South Dakota GOP Gov. Kristi Noem Flyin’ High In The Grifty Skies, Allegedly!
South Dakota's hot garbage GOP Governor Kristi Noem reportedly used a state airplane for travel to rightwing hack events across the country. We've grown accustomed to the twice-impeached thug's supporters adopting his ethics-smethics philosophy, but state lawmakers question whether Noem violated South Dakota law forbidding the political or personal use of the aircraft. That doesn't strike me as overly complex, but I'm not licensed to practice law in South Dakota.
Raw Story dug up flight logs that reveal Noem wasted tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on out-of-state events. This includes an NRA conference in San Antonio, a Turning Point USA gathering in Dallas, a Republican Jewish Coalition meeting in Las Vegas, and a handful of get-togethers with other Republican governors in Aspen, Colorado (great skiing!); Boca Raton, Florida (sandy beaches!); and Kentucky (it's Kentucky).
This was all in 2019. Noem also had a state airplane pick her up in Castlewood, South Dakota, whenever she was staying at her family home instead of the governor's residence in Pierre, where the the plane is kept. Why should she have to drive three whole hours like a peasant? She's a very busy and important woman on “official business," like that trip to New York City with her family.
The governor crowed on Instagram:
The Noem family (minus Kass and Kyle) had a very un-traditional Thanksgiving Day today...we were in NYC cheering on the South Dakota Float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade with @southdakota and @macys. So proud of the relationships built between this partnership and opportunities ahead....our friend @repjasonsmith joined us and we had a great day at the parade, visited Bryant Park, @rockefellercenter , shopping at Macy's for 10 minutes then getting out of there because it was CRAZY busy, visiting the @seinfeldtv cafe,(I'm doing the Elaine 'excited' dance here) and Thanksgiving dinner at the Plaza. We are so grateful tonight for freedom, family, and friends.
By sheer chance, this all coincided with her 48th birthday. It wasn't even the big five-oh and she still thinks she's too good for Delta. Raw Story estimates that the New York trip cost South Dakota taxpayers $17,200. That's some birthday present.
Ian Fury, Noem's spokesman, insists that her fancypants travel was all legit business:
"Governor Noem follows the law when weighing whether it is appropriate to use state aircraft," Noem's spokesman, Ian Fury, wrote in an email. "One of Governor Noem's primary roles as Governor is to be South Dakota's top ambassador to the rest of the nation."
Fury may have confused the governor of South Dakota with Miss South Dakota, who probably doesn't have access to a state aircraft. The current Miss South Dakota, Kalani Jorgensen, wears a mask publicly while Noem frequently doesn't. Maybe Jorgensen should be governor.
Fury claimed that Noem flies around the country "advertising to attract businesses to our state, to drive tourism to our state, and to appeal to particular industries." He doesn't bother explaining how blowing $17,200 of taxpayer money on a New York trip would somehow drive tourism to South Dakota. No one having dinner at the Plaza ever thinks, “I wish I was in South Dakota." Noem wasn't even wearing a state sweatshirt.
University of South Dakota political science professor Michael Card said Noem's travel doesn't "pass the smell test" and “it's not following the law," as he understands it. That's a problem for Noem, because her abuse of state property could qualify as a Class 2 misdemeanor, putting her on the hook for "a civil penalty of not more than one thousand dollars plus ten times the cost incurred by the state."
Meanwhile, the South Dakota legislature is debating the state budget, which includes a $5 million request from Noem to upgrade the state's airplane fleet. Her plan would sell two older planes and a purchase a newer one, which we guess she'll use a lot. She made this appeal during his December budget address.
"As planes age, they require more frequent, complex and very expensive maintenance," she said. "The state's top priority when considering aircraft must be safety."
Yes, safety is so important to Noem, as she presides over a state with some of the worst COVID-19 numbers in the country.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."