Kristi Noem has lashed out at the press, claiming “media is trying to destroy my children” after allegations emerged about her potential involvement in her daughter’s business affairs.
The actions of South Dakota’s governor were called into question in a report by The Associated Press, after she met with officials from an agency responsible for denying her daughter’s application to become a real estate appraiser. Weeks later, her daughter’s application was approved.
Ms Noem summoned officials from the state Department of Labor and Regulation involved with the Appraiser Certification Program in July of 2020, the Associated Press reported on Monday. Those officials included her daughter’s direct supervisor.
At the meeting, Ms Noem presented the director of the Appraiser Certification Program with a letter authored by a certified state residential appraiser who was supervising Ms Noem’s daughter as she undertook a bid to become an appraiser herself; the letter reportedly sharply criticised the state system as riddled with inefficiencies and complaining that Ms Noem’s daughter’s rejection had been unwarranted.
The meeting took place at the governor’s mansion just days after the initial attempt by Ms Noem’s daughter to achieve her certification had been denied, according to the AP.
The report went on to note that even after Ms Noem’s daughter was eventually approved for her certification, the director of the certification programme was forced out of her job later that year by the state Labor Secretary, a political appointee reappointed to the agency by Ms Noem in 2019.
At the time, Ms Noem’s daughter was a paid policy analyst working in the governor’s office, a position she held since her mother took office in 2019. She would go on to leave that job just days later, however, at the end of July 2020.
The governor denied any wrongdoing or conflict of interest in a statement posted on Twitter shortly after the AP’s investigation was published.
“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,” she wrote.
Her spokesman added to the AP that the news agency was “disparaging the Governor’s daughter in order to attack the Governor politically”, adding, “no wonder Americans’ trust in the media is at an all-time low”.
A former ethics chief in the George W. Bush White House, Richard Painter, agreed however that the situation presented a conflict of interest for Ms Noem, given her daughter’s financial interest in the area of real estate certifications.
“It’s clearly a conflict of interest and an abuse of power for the benefit of a family member,” he told the AP in a statement regarding their findings.
It’s unclear if the governor or her daughter would face any consequences over the situation given Ms Noem’s daughter being a paid staffer in the governor’s mansion at the time of the meeting. However, the state’s Labor Secretary, Marcia Hultman, made sure to stress in a comment to the AP that the governor’s daughter went through the same process that others do, and asserted that her certification had never been denied.
“Kassidy Peters went through the same process as other appraisers. There was no denial,” she told the AP. “Mrs. Peters completed the requirements to become licensed, and she was subsequently certified in November.”