Press "Enter" to skip to content

Governor’s Office: Free Rides for Kids to Daughter’s Wedding Is State Business

You know that 2019 flight where Governor Kristi Noem gave her son, two nephews, and another teenage boy a free ride on the state plane to Custer State Park to attend her younger daughter’s wedding? She says that was official state business:

In response to a request for details on the May 30, 2019 flight in question, the South Dakota DOT provided the following info regarding who was on the flight on each leg of the journey.

All legs of the subject flight occurred on May 30, 2019. The legs of the flight and the passengers on board are as follows:

Leg 1 – Pierre to Custer – no passengers on board;
Leg 2 – Custer to Vermillion – Gov. Noem, Beth Hollatz and Ryan Tennyson;
Leg 3 – Vermillion to Aberdeen – Gov. Noem, Beth Hollatz, Ryan Tennyson, Booker Noem,
Nash Grantham, Hunter Arnold, and Jack Ferguson
Leg 4 – Aberdeen to Custer – Gov. Noem, Beth Hollatz, Ryan Tennyson, Booker Noem, Nash
Grantham, Hunter Arnold and Jack Ferguson;
Leg 5 – Custer to Pierre – no passengers on board.

The DOT also provided a justification for the flight, echoing [Governor’s spokesman Ian] Fury’s language from 2021, stating that “if the Governor had not been able to use the state plane that day, hundreds of teenage future community leaders would have been deprived of the opportunity to hear from their Governor and ask her questions.”

The wedding in question occurred three days after Noem was dropped back off in Custer. Along the way, she picked up her son, two nephews and a family friend [Jacob Newton, “Governor’s Office Says Flight to Daughter’s Wedding Was Part of Official Business,” 2022.09.16].


First and rear-most, depriving hundreds of teenagers of the opportunity to hear another boring Kristi Noem speech would have done them all a welcome favor.

Second and rear-more, Noem has deprived hundreds of thousands of South Dakotans of the opportunity to hear from their Governor in the traditional multiple debates with her election opponent as well as in interviews with local reporters whom Noem has stonewalled throughout her administration, so apparently she does not view communicating with her South Dakota constituents as necessary state business.

But third and fore-more, we’re not questioning whether the Governor can use the state plane to attend Girls State and Boys State. We’re questioning whether she can say, “Come on, boys! Let’s go the Hills!” and pile a bunch of teenagers into the state plane for a fun and totally private family event at Custer State Park.

And fourth and foremost, the law says no, the governor can’t take teenage boys joyriding. Senator Reynold Nesiba helped write and pass that 2006 initiated law, and he reminds us that the law we passed, as explained by Attorney General Larry Long in 2006, has no exceptions:

Nesiba points to the AG’s use of the phrase “no exceptions” as reason enough to believe that no personal element should infringe on a trip made on a state plane, even if a personal event were to be in the same location as an official event.

“I just think that the state airplane should not be used for personal business. And if people are, you know, getting free flights at taxpayer expense, and if not directly a taxpayer expense at the potential liability of — if God forbid an accident would happen — the state would be liable,” said Nesiba.

This point of liability fell directly on the idea of whether non-government officials (such as members of the governor’s family) should be flying on the state plane.

“There’s no exceptions. It can only be used for state business. It cannot be combined with pleasure or any other personal or political benefit,” Nesiba said. “That’s what the people voted for, and that is how that law should be enforced” [Jacob Newton, “Nesiba Talks State Law, Complaint Filed Against Noem,” KELO-TV, 2022.09.19].

Even if the UPS man has to deliver packages to the school, we don’t see the UPS man picking up his kids and taking them out for ice cream in the UPS truck. The law sets the same limit for the Governor in the state plane. Even if we accept the idea that we can let the Governor reduce the interruption of her wedding planning by flying on our dime from Custer State Park to Vermillion and Aberdeen and back to the wedding venue, the law makes clear that she cannot have taxpayers pick up the tab for her family and friends to fly to the wedding.


  1. Donald Pay 2022-09-20 08:05

    OK, so she illegally trafficked these teens to Custer. My questions did she just deadend these teens at Custer, or did she give them all airplane rides back to wherever? Are these teens minors or were they eighteen or over, and thus adults? If she’s using the state airplane to traffick teens, did she have written permission from the parents? Yeah, the liability questions need to be addressed. These were also the plane rides during the Madison Howard Inquisition. Disgusting.

  2. Billy Stocker 2022-09-20 08:29

    Dig deeper, I believe her, and her family used the the state plane on November 27th, 2019 to fly to NY for the thanksgiving day parade. Must be nice to have an airplane that you can just go pretty much we’re you want to go on other peoples money. Meanwhile, my son has to work 80 hours a week to scrape by. She is an ELITIST and must go.
    Additionally, all these conservative conversations she has gone to claiming that it’s states business. How does her going to the CPAC convention help democrats, libertarians and independents in our state? I’m a lifelong Republican and I’m voting for Smith.

