Sioux Falls, South Dakota (AP) — South Dakota Governor Christy Noem was faced with the next decision as he returned from an official appearance in Rapid City in 2019. In Pierre’s capital he spends the night, and the next day he either starts another trip or goes home. Seeing her son attend a high school marriage proposal?
Republican governors chose the latter. The decision ultimately cost her taxpayers about $3,700 when a state plane dropped her off near her home and returned to pick her up the next day.
It was one of several trips that year in which potential 2024 White House candidate Noem blurred the line between official travel and attending family and political events. is.travel is National Ethics Complaint board i have I referred the matter to the state’s Criminal Investigative Service.County prosecutors overseeing the investigation will determine whether the governor violated an unverified law enacted by voters in 2006.
Governor also faces action by the same Ethics Commission She intervened with state agencies shortly after she moved to refuse to give her daughter a license to become a real estate appraiser..
As Noem’s political star rose in 2020she began using private jets to fly to fundraisers, campaign events, and conservative rallies.
But before that, in the first year of his 2019 term, Noem used the state plane six times to serve the Republican Governors Association, the Republican Jewish Coalition, Turning Point USA, and the National Rifle Association. raw storyThe online news site first reported the trip, but it was defended by the governor’s office as part of her work as the state’s “ambassador” to strengthen ties between the state’s economy and government. .
State plane logs also show Noem accompanied his family on an intrastate flight in 2019.
The 2006 ballot measure was a response to government scrutiny of air travel at the time. Mike Roundes attended events such as his son’s road trip basketball game while traveling for other official duties. At the time, Round, now a U.S. Senator, used political funds to reimburse states for these trips and travel to political events.
Senator Reynold Neciba, a Democrat who proposed the ballot measure before becoming a lawmaker, said voters’ intentions were clear.
“If it’s used on behalf of a family, this seems like a clear violation of the spirit of the law that was overwhelmingly passed, not just the letter,” he said.
Ian Fury, a spokesman for Noem’s campaign, said it was “totally within precedent” for the family to join the governor on a plane, referring to Noem’s Republican predecessor, adding, “She’s in this position.” Little things are silly because you do less than Dennis Dorgard for the species,” he added. .
A state plane log from Daugaard’s last-term show wife, Linda, often joined the trip. Daugaard’s sister and daughter also joined him on his one trip in 2017 and his 2016 respectively. Noem’s children participated in nine plane trips during her first term, except for her daughter Kennedy Noem, who is on the governor’s staff as a policy analyst.
On another trip, Noem’s itinerary allowed her to fly home for her son’s prom. On April 5, 2019, she boarded a state jet from Watertown, near her home in Castlewood, to Rapid City for an announcement at Ellsworth Air Force Base. On the return flight, the plane stopped at Pierre, the capital, to drop off Round and several aides who had joined the trip. However, Noem did not stay at the governor’s mansion there, even though she had another trip from Pierre to Las Vegas for a Republican Jewish Union event planned the next day.
According to Noem’s social media posts, she flew to Watertown near her home in time to see her son take the stage at prom. Only had to return to Watertown on
Fury defended the trip because it started in Watertown, near where he spoke at his son’s school district event the day before.
“Part of the official trip is coming back from the official trip,” said Fury.
He used a similar defense for a trip that began in Custer on May 30, 2019, where he was staying to help his daughter prepare for her wedding, traveling across the state to meet two youths. Speaking at leadership events. Noem’s son, nephew and one of his friends who were at the event in Aberdeen have returned to State his plane to participate in the preparations for the wedding.
Fury said putting his son and his friends on the plane didn’t cost the state extra money and was part of the official trip.
Richard Brifort, a professor at Columbia Law School who specializes in government ethics, said Noem’s trips to political events seemed to fall into a legal gray area. Traveling is clearly against the law, but traveling to meet with political groups “is pushing the boundaries,” he said.
Across the country, Democratic and Republican governors are under scrutiny for their use of national aircraft. New York, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Montana allow governors to use state-owned aircraft for political activity, but with some restrictions and requiring reimbursement for political use. increase. New York State also allows immediate family members to travel with the governor.
Hughes County attorney Jessica Lamy, who was appointed to investigate whether Noem broke the law, promised a “thorough” investigation.
“Once you take the title and all that away, it’s no different than any other survey,” she said.
Neil Fulton, dean of the University of South Dakota Law School, who also served as the round’s chief of staff after the legislation was enacted in 2006, said it’s not entirely clear what exactly the law means by “state enterprise.” said. It defines state undertakings as “actions to further state programs or initiatives.”
The law carries fines as high as $1,000 plus 10 times the cost of the trip. The offender also faces a Class 2 misdemeanor, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 days in prison for her, although that’s usually only done for repeat or violent offenders.
“We weren’t going to convict anyone,” state legislator Nesheba said. “We wanted to create a deterrent.”