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Noem Spends $75K on Make-up Kit—Fox News Studio Included!

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:

State Contract 19-0102-004, Schedule A, signed 2019.05.14 by Governor Kristi Noem's general counsel Tom Hart.
State Contract 19-0102-004, Schedule A, signed 2019.05.14 by Governor Kristi Noem’s general counsel Tom Hart.

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:

AVI-SPL Videolink contract item 7
State Contract 19-0101-004, page 3

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.

But hey, next time you see the Snow Queen on Fox News (was that twice just last week?), remember: that really is your tax dollars at work.


  1. mike from iowa 2020-04-20 07:47

    Nothing spells klewless like personal vanity during a raging pandemic. If Knoem was Prince’s girl toy, would her moniker be Vanity Sucks?

  2. Donald Pay 2020-04-20 08:28

    mfi, now that is funny…and pathetic. Think about this: she was in training learning how to work the equipment for this vanity project while she was ignoring the pandemic breakout at Smithfield. The woman is a walking, talking female Donald Trump.

    But consider: with all this equipment she could make a video with Donald Trump, wiith Trump singing:

    U don’t have 2 be rich
    2 be my girl
    U don’t have 2 be cool
    2 rule my world
    Ain’t no particular sign I’m more compatible with
    I just want your extra time and your….

  3. jerry 2020-04-20 08:48

    GNOem uses the same makeup that trump uses. I thought she had an orange tint, but thought that was natural for the Halloween pumpkin she is…what a horror story!!

  4. Loren 2020-04-20 09:23

    From what I saw on TV a while back, she needed some tips on either makeup or lighting because she was starting to look a little long in the tooth for a Snow Queen.

  5. David Bergan 2020-04-20 10:40

    Hi Mike,

    The contract was signed in 2019, so I don’t see how it could be connected to the pandemic.

    Kind regards,

  6. John 2020-04-20 10:46

    Just when I think it’s “safe” to settle on how clueless and worthless are the SD executive and legislature . . . you dig up an even bigger affront to fiscal and reasonable decency.

    On the other hand, maybe Noem could recoup a little money by renting out the makeup kit to too many of the old, wrinkled, craggy, near-worthless via lack of oversight faces in the legislature.

  7. Observer 2020-04-20 11:07

    Maybe getting ready for a statewide “Shelter in Place” announcement?

  8. mike from iowa 2020-04-20 11:29

    You are hilarious, Donald Pay. David, use your imagination and you can see multiple connections to pandemic.

    Since Noem doesn’t stay at the capitol did she get a half off deal since her time is spent at home?
    Or was there another studio installed at home so she can talk to herself?

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-04-20 12:35

    No, this studio had nothing to do with coronavirus. As David notes, the contract was signed in May 2019. This was part of her big vanity push right off the bat. She wants desperately to stay connected to the national scene, to keep voice among those Trump hears when he turns on the TV. She can’t sit around waiting for SDPB to come over and hook up the cameras; she has to have faster access whenever she can get some Fox/Trump time.

    According to Lawrence, she is the only governor in the country with a private studio like this, at least one built and managed by this company.

  10. Colleen 2020-04-20 13:26

    Your headline is disgustingly misleading. It says that she spent $75000 on a MAKE UP KIT which is obviously false if you look at the list of things that contributed to the total bill. I don’t condone her spending money on this type of setup or her current actions but this just goes to show how low a reporter like you would go just to get a negative response for her and others. Put an appropriate headline on it and then you can consider yourself a real and responsible reporter

  11. mike from iowa 2020-04-20 15:10

    I seriously doubt the pandemic will prevent her from using it, just the same. I am also sure she will attempt to use it to make herself appear to be a real leader, much like drumpf abuses twitter.

    The defense rests.

  12. Donald Pay 2020-04-20 15:45

    Cory is right. The contract was signed in May 2019, but do we know when the installation was done? Do we know when all the training listed in Schedule A was done? That’s an immense amount of time. Do we know how much time Noem spent practicing while political and media consultants gave her pointers? Do we know all the time she spent actually ON IT with FOX news other righty outlets? Was any of this appropriated by the Legislature? Did they have oversight?

  13. Robin Friday 2020-04-20 15:58

    Did anybody notice the haircut the other day? Last week she had the usual beauty-queen shoulder-length soft curls, big earrings look. Then the next day it looked like she had had her hair cut in a more professional, almost severe cut, parted, no curls. Then the next day she put a cap over it. Not usually commenting on looks and hair, but what’s going on there besides political optics?

