The SDGOP spin blog says Kristi Noem’s fundraising e-mail blast to supporters “sets the record straight on false attacks on her family.” Yet her political e-mail, reprinted online in full by Bob Mercer, neither corrects nor even identifies any false attack. Let’s step through each paragraph:
The media has launched an intentionally malicious and false attack against my family in recent weeks. Documents disproving their claims have been in the public record for more than 20 years, but even after knowing where those documents were, the media failed to review them before writing their attack pieces. But you know I’ve never been one to back down from a fight… [Rep. Kristi Noem, mass e-mail, posted by Bob Mercer, “Malicious Media Attacks,” Pure Pierre Politics, 2017.12.18]
Noem refers in general to “their claims” and says they’ve (all?) been disproven by “documents… in the public record.” But, like every other journalist on this beat, I have reviewed and continue to review many of the documents from the Ronald D. Arnold probate case, and I have reported very clearly information offered in this documents. Noem has yet to point to a single piece of information that I have taken from those documents that is false.
Tax-loving liberals might not want to read it, but here’s the straight up reality: I’ve spent the last 23 years without my dad. He didn’t get to meet my kids or see how we were able to grow the family farm. But he did get us started. My home sits on land he owned – land he warned me never to sell because “God isn’t making any more of it.” He built that farm so one day his kids could come home and farm together. And the government jeopardized that dream when they hit us with the Death Tax.
Noem here restate several facts about her family history that no one has questioned. The only statement in dispute is the final claim, which Noem has used for political effect for years, that the government jeopardized the Arnold family’s extensive land holdings. Simple math says that’s not the case: probate documents indicate that (1) the half of the estate willed to Noem’s mother was exempt from estate tax, (2) the family paid $84,454 on the remaining taxable portion, and (3) the family received $1,119,047 in non-taxable life insurance or annuity transfers, a sum greater than the $1,108,977 net value of Arnold’s taxable estate. A $84,000 tax liability does not jeopardize the integrity of an estate that receives a $1.1-million windfall.
Some in the media have started a debate over whether our family did estate planning effectively. To them, I ask: What does it matter? If a tax is only levied because someone didn’t pay lawyers enough before they died, then there’s a problem with that tax.
Noem doesn’t refute anything here; she just says the quality of her family’s estate planning doesn’t matter. Shifting to argue the justification for taxing inheritances in general does not challenge any of the factual claims made about her family’s specific estate tax situation.
They have also pointed out that Death Tax exemption levels have changed since my dad’s death. But if you think that simply moving the exemption levels makes this tax “fair,” you’re misdirected. My principles don’t change because the dollar amount does.
Again, Noem is refuting nothing. It is plain fact that exemption levels have changed since 1994. Pointing out that federal estate tax now exempts the first $5.4 million of an individual’s estate does not constitute a false or malicious attack on anyone.
While our family history has been laid out in the public record for two decades, I spelled it all out once again in a recent article in the Argus Leader. Take a look.
Noem links to her swift reply to that Sioux Falls paper, but she doesn’t offer her readers a link to the original Dana Ferguson article that prompted her defensive outburst. Again, Noem does not refute any of the facts offered by Ferguson, which include stats on how few South Dakotans and how few farms pay estate tax.
So, the media can write what they will. And while they’re doing that, I’m going to keep pushing forward. I’m going to spend the rest of my life, if I have to, fighting to repeal the Death Tax. Are you with me?
Having refuted nothing, Noem plays Trump and tells her supporters to ignore the media, because, you know, if you just ignore facts, they don’t exist.
In this e-mail and in all of her public statements since the press finally started paying attention to her holey estate tax saga, Noem isn’t really rebutting any statement that has been made in the press about the estate situation her family faced after her father died in 1994. She’s offering the worst combination of poor-me emotionalism and Fourth-Estate delegitimization to keep the public from noticing the documents don’t support the story she’s been telling.