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Noem Attacks Press But Offers No Refutatory Details on Failing Estate Tax Tale

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:

Sorry, Kristi—that shirt isn't enough this time.
Sorry, Kristi—that shirt isn’t enough this time.


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.


  1. Donald Pay 2017-12-19 09:05

    She’s been lying to us and probably to herself for half her life. When a person does that and has been rewarded for it with public honor, they have a psychological tendency to be protective of the lies they have told. She really needs to seek some counselling for her problem.

  2. Bill Kennedy 2017-12-19 09:17

    Poor Kristi, caught in the wringer on her “death Tax” statements. It is the only line she knows, so she has to keep running with it. Her pushing to get rid of it, or raise the limits to unrealistic limits will make her shine in the eyes of a very, very small number of people in South Dakota. As for the rest of the residents, she is content to let a few crumbs be thrown out to them on a here and there basis. One can see where her priorities lie, it is in those with money, especially those with money who are her donors.

    Many people have had a parent, or parents die unexpectedly, and they did go thru some financially tough times, but they worked thru it. They did not get on the pity pot and and piss and moan about how they were “wronged”. Time to suck it up Kristi.

  3. Kyle 2017-12-19 09:28

    “They’re not making any more” land? That’s something Lex Luthor says in Superman: The Movie. Her dad quoted the most evil land developer ever. Explains so much.

  4. Rorschach 2017-12-19 09:39

    The only thing is, the insurance money windfall came to Kristi’s mother. The inheritance windfall that generated an estate tax bill came to Kristi and her siblings. If mom is a good Republican she wouldn’t just hand over $84,000 to Kristi and her siblings to pay their estate tax bill, so Kristi and her siblings would have to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and do for themselves. In a leveraged farming operation that might require a loan and some time. Still with the safety net of a mother flush with cash and uncles managing a trust, there really wasn’t any danger of the young Arnolds losing the farm.

  5. Ryan 2017-12-19 11:18

    It seems to me the $84K in estate tax was a tiny fraction of the value of the estate, and was also a very small portion of the bills the estate had – so the apparent problems the kids had managing the inheritance comes from other operational debt carried by kristi’s dad, not by the estate tax. So really, she is upset that the family inherited some debt with their equity and had to make a decision about whether to service the debt and keep the operation viable, or sell the whole works since the person who managed the operation, built the equity, and serviced the debt, was no longer able to do so.

    She is just upset that she couldn’t have it both ways – receive the equity her dad worked for without paying the bills he promised to pay while building that equity. She sounds like a lot of the irrational, entitled crybabies I have come across in my day.

  6. Jenny 2017-12-19 14:09

    She should have known that the news media would be digging and the whole truth would come up sooner or later. If she would have shut up about her poor me sob story instead of rehashing it year after year her this probably never would have been brought up. So now, she is in an unfortunate situation that only she herself has to blame. Own it, Kristi. You chose to have your family’s estate brought into your Campaign years ago. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and take responsibility. (GOP mantra)

  7. jerry 2017-12-19 15:28

    As NOem more or less called the press liars, then they need to double down to bring the print facts, like Cory did, out in the open. Let voters see that the press did not lie nor did it embellish the truth in any way shape or form. It was NOem who lied and it was NOem who continues to do so.

    Something else, maybe her father really had no intention of redoing the will he had done in the past. He seemed very clear about the protection he offered his wife and family though with those life insurance policies. Seems like the life insurance was the best move forward with no tax consequences for those that were the beneficiaries.

    Come on press, you have been challenged, rise up and resist. Mercer did his part of putting out the word, now it is up to the rest to drive the point home. If you allow NOem to do this to you, imagine what would happen if she became governor.

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-12-19 16:42

    Ror, the probate documents say that Kristi’s mom loaned $1,000,599 to the estate “for operating capital and to pay liabilities.” Could it be that this terrible loan that Kristi has said put the farm in jeopardy actually came from the Bank of Mom?

    On SDPB this noon, Rep. Noem made no mention of her personal story and hewed closely to her new talking point, that she opposes the estate tax “on principle.”

  9. Laurisa 2017-12-19 19:34

    As I said in another thread last night, hubby received this email (he only stays on her list so he can respond with actual facts to her constant distortions and outright lies, not that anyone on her staff actually ever listens) and is in the process of crafting a zinging response. Anyone have any suggestions? (insert evil grin here)

  10. John 2017-12-19 19:41

    NOem’s version also ignored the fact that the land was stolen from the eastern Sioux tribes by the illegal immigrants forcing on the natives the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux and Treaty of Mendota, then promptly abrogated their own treaties, then murdered the natives in the Dakota War. (Recall at the time that the western border of Minnesota Territory was the Missouri River – oh, weep for the lost opportunities missing the potential to be in what became that progressive state.) Congress established several reservations to ‘deal with the issue’ – and true to lying form, then cancelled many of the reservations. Her family, like mine, likely had nothing to do with the subterfuge, nevertheless benefited mightily from it – as if the “land” were a gift from god. Minnesota or South Dakota “nice” – my fanny.

