Things could be worse: the Snow Queen could have spent $400,000 on a fence.
Tom Lawrence finds that Governor Kristi Noem spent $75,255.25 on a make-up kit… and a few other things to stoke her vanity. Check out state contract 19-0102-004 Schedule A:
Lawrence reports the live TV studio that houses this make-up kit and all the other trimmings necessary for live national TV interviews was installed last July in the basement of the Capitol and has been christened the “Alice Kundert Studio.” I suspect long-time public servant Alice Kundert would have a few choice words about make-up kits and such video extravagance.
The total contract was for $130,000. That amount includes training, maintenance, and transmission fees.
This studio isn’t for things like government teleconferences; as many Americans are learning, all you need for that is Zoom and a laptop camera angled high enough not to show your sweatpants. No, this studio comes complete with an ongoing contract with AVI-SPL/Videolink’s professional camera operators on the East Coast:
It is a handy set-up that can be operated remotely by VideoLink staffers in Boston or Philadelphia, according to Lloyd Bunting, VideoLink’s senior VP of sales and marketing.
Bunting said there are 200 such studios around the country, with hospitals, businesses and some politicians having installed them. Noem, he said, is the only governor with her own studio.
It has a high-definition camera and lens, remote camera control with pan, tilt and zoom capabilities. There are two microphones, four lights, a key light, two fills and a backlight.
It also comes with a makeup kit. Want to look nice for network TV, after all [Tom Lawrence, “South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s $130,000 TV Studio Deal: She Installs a Video System in State Capitol,” South Dakota Standard, 2020.04.18].
Noem’s new spokesboy Ian Fury—on whom she is only spending $110,000—tells Lawrence that Noem uses the studio to make public service announcements (wow—how did Governors Daugaard, Rounds, Janklow, Miller, and Mickelson do that without their own live basement studio?) and that, golly gee, “Prior to Governor Noem taking office, there was no way to conduct remote interviews with television stations from Pierre. The governor is able to use this studio for interviews with national media, but also with local stations in Sioux Falls and Rapid City.” Fury is new to South Dakota, so maybe he can be forgiven for not knowing about South Dakota Public Broadcasting, which does live interviews from Pierre all the time. But apparently Kristi wants to reach audiences other than our public TV viewers. And apparently, instead of just using state-owned equipment for video connections with the Governor, Kristi thought it would be better to install an exclusive studio to which AVI-SPL/VideoLink retains exclusive for-fee operating rights:
Per contract, live-shot management rates are $350 per half-hour (and that’s the minimum purchase block). Additional charges apply for long-distance fiber services, satellite space segments and downlink, switching charges, web distribution, and coordination fees… all of which I suspect SDPB could do at less cost to the taxpayers and the requesting broadcasters.
Noem’s personal Fox News studio didn’t have to go through competitive bidding thanks to SDCL 5-18A-22, which exempts, among other things, “communications technologies, computer hardware and software, peripheral equipment, and related connectivity” from state procurement requirements. I guess the make-up kit counts as “peripheral equipment.”
Funding for the Governor’s private video services is subject to ongoing Legislative approval. Perhaps the Legislature will look at this studio as a deal—Noem spent more than ten times as much on her “We’re on Meth™” campaign, and that lasted only three months. A video studio should last for years!
Well, eight years, tops: Governor Noem wrote a termination date of December 31, 2026 into the contract, so whoever replaces Noem in 2022—Governor Jackley? Governor TenHaken? Governor Sutton? Governor Heinert?—will only get to use this fancy facility for four years before having to renegotiate terms.