. James Dobson, but garnered praise from some Democrats and many Republicans, including former First Lady Nancy Reagan.

Frist supports programs to fight AIDS and African poverty. He travels to Africa frequently to provide medical care.

On education, Frist supports the No Child Left Behind Act, which passed in 2001 with bipartisan support. In August 2005 he announced his support for teaching intelligent design in public school science classes.

He opposes same-sex marriage and adoption by homosexual couples. He supports the death penalty.

In November 2005, Frist told reporters that he was less concerned about possible torture at CIA secret prisons than he was about potentially compromising the security of millions of Americans. Flying home after visiting the Guantanamo Bay detention center he said September 10, 2006 he expects bipartisan support for putting top captured al-Qaida figures on trial before military commissions and for guidelines on how they should be treated. Frist visited the detention center in eastern Cuba, which holds some 460 detainees, including 14 top alleged al-Qaida figures recently transferred from CIA custody. Frist said his visit with fellow Republicans Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, was especially poignant coming one day short of the fifth anniversary of the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. Frist told that to be there with the recognition that 14 individuals were there who in all likelihood contributed to the September 11, 2001 attacks led him to think how critical it is that we do define the appropriate criteria to make sure we get information to prevent such a tragedy from ever occurring again. The senators didn't see the 14 new detainees and instead visited Guantanamo to learn of interrogation techniques he said. In his mind, the detainees are being treated in a safe and humane way.

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Democratic Governors Association

The Democratic Governors Association is a Washington, D.C.-based organization founded in 1983, consisting of U.S. state and territorial governors affiliated with the Democratic Party. The DGA's Republican counterpart is the Republican Governors Association. The DGA is not directly affiliated with the non-partisan National Governors Association. Nathan Daschle, the son of former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle is currently Executive Director of the DGA.

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Harry Reid

Harry Reid

Harry Mason Reid (born December 2, 1939) is the senior United States Senator from Nevada and a member of the Democratic Party, as well as the U.S. Senate Majority Leader as of the 110th Congress.

Reid has been leader of the Senate Democrats since 2005, serving as Minority Leader from 2005 until the Democrats won control of the Senate in the 2006 congressional elections. He is the first member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to serve as Senate Majority Leader.

Reid was elected to the Nevada State Assembly in 1967. He left after being elected lieutenant governor in 1970, the same year his mentor O'Callaghan was elected governor. He served in that office until 1974, when he ran for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Alan Bible. He lost by fewer than 600 votes to former Governor Paul Laxalt. In 1975, Reid ran for Las Vegas mayor and lost again, this time to Bill Briare.

Reid then served as chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission from 1977 to 1981, a post that subjected him to death threats. Reid's wife once found a bomb attached to one of their cars. Jack Gordon also tried to bribe Reid. Reid allowed the FBI to tape Gordon's attempt to bribe him with $12,000, which led to Gordon's conviction in federal court in 1979 and sentence to six months in prison.

Prior to the 1980 census, Nevada had only one member in the United States House of Representatives, but population growth in the 1970s resulted in the state picking up a second district. Reid won the Democratic nomination for the 1st District, based in Las Vegas, in 1982, and easily won the general election. He served two terms in the House, from 1983 to 1987.

In 1986, Reid won the Democratic nomination for the seat of retiring two-term incumbent Paul Laxalt. He defeated former at-large Congressman Jim Santini, a Democrat who had turned Republican, in the November election. He coasted to reelection in 1992. However, he barely defeated 1st District Congressman John Ensign in 1998 in the midst of a statewide Republican sweep.

In 2004, Reid won reelection with 61 percent of the vote, gaining the endorsement of several Republicans.

Ensign was elected to Nevada's other Senate seat in 2000. He and Reid have a very good relationship, despite their bruising contest in 1998. The two frequently work together on Nevada issues.

From 1999 to 2005, Reid served as Senate Democratic Whip. He served as minority whip from 1999 to 2001 and again from 2003 to 2005, and as majority whip from 2001 to 2003 (except for a brief period from January-May 2001). From 2001 to 2003, he served as chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee.

Reid succeeded Tom Daschle as minority leader in 2005, and gained notoriety for his confrontational approach in dealing with the Republican majority and President George W. Bush. He became majority leader after the 2006 elections.

Reid was re-elected Majority Leader by the Democratic caucus without an opposition on November 18, 2008, winning all 57 votes.

A method that some political scientists use for gauging ideology is to compare the annual ratings by the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) with the ratings by the American Conservative Union (ACU). Reid has scored a lifetime conservative rating of 19% from the ACU, and a 2008 liberal rating of 70% from the ADA. Other independent ratings include a 100% rating from NARAL in 2001, and a 57% rating by Planned Parenthood in 2006.