    SD media has no interest investigating or telling the NOem facts because they conflate access and ad revenue with the Constitutionally protected trust of the Fourth Estate. Even the Argus Follower’s oped this week feebly went out of its way find imagined grounds to praise NOem before timidly suggesting that she amend her narrative – and as pointed out above, she failed hurdling that low bar.

    Send NOem back to her farm.

  11. jerry 2017-12-19 21:11

    Cory, that “loan” of a million bucks sounds like something on Schedule F, profit or loss from farming. Something is kind of interesting about the whole thing now with the loan involved. How was that listed?

  12. Ryan 2017-12-19 21:43

    It does sound like mom loaned the life insurance money she received to the kids’ trust to pay it’s share of bills (probably an operating line of credit, mortgages on land, and maybe machinery loans). Obviously I’m guessing, but an ambitious journalist or an ordinary citizen with time to spare could likely find land records quite easily to see the mortgages recorded and released on the land and see who the new lender was (if that lender secured its loan with a mortgage, which a bank certainly would have).

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-12-20 08:40

    Jerry, so far, I’ve only seen that loan from Corinne in the document I linked. It’s tax status is unclear.

    Laurisa, my only suggestion is that he share that zinging response here on the blog!

    Ryan, checking those mortgages will require another visit to the Hamlin County Courthouse in Hayti, the only place in the state where one can access the paper index and the online archive of all county land documents.

  14. Ryan 2017-12-20 09:28

    Cory, what if we set up a go-fund-me type of account within your tip jar? We could all kick in a few bucks until you have enough to pay a title company to snag those records for you, with some overage to show our gratitude for your work. Depending on the number of parcels of land and in which counties they are located, you’d be surprised how inexpensive it might be. I hear that the going rate on a title report is a reasonable $125 or so.

  15. Roger Cornelius 2017-12-20 12:07

    The one document I would like to see from the Noem saga is the letter the IRS sent to the family immediately upon the death of their family patriarch requesting tax payments.

  16. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-12-21 09:49

    A separate account? Why not just ring the Tip Jar right now?

    I count 42 parcels of interest on the list I have. Multiply that by $125 per title report, and that’s $5,250. Get 500 people to each ring the Tip Jar with $11, and we’re about there.

  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-12-21 09:52

    Roger, you’re right: that letter would be great to have on the record… with its date.

  18. jerry 2017-12-21 10:40

    Always good to read a thinker Roger, that letter, with its date would be helpful for NOem to produce. I will bet that Marty Jackley would want to see that as well…if he is serious about running for governor that is.

  19. Porter Lansing 2017-12-21 11:51

    Congressperson Noem is riding a false narrative like a cowgirl rides a mule. This isn’t about the facts of her story, which she’s used as deflection, justification and sympathy for years. She says, “It’s all about the liberal press attacking my family!!” Pat Powers, in an attempt to get some advertising crumbs from her million dollar war chest is in compliant agreement. Sheeeeesh!! Isn’t it already time to “Make America Obama Again?”

  20. jerry 2017-12-21 12:04

    Porter, when NOem attacks the press for reporting the facts by calling them liberal, she is cowering them into submission. Had it not been for this blog digging and the blog at Huffpo reporting on an Eastern newspaper report, the state’s newsprint would have been quietly subdued by lack of reporting.

    Thankfully, some members on this blog site read this Powers flake so I don’t have too and I thank them for that. One thing is for certain, this will not be the last we hear of this as it does have the proof that NOem has been fibbing.

  21. Porter Lansing 2017-12-21 12:36

    PS … Kristie. It’s no more a “death tax” than a fetus is an unborn life. It’s an inheritance tax and it’s unnecessary to feel sorry for your bank account, which has grown by millions. It’s a fetus and it’s no more a baby than a caterpillar is a butterfly. It’s not a life until it’s born and God blesses it with a soul.

  22. Porter Lansing 2017-12-21 19:44

    Good one, o. Current and informative. You’d make a great Governor. :)

  23. jerry 2017-12-21 21:13

    I hear the door knocking on the NOem campaign, lo and behold, it is HuffPo with a copy of a tee vee ad that is getting ready to go on the air. Damn man, this is absolutely amazing. NOem being taken down by lies on top of lies. Merry Christmas NOem, looks like Santa is bringing you the truth for that stocking on the mantel. This also looks like Billie Sutton better be ready for a smarmy barrister that has his own deep secrets as his opponent. Maybe we will finally get the truth about Benda and the EB5. Life is funny like that.

  24. jerry 2017-12-21 21:23

    Wow o, NOem made the front page of Huffington Post Another proud moment for South Dakotan’s. Our only representative caught up in net of lies. Drip..drip..drip

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