  14. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-04-20 17:22

    Donald, Tom Lawrence reports installation was last July. I’m not sure when the training happened… but we could go back and find out how many times Noem has remoted in to Fox News over the past nine months.

  15. Scott 2020-04-20 17:47

    Look at all the local news and weather reporters that are live on air and working from home. They are using equipment that maybe cost $5,000 total.

    Example photo

    Even on the national scene, I’m guessing those people have maybe $25,000 in equipment at there house and are live for hours each day.

    It would be nice to see a log on use of this studio.

  16. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-04-20 18:04

    Colleen, tell us how much of our tax dollars the Governor should spend on make-up… and on the installation of a private video studio to fuel her vanity with national TV appearances.

  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-04-20 18:09

    Great point, Scott. Heck, Donald Trump still just whips out his phone and calls Fox News; why bother with an expensive in-house studio?

  18. Debbo 2020-04-20 18:21

    When the SDGOP offers zero fiscal oversight, Kruel Kristi can do whatever she wants. It’s no different than the GOP in DC letting Covid Creep commit any criminal acts he likes.

  19. Caleb 2020-04-20 19:19

    In my opinion, public funds should never pay for make-up, nor should our government be in the business of controlling its message with such a studio. Still, I share Colleen’s dislike for this headline, least of all because that $75k covers a package consisting of up to 12 other items, and no breakdown of their individual costs appears in the attached document – the make-up could cost a tiny fraction of that total. Your headline is indeed misleading, Cory. I don’t think the headline undermines all your credibility, but it certainly doesn’t bolster that credibility, either.

  20. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-04-20 20:30

    Discussing me instead of the woman spending your tax dollars on her vanity is a serious misprioritization of the issues. My headline, like the post itself, appropriately spotlights and ridicules her vanity.

  21. Debbo 2020-04-20 21:11

    I think Caleb and Colleen have a point about the headline. I can notice that without losing track of the bigger issue of Kruel Kristi’s poor use of taxpayer dollars for personal promotion.

  22. John Silas 2020-04-20 21:22

    Your headline uses the word “kit” in a way that is correctly inclusive and sardonic. But it is beyond the literacy of those who put the likes of Trump and Noem in office.

  23. Moses6 2020-04-20 22:09

    the subsidy queen spending our money and I want it now.Ruin the economy subsidy queen eh ha.

  24. Baby Moon 2020-04-21 11:09

    But, we digress. Vanity massaging is one thing, but, to what extent is this set up part of a taxpayer funded propagandistic effort? To what extent is it intended to be used to not only trumpet Trumpette’s right wing message but to connect easily to national right wing propagandistic efforts overall? Who at the Capitol operates this thing and how much does that cost – is it her new boy? Who develops the messaging and is it echoed in other media outlets? C’mon, focus, people!

  25. Colleen 2020-04-21 11:49

    As I stated, I do not think this purchase was appropriate but the fact that there was a makeup kit in it is NOT the issue. I think the headline you gave this story is misleading and inappropriate because most people look at the headline and assume that is correct WITHOUT actually reading the story. Go ahead, shed light on this issue, but don’t sensationalize it by writing your headline in such a stupid way. Bring forward the fact that she is inappropriately spending tax dollars, just don’t sensationalize it.

  26. Donald Pay 2020-04-21 12:14

    Headlines aren’t the story, Colleen. Headlines are there to get you to read the story, which it did in this case. That means it’s a good headline. Congratulations, Cory.

    Now Cory could have written the headline differently, to be sure. He could have reversed the order of the makeup and the TV studio. The list of items in Schedule A doesn’t really make it clear that any of the equipment is a “TV studio”, however, so if anything is misleading it is that this is a TV studio. It could really be just a bunch of toys to play with, packaged in a way that is excellent marketing.

    It’s pretty clear in the story what is being purchased, Colleen. Since COVID Kristi is famous for marketing her image, rather than her accomplishments or intelligence, let’s just say Cory nailed this headline.

  27. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-04-21 12:33

    The make-up kit makes clear this is no normal state communication system. 9-11 dispatchers don’t need make-up kits. Administrators of different departments don’t get make-up kits for teleconferences. Legislators don’t get make-up kits for stand-ups with reporters in the halls of the Capitol. This is taxpayer-funded vanity to help Kristi Noem get more attention at the national level and angle for a job, either in the Trump Administration or on Fox News, à la Sarah Palin. It’s hard to get any more sensationally bad than that… and the story deserves all the sensational coverage it can draw, as an example of the sensational failure of Kristi Noem to put public service above her personal vanity and political career.