Reid has spearheaded several initiatives while in Congress. In 2006 Reid co-sponsored the "Prevention First Amendment" with Hillary Clinton, which would fund abortion prevention efforts, such as giving women broader access to contraception; however the bill received Republican opposition and failed. In January 2007, Reid brought a Senate ethics reform bill to a vote to bar congressional members from accepting gifts, meals, and trips from lobbyists and organization employing them, as well as baring Senators from borrowing corporate jets for travel and compelling them to disclose the names of sponsors, or authors, of bills and specific projects. The bill passed 96 to 2.

Regarding specific issues, Reid believes in a restricted right to abortion, stating that "abortions should be legal only when the pregnancy resulted from incest, rape, or when the life of the woman is endangered." He has also voted several times to ban the "intact dilation and evacuation" or "partial-birth abortion" procedure. Regarding same-sex marriage, Reid has stated he believes "...marriage should be between a man and a woman." He voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act but against the Federal Marriage Amendment. He is historically in favor of the death penalty, stem cell research, and gun control. He also supports legislation for $15 billion in tax breaks for large oil companies, aiming to put the money toward renewable energy sources. With regards to local issues, Reid has firmly opposed the proposed Yucca Mountain federal nuclear waste repository in Nevada.

Reid called immigration reform one of his top priorities for the 110th Congress and supports the DREAM Act which would make it easier for young people who are not citizens of the United States but are permanent residents to attend college or university in the United States. He also opposed a Constitutional amendment to make English the national language of the United States.

Over the years Reid has been the subject of several criticism from both sides of the political aisle. Liberal critics argue that Reid is not doing enough to end the American military presence in Iraq, and that he is allowing Senate Republicans to create a 60-vote bar for passage of bills without actually filibustering.

Reid has also been criticized for several potentially self-enriching tactics. In 2005 Reid earmarked a spending bill to provide for building a bridge between Nevada and Arizona that would make land he owned more valuable. Reid called funding for construction of a bridge over the Colorado River, among other projects, 'incredibly good news for Nevada' in a news release after passage of the 2005 transportation bill. He owned 160 acres (0.65 km2) of land several miles from the proposed bridge site in Arizona. The bridge could add value to his real estate investment. A year later it was reported that Reid had used campaign donations to pay for $3,300 in Christmas gifts to the staff at the condominium where he resides, federal election law prohibits candidates from using political donations for personal use. Reid's staff stated that his attorneys had approved use of the funds in this manner but that he nonetheless would personally reimburse his campaign for the expenses. That action notwithstanding, the conservative group Citizens United announced it had filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission to investigate the matter.

In 2006 Reid was also brought under question as to his possible involvement in the Jack Abramoff Indian lobbying scandal, in that he purportedly "received more than $50,000 from four tribes with gaming interests between 2001 and 2004 after they hired Abramoff," which would have introduced a conflict of interest. However, the Senate Ethics Committee never accused Reid of violating Senate ethics rules.

Part of Harry Reid's confrontation with Frank Rosenthal is reenacted in the 1995 movie Casino. Reid had a cameo role in the movie Traffic (2000), in which he played himself. He appeared along with Senators Sam Brownback and Barack Obama in the 2007 documentary film Sand and Sorrow, which details the genocide in Sudan.

National opinion polls have shown Senate Majority Leader Reid's job approval to be low or unfavorable. Democrats as a whole in the United States Congress also receive low approval ratings, although almost always higher than their Republican peers. An October 2007 Las Vegas Review-Journal favorability poll indicated 51 percent of Nevadans view Reid unfavorably, with 32 percent indicating favorability. A December 2007 Las Vegas Review-Journal job approval poll showed 42 percent of Nevadans rating Reid "poor," 41 percent "excellent or good," and 16 percent "only fair." Reid's national approval rating is in the teens.

Reid and his wife have five children, one of whom, Rory Reid, is an elected Commissioner for Clark County, Nevada, and another who recently ran for municipal office in Cottonwood Heights, Utah.

Reid is a first generation member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Reid and his wife, who was born to Jewish parents, converted to Mormonism while Reid was a college student. He stated in an interview with Brigham Young University's Daily Universe that "I think it is much easier to be a good member of the Church and a Democrat than a good member of the Church and a Republican." He went on to say that the Democrats' emphasis on helping others, as opposed to what he considers Republican dogma to the contrary, is the reason he's a Democrat. He delivered a speech at BYU to about 4,000 students on October 9, 2007 in which he expressed his opinion that Democratic values mirror Mormon values.

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Source : Wikipedia