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Noem Casts Trump Visit as Economic Development, Lights Fireworks with $350K from Future Fund

Seth Tupper points out with great care that the Noem Administration fibbed to us about how she—excuse me, we—would pay for her fireworks party with Donald tomorrow. As with her private video studio, she’s charging her vanity ploy at Rushmore to the public coffers:

Back in January, state Tourism Secretary Jim Hagen was optimistic about private funding.

“In my opinion, I think a lot of the costs can be borne by sponsorship,” Hagen said at the time. “So those are areas that we’re pursuing.”

But the Governor’s Office now says the state is funding the entire $350,000 cost of Friday’s fireworks display. The state has already cut a check for half that amount to Pyro Spectaculars, of California [Seth Tupper, “Governor Paying $350,000 Rushmore Fireworks Bill with State Economic Development Dollars,” SDPB, 2020.07.01].

Tupper digs back into the archives to remind us what Governor George Mickelson created the Future Fund for. “Fireworks” does not appear in the description:

The Future Fund, officially known as the Employer’s Investment in South Dakota’s Future Fund, was created by the Legislature in 1987 at the recommendation of the late Governor George S. Mickelson. As he expressed in his State of the State Address that year to the Legislature, the fund was a crucial part of his vision of economic development of South Dakota. It was to be “an investment in South Dakota’s future…for long-term investments [and] for building the infrastructure [emphasis added].” Mickelson emphasized the political risks of, but also the need for, long-term investments. “[Too] often politicians are attracted to short-term programs so that by the next election they might be able to point back and look at benefits or look at results. The courageous politicians are people who are willing to look at the long-term and make a long-term investment in what we believe is right” [Legislative Research Council, Issue Memorandum 99-02: “A Review of the Use of the Future Fund for the Mickelson Scholars Program and Discussion of Merit-Based Scholarships,” 2005.04.26].

The Noem Administration insists that shooting off fireworks over a flammable forest to please an inflammatory dictator is economic development:

Maggie Seidel is an adviser to Gov. Kristi Noem. Seidel said the fireworks bring global media exposure to South Dakota tourism.

“When we’re talking about how awesome of an event this is,” Seidel said, “I think that it’s a very good use of taxpayer money” [Tupper, 2020.07.01].

Senator Reynold Nesiba (D-15/Sioux Falls) disagrees and gets the money quote of the week:

“That money is supposed to be used for economic development,” Nesiba said, “and what we’re going to see is our economic development dollars go up in smoke, in just a few minutes” [Tupper, 2020.07.01].

In addition to $350K on the very momentary thrill of fireworks for a small crowd of lottery winners, the Kristi-Donald bang-bang show will also incur public expenses for security. Seidel spins her hope that the feds will share those costs with us. Obviously Seidel wasn’t here for Trump’s last fly-in cuddle with Kristi, when he stuck Sioux Falls law enforcement with the security bill. Trump will shovel money at farmers in the form of welfare-bribe checks, but don’t expect him to foot the bill for his own holiday ego trip.

And please, don’t tell me that eighteen minutes of fireworks is a long-term investment in infrastructure, education, or anything else that Governor Mickelson was thinking of 33 years ago when he raised taxes to support economic development in South Dakota.


  1. grudznick 2020-07-02 07:57

    Many are, indeed, quite excited for this giant economic shot-in-the-arm that Rapid City and the Black Hills need right now. It will be like a vaccine for the cramp-up-fever many have and will pump many dollars into the wallets of a lot of fellows around the area who are hurting from the covid bug lockouts. I, for one, will enjoy it immensely, even if Mr. Trump is insaner than most.

  2. Loren 2020-07-02 08:04

    It brings “exposure” to SD, all right, with a headline of “We will NOT be social distancing.” Stupid, we’re on it! !@#%^&*

  3. Francis Schaffer 2020-07-02 08:13

    Well the list of attendees will be public

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-07-02 08:20

    But long-term, Grudz? The Future Fund isn’t for momentary stimulus or attention. Mickelson said the Future Fund should build things that last.

  5. Chuck-Z 2020-07-02 08:22

    Yes, when my son looked to the future and wondered what he should invest in, my answer was “fireworks!”. Who here has ADHD?

  6. jerry 2020-07-02 08:23

    China is the most excited about the fireworks display. Money in the pocket for a product that is banned in China for environmental and public health reasons. It would appear that once again, China leads and we soil ourselves.

  7. Donald Pay 2020-07-02 08:24

    Let’s just say Mickelson’s Future Fund had lots of flowery description that sounded interesting at the time, but what it actually ended up being is the Legislature delegated the power of the purse to an Executive. All the spin couldn’t really camouflage the reality that Mickelson created for himself and every Governor a money pot that was used for whatever GOED decided to shovel money to. I’m not sure any Governor went so far as to claim some boom-booms were economic development, though, and maybe this will provide some impetus to zeroing out that fund, or restructuring it with better guidelines to direct its use.

    Mickelson did do a good job of reforming the water project area to get the corruption out. I think he had good intentions with the Future Fund, but it just didn’t work.

