My prediction that Tony Venhuizen was in the chute to become our permanent Secretary of Education turns out to be wishful thinking. Instead of remaining in public service in an area where the Noem Administration clearly needs experience and expertise, former Governor Dennis Daugaard’s chief of staff and and son-in-law is departing Pierre to dive deeper into the belly of the private-sector beast that pulls Kristi Noem’s reins.
Redstone Law Firm announced yesterday that Venhuizen will leave his post as Governor Noem’s senior advisor and come work for Redstone on trusts and estates, government relations, and business law.
Why would Venhuizen go lawyer at Redstone instead of staying in Pierre to run the Department of Education?
- Trusts hide hundreds of billions of dollars in South Dakota for rich people from elsewhere who don’t like paying taxes. The handful of lawyers in South Dakota who understand our trust laws (which include guys like Venhuizen and G. Mark Mickelson who have helped write those laws) can make a metric craptonne of money managing those trusts. Venhuizen’s only making $127,459.74 in Pierre… and he has to live in Pierre to make that.
- Dennis Daugaard is back in Dell Rapids. By moving to Sioux Falls, Tony and his wife Sara make it much easier for Dennis and Linda to see their three grandkids.
- Dennis Daugaard is back in Dell Rapids. He’s 65 and has said he still plans to work. By moving into the trust industry in Sioux Falls, Venhuizen can gain a valuable line on his résumé that, in a year or two, would allow him to open his own office, Daugaard and Venhuizen Trust Services, that will set the whole family up for life.
- Redstone is lobbyist extraordinaire Matt McCaulley’s law firm. McCaulley is one of the real powers behind the Noem Administration, enjoying a fat contract with her office to lobby for corporate-fascist measures like the Keystone XL anti-protest bills. Redstone offers backroom brainiac Venhuizen a perfect opportunity to keep his fingers on the strings of South Dakota government.
- I haven’t been afraid to offer wishful if unlikely predictions before, so I’ll throw one here as well: after seeing the civics debacle, the hemp veto, and Noem’s rank venality and nepotism, the very smart Venhuizen knows he doesn’t want to be right at the center of the coming Noem crapstorm. At Redstone, he can enjoy all of the influence but none of the public tarring that will come from increasingly bad decisions from Pierre. From his trust work, he can rack up a bank account that will both ingratiate him more deeply with and insulate him from the powers that be and put him in a position to be a valued ally to a 2022 Republican primary challenger who may ride in to save Pierre from Noem’s mismanagement.
Of course, maybe Venhuizen, like all the other cool kids, just wants to be able to walk to Josiah’s for coffee and conversation. Like Spock, Venhuizen is part human.