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Senate Majority Leader’s Son Lives and Works in Texas But Claimed Coronavirus Relief Meant for South Dakota Businesses

Senate Majority Leader Gary Cammack may have been drinking and driving, but at least he didn’t hurt anybody. His son Chris appears to have scammed us taxpayers out of a million dollars in coronavirus relief money:

Chris Cammack owns Prairie Mountain Wildlife Studios, a business he started more than a decade ago in a building on the Cammack family ranch in Union Center, a town of 400 in Meade County.

Cammack received $709,792 in state coronavirus relief funds in early 2021 to cover losses he reported at the Union Center business during the pandemic. Cammack also received more than $300,000 in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans from the federal government to keep 10 workers at the Union Center location employed.

However, a News Watch investigation using tax and property documents, source interviews, website information and a public statement from Chris Cammack indicates that Prairie Mountain Wildlife Studios is run from a site in Cypress, Texas, where Cammack owns a 7,300-square-foot studio building and he and his wife Felicia own an $880,000 home.

Prairie Mountain Wildlife Studios was merged with Brush Country Studios of Cypress, Texas, in late 2014 or early 2015, and Chris and Felicia Cammack now own and operate the combined Brush Country/Prairie Mountain business in Cypress, according to the company website and Texas property records.

The taxidermy studio in Union Center still exists, but a nearby business operator, Brian Walker, said there had been no recent commercial activity there. News Watch visited the site three times in 2021 and saw no activity or people present. Sen. Cammack, in an interview, told News Watch that his son’s taxidermy studio is located in Texas [Bart Pfankuch, “Questions Arise over Covid Grants Received by State Senator’s Son,” South Dakota News Watch, 2021.10.11].

Pfankuch finds Chris Cammack on the record testifying to the fact that he moved his family and his business to Texas. Cammack fils phoned that statement in  to Cammack père and the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Dad was chairing on March 3, 2020, when Chris spoke in favor of a bill favoring non-resident landwoners with special hunting licenses:

Cammack told the committee that his South Dakota taxidermy business “outgrew” the Union Center location and that he and his wife were doing so much taxidermy work in Texas that “we ended up purchasing a taxidermy shop in Houston, Texas, which is where we reside, where our home mostly is now,” according to an archived tape of the hearing.

Cammack added: “I still own cattle, I still own land in South Dakota, I still come back to South Dakota every chance I get, but work calls me to Texas.”

Cammack testified that the non-resident hunting bill, which passed and was eventually signed into law, would help him keep family ties to South Dakota [Pfankuch, 2021.10.11].

Good grief: Governor Kristi Noem outsourced the distribution of our federal coronavirus relief dollars to the consultants at Guidehouse on the premise that private actors could somehow take care of public money better than public employees. All we got for our $10 million contract (now up to $11M, Pfankuch reports separately) with Guidehouse was delay and error, which we’re paying another private contractor, Eide Bailly, $980,000 to track down. Now we find Guidehouse let money meant for South Dakota go to a guy not even doing business in South Dakota who just happens to have an important parent in Pierre. I sense a pattern here.

It sounds like when the Government Operations and Audit Committee gets done looking at the Governor’s intervention in her daughter’s real estate appraiser certification, Chairman Kyle Schoenfish will need to turn his committee’s attention to a full audit of Guidehouse’s management of our coronavirus relief dollars.

And since this is federal money we’re talking about, it sounds like the younger Cammack could end up hearing from federal auditors as well.

21 Comments

  1. 96Tears 2021-10-13

    Pattern? Family and friends get served first! COVID cash went to COVID Kristi’s family too. This is the AP report from last spring.

    “Family members of South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem received more than $600,000 in funds from a state grant program pushed by the governor that directed federal coronavirus relief funds to small businesses. A ranch belonging to Noem’s family, Racota Valley Ranch Partnership, received one payment of $500,000, and a business operated by her brothers, Rock and Robb Arnold, received payments of just over $100,000, according to records on the grant program.”
    https://apnews.com/article/business-small-business-south-dakota-coronavirus-pandemic-kristi-noem-cd19956faf1a20de3890b9638f5605a1

    Gee, and to think COVID Kristi was so concerned of con artists taking federal aid that she cut off regular South Dakotans from help while unemployed. See? They should have been members of that special club in Pierre.