  8. grudznick 2020-07-02 08:44

    It is building a tradition which will last, far beyond the covid bug infestation. Is your beef with the “fire danger”, the “no social distancing”, the “legal spending of the future funds” or just that a bunch of nice people, some of them Republicans, will get to have a nice time while the tourist businesses rake in some money from out-of-staters?

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-07-02 09:27

    Indeed, Donald, a slush fund is a slush fund. Trying to pin down this governor on the wording used by a previous governor to create this slush fund is kinda tough, but it’s worth having the discussion. If we take Mickelson at his word, we are hard-pressed to say that launching explosives over Mount Rushmore, which continued over the long-term poses more risk to our economic well-being by imperiling the forest and firefighting resources, is “economic development.”

    The only economic development value Noem can claim is advertising… and even there, the event in the pandemic context is a wash, bringing us as much negative publicity for flouting public health guidelines to pander to a dictator as whatever positive publicity we’ll get for brief TV coverage and campaign stills of Kristi and Donald under the rockets’ red glare.

  10. Eve Fisher 2020-07-02 10:07

    Well, I for one have noted that the state has already cut a check for half that amount to Pyro Spectaculars, of California. What, we don’t have any fireworks specialists in South Dakota? Why is it every time the Governor spends a wad of money on advertising, promotion, etc., it’s spent out of state? $350,000 spent in state would generate far more “trickle down” than even 1 night’s tourism dollars.

  11. jerry 2020-07-02 10:18

    99.9% of the cost of those fireworks went to China, where they are manufactured. Pyro gets a cut, but they buy those from China.

  12. Donald Pay 2020-07-02 11:56

    Yeah, Grudz, this tradition is as old as corruption, incompetence and stupidity. It’s “bread and circuses” and Hitlerian mass events, Mr. Grudz. I think that’s what people wonder about.

    You know, the SD Legislature whines all the time about how little power they have, particularly vis-a-vis the executive branch, but they give so much of that power away through slush funds, which allows this corruption and incompetence to flourish.

    Slush funds and whole offices (GOED) ended up as just basic political corruption, but the side effect was to undermine the separation of powers. When the Governor’s party is your party, you, as a loyal party member, funnel money into funds that allows the Governor to rain taxpayer revenue down to various special interests and donors, and now on political fundraising events. That money recycles back to your party and your campaigns, keeping everyone happy, but the function of the Legislature is corrupted and weakened.

    The SD Legislature always whines about not being a co-equal branch of government, but when we brought initiatives to actually give the Legislature power over issues like nuclear waste and large-scale landfills, they whined about that. That’s because money from those special interests funneled to the special interests, and the legislators wanted to collect the graft from special interests without taking the votes that would make that graft plain to all. The problem is the system is corrupt through and through. Maybe that’s what people are tired of, Grudz.

  13. Jenny 2020-07-02 13:20

    Morning Joe had a segment this morning that showed Queen Kristi proudly proclaiming that they don’t plan to practice social distancing at the event. Joe Scarborough astonishingly asked “how could a governor be so stupid!” Well, it’s SD Joe, – that’s pretty normal thinking there. Kristi and her fellow South Dakotans are proud Trump soldiers. Nothing is going to stop their frumpy orange blob hero from coming to their state.

  14. Debbo 2020-07-02 13:59

    Babbling Baby is insisting on his own fireworks folly in DC, despite all the pleas by anyone with a brain and a conscience not to do it. He likes the pretty lights and the colors and the booms!
    National Memo

  15. Francis Schaffer 2020-07-02 14:08

    I called Mt. Rushmore using the information provided on the website, you know the people who managed the lottery for the 4th of July Fireworks show. Phone number 605-574-2523 #7, and listening to the recorded message it is clearly stated that there is no requirement for social distancing at Mt. Rushmore. I found that interesting, no mention of wearing masks, yet clearly there will not be a social distancing requirement. I guess the loop has been closed with no detail to small to prevent the appearance of weakness. I would think someone would be more concerned about looking stupid before the concern of looking weak. I was wrong and cannot use that square on my bingo card.

  16. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-07-02 16:06

    Obama’s delivery of the commencement address at Lake Area Tech in 2015—now that was economic development. President Obama visited a school deeply involved with South Dakota’s workforce development efforts. The President spotlighted the school’s role in preparing students to work in the modern global economy. He brought oodles of free press to a South Dakota institution that very few people outside of South Dakota had heard off, press that LATI could easily translate into boosting its recruitment.

    And I don’t recall that we spent one Future Fund dime for that visit.

    Trump’s ego-trip to Mount Rushmore has no such economic development potential. Everyone has heard of Mount Rushmore; his visit will add no cachet to its image or South Dakota’s. Trump won’t say anything unique or inspiring that adds value to the monument or the community surrounding it; he’ll just ramble incoherently about himself and blow dog whistles for his racist base. He won’t bring in enough tourists to spend enough money to make up for the state money Noem is laying out to pay for crackers and cops.

  17. mike from iowa 2020-07-02 16:09

    Francis, Noem Nothing has been braying all along that real men and woman don’t social distance in front of drumpf. She even spewed it on Fake Noize, I believe.

  18. Debbo 2020-07-02 18:58

    “I was wrong and cannot use that square on my bingo card.”

    Francis, that is funny.

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