Governor Noem’s pirating of images from the Hudson City School District in Ohio for her trans-bullying website probably didn’t cost her many votes for President; Hudson sits in the greater Cleveland metro area, which voted safely and smartly for Joe Biden in 2020. But it does raise questions about whether she’s doing state business or whether she’s boosting her personal brand on our time.
Jacob Newton’s account of the minor-photo controversy includes some odd details about this shouting little webpage which Kristi Noem calls a multi-state coalition (remember, Noem has trouble using words correctly):
KELOLAND News also reached out to Noem’s office and received this response from her communications director [Ian Fury]:
“The website is not run by the State. The web developer obtained the rights to all the photographs. They reflect the very girls that Governor Noem’s coalition is fighting to protect.”
The web developer’s identity is not currently known. The domain was created and purchased March 21, through godaddy.com, and a request to them for more information was denied. The Governor’s office has also not responded to a request for more information on the web developer.
Noem stated during her Monday news conference that her new coalition is not using any taxpayer money, and that no state funds are going to it and no state resources are going to it.
A news release about the coalition was posted on the South Dakota government official state news site. Fury was also present at the news conference on Monday [Jacob Newton, “Ohio Lawmaker Demands Answers on Why Pictures of Teenagers from His District Appear on Website Pushed by Noem,” KELO-TV, 2021.03.24].
The Governor commissions a new website, calls a press conference, travels 225 miles from her office on a workday to hold a press conference to promote her new webpage/coalition, promotes the same webpage/coalition on the state website, and all that work happened without the expenditure of a single tax dollar?
I work a paying job, regular hours, Monday through Friday. Outside of that job, I run this website, which is wholly unconnected to my regular job and my regular employer. If I used my work time, my work computer, or my work website to produce or promote my private website, I’d expect my backside to incur chew marks or boot marks. So if Governor Noem’s trans-bullying website really is her private side project, I’d expect her not to use any of the public resources We the People place at her disposal for that private project.
I can take a day off from my regular work and spend a weekday working on my website. I can take a Monday to update my CSS, go out and take new photos (to which I have total rights and thus will face no fuss about some public school district claiming trademark over its publicly funded “brand”… but don’t get me started), record some interviews, make a funny video. have tons of blog fun! (Or I could take a sunny spring day to ride my bike and teach geometry lessons to someone I love outside with sidewalk chalk and a homemade theodolite….)
But if I take such a Monday off work as a blog day, I’d better not open my blog posts or interviews or soapbox speeches with any hint that I am speaking on behalf of my regular employer. I’d better not use my authority or title from the organization that employs me to recruit people to participate in my blog videos. I’d better not go on national TV promoting my private website while using my work title and speaking from my employer’s video studio.
If Kristi’s new trans-bullying website really is a purely personal project, we should ask why a full-time Governor has such a side project completely separate from her busy public duties. And if it really is a personal project, they had better check again why so many state resources—time, title, authority, and that state-owned video studio—are going into that personal project… or they’ll have to check their backsides, not just for lashes from that Ohio school district, but for their employers’ teeth and boot marks.