    The Liars & Crooks Party is a well-oiled racket, much more so since Mike Rounds became Governor and gave us the EB-5 and GEAR UP scandals which involved violent deaths.

    The Gary Cammack clan from Union Center seems to be in the club. Got a scandal? If you’re in the club, COVID Kristi will take care of your dumb ass:
    https://www.keloland.com/news/local-news/case-sealed-in-arrest-of-south-dakota-senate-majority-leader-gary-cammack/

  2. ArloBlundt 2021-10-13

    well.. I read the article and I am familiar with the area. The clincher would be just how much Covid relief money did the Cammacks receive in Texas?? Where exactly does Chris Cammack reside?? Obviously, he resides outside Houston and the headquarters of his extensive business is there. He says he has “cattle and land” at Union Center but that does not make him a resident of South Dakota or does it??His business buildings for his taxidermy in Union Center seem to be abandoned.He says the site is inactive because of “supply train issues” but claimed Covid money for 10 employees who are not in evidence in Union Center. He is apparently claiming he sent them home and is paying them in full. It’s about a million dollars in question. The Governor claims she has “outsourced” any accountability for the money distributed under Covid relief. Is this slippery or what??

  3. Mark Anderson 2021-10-13

    And the pubs complain about Hunter. Taxidermy is quite a subject. When my daughter made a sculpture with deer hide, she made a reclining mold of her female roommate. Covered it perfectly with the deer hide, put on a female deers head and put antlers on it. When it was shown, she had male hunters lying down with it to be photographed. She called it Traveling After Dark from the poem by William Stafford. It got her an award from Sculpture Magazine where it was in their yearly show and a first in show by Dave Hickey in Tampa. Taxidermy can be art too. Should have checked out this covid funding business.

  4. Eve Fisher 2021-10-13

    I read the article. Besides the above:

    “Prairie Mountain Wildlife Studios in Union Center received a $153,600 PPP loan as a “male-owned” business in April 2020 under the “Miscellaneous Store Retailers” section of the program. That loan was to protect 10 jobs with an annual payroll of $737,280 in 2019, according to Small Business Administration information on Federalpay.org.
    Prairie Mountain Wildlife Studios of Union Center received a second PPP loan of $161,417 in January 2021 as a “female-owned” business under the “Specialty Trade Contractors” section of the program. That loan was to protect 10 jobs with an estimated annual payroll of $774,802, SBA records show.
    At the same time, Cammack’s LLC in Texas, PM Wildlife Studios, received a $241,600 PPP loan in April 2020 as a “female-owned” business under the “All Other Personal Services” section of the program. That loan was to protect 25 jobs at an estimated annual 2019 payroll of $1.16 million.
    PM Wildlife Studios in Texas then received a second PPP loan of $241,600 in January 2021 as a “female-owned” business under the “Support Activities for Animal Production” section of the program. That loan was to protect 27 jobs at an estimated annual payroll of $1.16 million, according to Federalpay.org. ”

    The Cammacks certainly got a lot of money a number of ways, aren’t they? First it’s “male-owned” then “female-owned” business and money both ways.
    Once again, the grift runs deep in this state.

  5. Mark Anderson 2021-10-13

    Wow Eve, 25 jobs, that’s alot of jackrabbit lamps. Ever hear of a taxidermy place with 25 employees? No wonder the granddad drinks, who wouldn’t? By the way, their just adjusting to the times with the male to female and all that, there was probably another loan for that.

  6. mike from iowa 2021-10-13

    Also from Texass (not a link)… Prosperity Gospel Fail: Joel Osteen Is Giving Back $4.4 Million In PPP Loans
    Those were for small businesses, not megachurches

    from yer Wonkette.

  7. mike from iowa 2021-10-13

    Wonder what fox A-Butt hired to guard Texass PPP chicken coop?

  8. O 2021-10-13

    I would like to know how many employees actually were able to keep drawing salary because of PPP loans – versus how many owners took that money and laid off workers anyway. With as much PPP money flowing as reports like this detail, how could unemployment have gone up so much while so many jobs were being funded through those loans?

