Kristi Noem pals reeling in millions from her small business COVID aid program: report

According to a report from the Daily Beast, close associates of South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) have been cashing in on grants from a program her state set up to help out small businesses buffeted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report notes that dollars doled out are in the millions.

Noem has been resistant to following CDC guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19 which led Rolling Stone to dub her the "Covid Queen of South Dakota" with an eye on running for president in 2024 if Donald Trump is out of the picture.

According to the Beast report by William Bredderman, her prospects may improve with her campaign chair availing himself to COVID help for hotels linked to him.

As Bredderman wrote, "Analyzing records compiled by the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, The Daily Beast determined that hotel owner Regency Midwest Ventures Limited Partnership received a $500,000 award through Noem's small-business relief effort. Regency Midwest is one of 29 companies listed in the portfolio of private equity firm Bluestem Capital, which belongs to Noem's campaign chair, former South Dakota Lt. Gov. Steve Kirby."

The report adds, "Besides the half-million the state gave Regency Midwest, another $1 million—the maximum amount granted under the program—went to Regency Hotel Management, which runs the chain's properties."

According to the report, Regency Hotel Management CEO Tom Biegler dismissed the accusations by claiming that "the ownership entity and the operator are separate companies," but Bredderman reports public records paint a different picture.

"Biegler did not respond to repeated follow-up inquiries about how this claim comports with his also being listed in public records as the CEO of Regency Midwest. Regency Hotel Management and Regency Midwest also share an address and multiple executives, and were identified as related companies in filings by the Regency Managed Properties Benefit Trust, their nonprofit health benefit provider," the Beast report states. "Further, both were incorporated in South Dakota by Robert Thimjon, the CEO of the Ramkota Companies, of which Regency Midwest and Regency Hotel Management are affiliates. Public documents also show that Thimjon owns a limited liability company which serves as general partner, or co-owner and decision-maker, of Regency Midwest."

Money going to those companies doesn't stop there, with the report adding, "Ramkota Companies received another $500,000 through Noem's program, as did another of its subsidiaries, Kelly Midwest Ventures. Three other companies operating under Regency's WR Restaurants brand, and based out of the same drab complex of one-story office buildings in back of the Best Western Plus Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls as the rest of the corporate family, received a combined $843,876."

In November of last year it was reported that Noem's family was also a recipient of COVID aid, with the Associated Press reporting "Family members of South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem received more than $600,000 in funds from a state grant program pushed by the governor that directed federal coronavirus relief funds to small businesses."

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