Frankly, were it not for the fact that the under-populated states of the northern Great Plains have the same number of Senators as the vastly larger liberal states like California and New York, a non-native would have little reason to even think about them in the grand scheme of American political life.
That is until a pandemic arrives, and one of those states decides that it’s perfectly OK to invite thousands of maskless bikers to their state, enabling one of the biggest superspreader events to export the plague across the country.
The mental giant who approved that scheme was Republican Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota, oft mentioned as a GOP presidential hopeful for 2024 by those who simply assume that Donald Trump will be in prison by then.
Those aspirations to become the Republican nominee may have hit some stumbling blocks in recent days, as Governor Noem faces a nepotism scandal that could put a serious kink in any plans for higher office.
Here’s how The Associated Press described the unusual circumstances that have generated so much controversy for the far-right GOP governor when it broke the news.
“Just days after a South Dakota agency moved to deny her daughter’s application to become a certified real estate appraiser, Gov. Kristi Noem summoned to her office the state employee who ran the agency, the woman’s direct supervisor and the state labor secretary,” The AP reports.
“Noem’s daughter attended too.”
“Kassidy Peters, then 26, ultimately obtained the certification in November 2020, four months after the meeting at her mother’s office. A week after that, the labor secretary called the agency head, Sherry Bren, to demand her retirement, according to an age discrimination complaint Bren filed against the department. Bren, 70, ultimately left her job this past March after the state paid her $200,000 to withdraw the complaint,” the news service’s account outlines.
The governor, as you might expect, was not particularly happy about the details of the meeting and the subsequent settlement with the state agency head being made public.
A spokesman for Noem issued a statement attacking the messenger.
“The Associated Press is disparaging the Governor’s daughter in order to attack the Governor politically – no wonder Americans’ trust in the media is at an all-time low,” Noem spokesman Ian Fury said.
Noem herself took to Twitter to accuse the media of having two different sets of standards for conservatives and progressives.
Listen I get it. I signed up for this job. But now the media is trying to destroy my children. This story is just another example of the double standard that exists with the media… going after conservatives and their kids while ignoring Liberals #AskTheBigGuy
— Kristi Noem (@KristiNoem) September 27, 2021
Governor Noem’s tweet could be dismissed as typical sour grapes from a politician caught with their hand in the cookie jar if it did not open her up to major charges of hypocrisy due to her own past attacks on President Biden’s son, Hunter, as Twitter commenters were quick to point out.
thanks for the mention!
— It's a feature not a bug (@n513zm) September 27, 2021
Why even run? I mean, seriously.
— Garfield’s Ghost (@Occamsreznor) September 27, 2021
The story of the last five years is that costless political yahooism is dangerous to our democracy and corrosive to our society.
— Fred Courtright (@permdude) September 27, 2021
This was the first thing that popped in my head!
— ThunderQ (@ThunderQ_1) September 27, 2021
Let’s hope that this scandal doesn’t prevent Noem from becoming a serious candidate for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2024. Democrats would likely prefer to be running against a candidate with significantly heavy baggage, presumably filled with dirty linen, then against your run-of-the-mill conservative nut job.
Not that it helped them in 2016, but hopefully they know how to better combat an ethically compromised first-time opponent than they did the last time around.
Original reporting by Stephen Groves at The Associated Press.
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Vinnie Longobardo is the Managing Editor of Occupy Democrats. He's a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.