  9. Porter Lansing 2021-10-13

    Con-artists like these Republicans are why they want small government.

    No one around to watch them while they sneak off with money that no one is keeping track of.

    grudznick is guilty, too.

    Just hasn’t been caught, yet.

  10. jerry 2021-10-13

    Remember when these same crooks and liars were all bent out of shape because Heinert got a little funding to keep his small business afloat? Nary a whine from them on this million dollar rip off. Every one of these should be looked at to make sure they did what they were intended, not line the pockets of an out of state grifter and his old man.

  11. Donald Pay 2021-10-13

    I have a feeling Mr. Carmmack is one of those lazy government moochers that Grudz complains about. He’s what I call a welfare moocher on a higher plain, like most of the businesses are these days. He’s committing fraud, and steeling money from you and me. I want him arrested, charged, convicted and put in the slammer.

  12. grudznick 2021-10-13

    You are righter than right, Mr. Pay. Mr. Cammack, the younger, probably has a few probes up his yonder parts right now, if you know what I mean.
    I also have a feeling that Mr. Cammack, the elder, has some high falootin’ lawyers who can be sic’ed on other issues.
    That’ll keep a guy itching behind his eyes at night. I’m just sayin…

  13. Bonnie B Fairbank 2021-10-14

    This makes me angry. Very angry indeed. Is it too late to apply for state coronavirus relief funds? Asking for, a, ummmm, friend.

  14. Ed 2021-10-14

    Some of the biggest Republican millionaires and farmers in Brown and Spink Counties received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Noem’s coronavirus grants. Some even have their names on the new athletic complex at Northern State after donating lots of money. My tax accountant told me that most of the farmers that got the grants had to juggle their Schedule F with untrue figures in order to qualify and her firm would not do it for her clients. The whole Noem grant giveaway should be investigated by federal auditors and recipients should have to return the money. You would be shocked at some of the names on the list that got the grant money. This is large scale fraud of taxpayer dollars.

  15. Bonnie B Fairbank 2021-10-14

    Welp, after two hours on the interwebs and phone, my friend discovered she was NOT entitled to any State of South Dakota coronavirus relief funds. She is NOT the snake-stuffing son of a big, fat, white male Reptilian state senator, nor is she a lying farmer/rancher with larceny in her heart and falsehoods on her taxes.

    She IS, however, eligible for Tax Counseling for the Elderly, so it’s all good. RIGHT !?!?

  16. John 2021-10-14

    As I earlier mused and suspected, the legislators are part and parcel to the rampant corruption in South Dakota government. No wonder the legislators have no interest in reigning in the corruption from the executive branch – doing so would likely cut their benefits.

  17. Porter Lansing 2021-10-14

    It’s become a consistent pattern.
    Every time a Democrat is leading America, South Dakota Republicans engage in fraudulent activity with federal relief money.
    Rounds during Obama.
    Miscellaneous crooks during Biden.
    SD legislators and elected officials can’t be trusted!

  18. ArloBlundt 2021-10-14

    Well, I don’t think we should miss the point that the Cammacks are prominent members of the South Dakota Republican aristocracy. They do the Party’s business, support Governor Noem’s “small government” agenda, serve selflessly in the legislature, and deserve to receive a million dollars of Covid relief money just for walking around. Forget all this nonsense about requirements and red tape. If the Cammackls aren’t deserving of a million bucks from the Governor, who is?? What do you want the Governor to spend that evil federal Covid money on?? Masks? Vaccinations?? Indoctrination of our school children?? Come on, think like a Republican.

  19. ABC 2021-10-14

    Republican businessmen getting 100s of 1000s from Bidens US government FREE, then they turn around and complain Joe B is a communist?

    End the Republican curruption!

    Vote in Progressives for the next 50 years! Yes, you!

  20. O 2021-10-15

    I am willing to bet that there are men and women sitting in the SD penitentiary for writing bad checks or stealing a FRACTION of what is being discussed here. You can steal more money with a briefcase than you can with a gun.

    I suppose it is all a variation on the Willy Sutton quote: PPP is where the money is.

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