  28. jerry 2020-04-21 13:19

    She needs all the help she can get, but in the end, it’s pretty much the same stale product. Girls got nothing but the bat of her made up eye that she thinks the old tom cat in Washington likes.

  29. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-04-22 12:39

    Interesting article, Mike! Daily Beast links to another Noem appearance on Fox News just this Monday. Daily Beast cites Canton mayor Sanid Lundstrom, who says of Governor Noem, “she’s enjoying the attention, I think.” The article cites Robert Summerer of out state medical association, who expresses surprise at how much media attention the state is getting:

    Earlier this month, the South Dakota State Medical Association sent Noem a letter trying to persuade her to issue a shelter-in-place order, to no avail.

    In an interview with The Daily Beast, the organization’s president, Robert Summerer, avoided directly criticizing Noem, saying “I’m not here to make a villain or a hero out of her.”

    But Summerer appeared flummoxed by the amount of media attention directed toward the state with a population of 884,000 during the pandemic that has infected what is approaching a million Americans.

    “It is curious that South Dakota is getting so much attention when we’re one of a few other states,” he said. “Somehow South Dakota’s become the media darling about that and I can’t explain that” [Hunter Woodall, “South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem’s COVID-19 Inaction Has Made Her a Right-Wing Hero,” The Daily Beast, 2020.04.22].

    Golly gee, when you have the taxpayers build you a private TV studio so you can go live on Fox News any time you want, it’s remarkable how much attention you can get from the people who could get you a job in the White House.

    Colleen, have you written to your Governor yet to express how disgusted you are with her attention-grab on your dime?

  30. Caleb 2020-04-22 20:25

    John Silas: the make-up kit is just part of the $75k package. If your comment was a jab at Colleen or me, it not only failed, but also betrayed presumption.

    Like Debbo said, we can point out inaccuracies in a headline while focusing on the primary issue. I made that clear by prefacing my complaint with what I find most problematic about how Noem spent that $75k: on vanity and centralized message control.

    If the main issue you take is money spent on propagandistic means, I think a headline stating as much would be accurate and sensational enough. Regardless, I can appreciate your work here even while not appreciating your headline. Thanks for presenting the document.

  31. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-04-23 12:37

    So everyone exerting effort on the headline has exerted proportionate effort contacted Governor Kristi Noem to recommend that she fix her error, right?

  32. Donald Pay 2020-04-23 14:14

    I recommend an introductory journalism class to those miffed about headlines. It seems some folks here are not very perceptive readers of content. Trump is another one who seems to get his bowels twisted over headlines He rarely reads much farther into a story. It’s very easy to criticize headlines, but not easy to write good ones.

    The important point is that headlines are NOT the story. In most newspapers, but probably not this blog, headlines may be suggested by the writer, but they are actually crafted by an editor. Since Cory is both on DRP, he’s got more freedom than most working journalists. Headline writing is an art. This is because there are several considerations that must be taken into consideration beside just the facts. A big consideration is space. You have to give the reader some indication of what the story is about within a finite number of column inches. Headlines can’t sum up the whole story, but they give a bit of an idea about what follows.

    Then there is the necessity to market a story. What gets a reader to look beyond the headline? Cory does a good job here. He knows his readers, and he gives them pithy headlines that spark interest.

    But, since we’re critiquing, let’s give some more praise to his lede, a cheeky dig at another Noem boondoggle with a link to her past extravagance. That puts this purchase in a context of a Governor lacking in fiscal restraint if it gets in the way of her vanity or self-inflated self-importance. I might have reworked the lede a bit to be even more snarky, but it gets an A-.

    After that comes the story—fact after fact dug up by others and some from himself about Noem’s TV studio slash Barbie doll make up kit. Since vanity is a big part of this story, I like the idea of makeup being in the headline. While the costs may be less than the video equipment, putting on a happy face for the FOX News team seems to be the point of all this taxpayer-funded purchase. There is quite a lot of meat there in the body of the story, enough to make a dress for Lady Gaga. Hope none of that meat came from Smithfield.

  33. mike from iowa 2020-04-23 14:36

    In drumpf’s case, he makes headlines and never provides any evidence of anything he bellers about. In the case of his followers, they can’t get beyond the original lies drumpf spews b ecause Fake Noize tells them not to look beyond.

  34. Debbo 2020-04-23 23:51

    Sorry Tom. Your story was excellent. You’re right, shame on KELO.

