OPINION — “Pierre, South Dakota 57501” — the latest prime time political melodrama available on every cable news channel and the talk of every publication short of “Soap Opera Digest.”
Our drama begins with the Associated Press asking pushy questions of Gov. Kristi Noem, the politician and her family. The reporter wants to know more about the governor’s meeting that included her daughter Kassidy Peters and the dedicated Sherry Bren who had the temerity to flunk Peters’ application to become a state certified real estate appraiser. (The governor has been the Guiding Light for All Her Children.)
Besides Noem and Peters, Bren said the meeting included Labor Secretary Marcia Hultman; Bren’s supervisor; the governor’s general counsel; and, participating by telephone, Noem’s chief of staff and a lawyer from the state’s Department of Labor and Regulation.
In the next episode, Bren is written off the show. Later still, she’s given $200,000 to settle an age discrimination suit she filed and was told to shut her trap about the Secret Storm. And Young and Restless Kassidy is miraculously given her coveted certification and is now happily doing appraisals for AgVisors, llc of Watertown.
The Bold and Beautiful governor has declined an invitation to be interviewed by the Associated Press on the matter.
Enter Ian Fury, the dashing young communications director the governor hired away from Ohio congressman Jim Jordan (also dashing, sort of). Young Ian, unconcerned with issues like conflict of interest or nepotism, directed his ire at the questioner, avoiding the question, a deft move by any experienced side-stepper.
“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,” Fury said. Of course, he forgot to mention that the Associated Press is one of the few media sources in America people continue to trust.
According to the AP report, if the governor was going to strong-arm state employees in order to grease the skids for her daughter’s entry into the wonderful world of real estate appraisal, she should not have included herself in the meetings. But that is not how her character is written.
From the AP’s report: “While Peters was applying for the certification, Noem should have recused herself from discussions on the agency, especially any that would apply to her daughter’s application, said Richard Painter, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School who was chief ethics lawyer for former President George W. Bush.
“‘It’s clearly a conflict of interest and an abuse of power for the benefit of a family member,’ he said.”
But the story doesn’t end there! The plot thickens! In the next episode South Dakota’s embattled attorney general, Jason Ravnsborg, whom Noem clearly is actively trying to have impeached, enters from stage right.
Ravnsborg killed Joseph Boever in a distracted driving accident on his way home from a Lincoln Day dinner. The governor has made no bones about her desire to have the man impeached over the incident. She’s expressed disdain over the attorney general’s plea deal that included a small fine and no jail.
Ravnsborg pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor charges, was fined $500 for each and $3,742 in court costs. Noem wants Ravnsborg to resign. He won’t. She wants the Legislature to impeach him.
“I have been contacted by concerned citizens and legislators,” Ravnsborg says. “I am actively reviewing their concerns, and I will be following the steps prescribed in codified law in relation to those questions.”
In South Dakota, these truly are the Days of Our Lives. We live in Another World. Stay tuned!
Michael Sanborn writes from Rapid City.
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