South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has been a popular figure in the Republican Party and the MAGA movement, receiving enthusiastic applause at Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) events. Some of Noem’s supporters would like to see her seek the GOP presidential nomination in 2024, depending on whether or not former President Donald Trump runs. But Noem isn’t without controversy in her state, where she is, according to the Associated Press, under investigation for allegedly using a state-owned plane for personal uses.
On September 24, AP’s Stephen Groves reported that Noem had “blurred the lines between official travel and attending either family or political events.”
“South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem was returning from an official appearance in Rapid City in 2019 when she faced a decision: Overnight in the capital of Pierre, where another trip would start the next day, or head home and see her son attend his high school prom?” Groves reported. “The Republican governor chose the latter, a decision that eventually cost taxpayers some $3700 when the state airplane dropped her off near her home and then returned the next day to pick her up.”
In South Dakota, according to Groves, Noem’s trips have “sparked a complaint to the state ethics board, which has referred the matter to the state's Division of Criminal Investigation.”
“A county prosecutor overseeing the investigation will decide whether the governor broke an untested law enacted by voters in 2006 to rein in questionable use of the state airplane,” Groves explained. “The governor has also faced action by the same ethics board for intervening in a state agency shortly after it moved to deny her daughter a real estate appraiser's license.”
Groves added, “As Noem’s political star rose in 2020, she began using private jets to fly to fundraisers, campaign events and conservative gatherings.
According to Columbia University law professor Richard Briffault, using a state-owned plane to meet with political groups is “pushing the limit.”
Groves noted, “Across the country, Democratic and Republican governors alike have come under scrutiny for their use of state aircraft. New York, Kentucky, Minnesota and Montana allow governors to do some politicking with state-owned aircraft but place some restrictions and require reimbursements for political use. New York also allows immediate family members to travel with the governor.”