  35. Caleb 2020-04-24 00:36

    Cory, no, I’ve not contacted the governor over this issue, and am troubled that questioning if I or others have is your response, despite appreciating you may just be encouraging us to do so. I’ve sat and enjoyed lively, genuine conversation with you at dinner. Noem, however, I’ve only seen from at a distance at the local coffee shop without any exchange. You’re more accessible than she is. On top of that, I perceive you, unlike her, actually give a damn about the feedback you receive. If you keep acting like your headline is not at all problematic, however, I may reconsider that notion.

    Further, I wonder if you and Donald doubt the sincerity of my concern. Another reason I’ve not contacted Noem’s office about this is that I’m overwhelmed by the problem after spending overwhelming amounts of time studying the history of power wielding propaganda (ie: Edward Bernays, CIA/DOD influence on Hollywood scripts, etc), so I’m unsure how to communicate my concern in a persuasive way to anybody, let alone the governor’s secretary (secretaries?) who usually answers my calls.

    Plus, that overwhelmed feeling is in the context of being overwhelmed by my work, often up to 14 hours a day for well under minimum wage, because I’m self employed and passionate about my community, customers, mission, and how it impacts the whole globe. That, and I’m a borderline millennial constantly on the verge of breaking down from empathizing with and trying to reconcile every single worldview placed in front of me so I may try and understand reality, and advise my peers, family, customers, etc through the crazy mess in which we live. Managing time is difficult in general, so prioritizing calling an elected official, something of which I have very limited experience and basically no training, is no easy task for me and others like me.


    Donald, I credit my parents for the more positive characteristics within me, but wonder sometimes if I’m more a product of journalism than of their influence. I’m not as naive as you may think, and if your comment is aimed at Colleen or others sharing our concern, I’d recommend reconsidering what you believe of them, too. I didn’t conflate the content with the headline, and I don’t think anyone else did, either.

    I’m aware that editors often write headlines, as well as rewrite headlines. You effectively admitted that isn’t an issue here, because Cory is both writer and editor. As for space, blogs don’t deal in column inches, so that’s a non-issue. That headlines are not the story is precisely why I’m concerned about headlines in this era of news via social media.

    I’m merely 33 years old, yet in the last 15ish years have witnessed a severe dumbing down in the news, though I know the process started well before that. In my youth my perspective on headlines had me less miffed by them, but things have changed. Our economy has long run on worker anxiety and mass distraction, and we’ve reached a culmination of that; news reaches most people via social media, where most are (in isolation) inundated with a bewildering amount of information, though the bewilderment may rest mostly in their subconscious/unconscious. Headlines can inspire terrible, violent decisions as much as they can inspire loving, benevolent choices. They carry potentially massive weight. If you’ve followed the Rohingya people, you understand the weight I’m trying to convey here.

    I’m with you in appreciating the dig at Noem’s extravagance and lack of fiscal restraint (especially considering her oh-so-stereotypical exploitation of conservative leanings). And I appreciate you laying out your stylistic preference for Cory’s headline crafting, as it seems to align with my own design in my work.

    But I disagree that his headline is pithy, as suggesting someone spent $75k on make-up and a Fox News studio can mean different things to different people, and doing so given the attached document is clearly far from precise. Where I also don’t stand with you is in singling out Fox News. People in all sorts of positions carefully craft their appearance for CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, MSNBC, HBO, etc, sources that (just as much as Fox) rely on careful placement of make-up, lighting, camera angles, etc to control their message…and keep their advertisers/underwriters content and continuing investment.

    Clearly I’ve had a bit more time to think about the issue now, so here are some suggestions:

    1) Noem Spends $75k on Social Control Studio
    2) Noem Spends $75k on Out-of-State Thought Control
    3) Noem Spends $75k on Media Manipulation
    4) Noem Spends $75k on Propaganda Studio/Team

    Those four are just the product of a few minutes, all shorter than Cory’s, and in my opinion get more directly to the essence he and other suggest rests at the core of this article. Most of all, I wonder what else Cory may be willing to stretch if he doesn’t mind suggesting Noem spent $75k on make-up.

    Here’s a link, then:

    Thanks for your patience, empathy, and willingness to read, everyone.

  36. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-04-24 12:42

    Tom is right: in this case, Kennecke is pirating. I at least have the decency to credit Tom for breaking the story and to link to his source material.

    But remember, Noem’s pirating of our tax dollars for her vanity is still the far bigger crime. Switch off KELO, sure, but get out and vote for every Democrat you can this fall to weaken Noem and right our leaking ship of state.

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