  3. O 2022-09-20 09:26

    By this reasoning, as long as the plane takes the governor ANYWHERE there are people, it has done the state’s business. That is the ambassador defense all over again. As long as that loose interpretation exists, a permanent slush fund of state funds exists for the governor’s discretionary and political travel. It does not in any way answer the objection to the passengers.

  4. Loren 2022-09-20 11:24

    OK, as long as it is OK for non-gov’t individuals to hitch a ride on the State funded plane, I guess we can consider it “public transportation?” If it’s in town and going my way… ;-)

  5. P. Aitch 2022-09-20 11:46

    Did these young Republicans sign a liability waiver as teens are often required to sign when they enter a potentially dangerous situation? Is there a sign that states anyone not on state business isn’t covered by the state’s insurance policy? Is the kid’s involvement in a not for business plane ride codified as being an implied agreement of waiving their liability?

  6. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-09-20 12:13

    Shame, shame on you, Jacob Newton and KELOLAND News, for your Sep 16 FAKE NEWS article about our beloved and beleaguered Governor Kristi Lynn Noem and your wicked insinuations that she maybe, kinda, sorta misused state aircraft for 1,156 miles of personal travel.

    Why, Kristi Lynn, whose very name is synonymous with strict, marital fidelity, fierce work ethic, and abhorrence of government spending for self enrichment, would NEVER stoop to such Demoncratic lows.

    It’s just plain ol’ mean of you to dogpile on this saintly paragon of virtue, especially when she’s recovering from boo – BACK surgery. Y’all are just lower than flea skis and bound for H*ck.

  7. flopster 2022-09-20 12:31

    Just remember ITS ALL about KN, always was, always WILL be.
    Her & daddy orange bucks are one of a kind. And will SD re-elect this totally selfish person ?

  8. P. Aitch 2022-09-20 12:32

    good one, Ms. Fair-not fraudulent-Bank

  9. BobJ 2022-09-20 13:34

    Apparently KLN got her degree in fleecing the state from Trump University.

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-09-20 14:03

    Loren gets me thinking about public transit… could we perhaps require that the governor publish her travel schedule a week ahead of time. set up a queue at the airport, and take the first 4–6 willing civilians (or reporters?!) along on any trip or n the state plane? She can enjoy the time savings of flight, but she would have to use that flight time as a public forum.

    Or require just pool reporter to fly with the Governor at all times, with full right to publish anything seen, heard, or otherwise observed on each flight. That would shut down any doubts about what business the state plane is being used for.

  11. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-09-20 15:57

    Thank you, P. Aitch.
    Kristi “I’m (wink) not just a regular (wink) mom, I’m a cool mom”(ILF), think Messrs. Grantham, Arnold, and Ferguson.

  12. Arlo Blundt 2022-09-20 16:21

    The Governor could have utilized Ice Flying Service, founded by South Dakota aviation pioneer the late Clyde Ice, to fly her children and guests on the private leg (s) of her complicated junket. Ice Flying, founded in the 1920’s and one of the oldest charter companies in America, is very adaptable in its scheduling and is known for excellent customer service. The Governor can certainly afford to pay for private charter service.i If she could not pay out of pocket, I’m certain her Campaign fund could support it. All she had to do was walk down the sidewalks of Custer after the wedding and it would certainly qualify as a campaign expense. She loves to spout of about South Dakota being “open for business” but refuses to utilize the private sector in her own life.

  13. Arlo Blundt 2022-09-20 18:56

    P. Aitch has an excellent point about liability coverage for passengers, traveling in a State Plane as prohibited guests of a government employee. State Government is a stickler about Liability issues, and had all kinds of prohibitions against transportation of non state employees in state cars, back in the day. Of course, state employees were prohibited from picking up hitchhikers, BUT, we all received a Memo from Governor Janklow to stop and assist any South Dakotan whose car had broken down. We were to stop, do what we could to get their car running, like change a tire, or ask the person if we could transport them to a safe place with a phone. (before cell phones.) Most state employees were willing to do this (though some women and a few men were very leery of these situations) though, many times, it meant running late by an hour or more to your next appointment. Governor Janklow’s Memo didn’t mention any thing about insurance coverage, but conveyed the message that he was tired of getting letters from citizens who had broken down on a deserted highway and had a state car drive by without assisting.

  14. grudznick 2022-09-20 22:51

    Remember, Mr. O, and also Mr. H, it is the legislatures that have the power of the purse and approve the airplane spending. Let us hold them a wee bit accountable here, and stop talking slush funds, for these funds are ones that Mr. Nesiba voted for, too. Now he just wants to make political hay.

    If you give your kid $100 and send her to the store to buy a loaf of bread, and tell her to only buy 2 candy bars, maybe you should only have given her a couple of bucks. I’m just sayin…

  15. Arlo Blundt 2022-09-20 23:32

    Grudznick..We can blame the Republican dominated Legislature for giving the impetuous, reckless spending Governor (who you say acts like a spoiled child??) lots and lots of discretionary money. But…what’s wrong with Ice Flying as a solution for her “bonding with family” situations. What’s wrong with the private sector?? She has several other sources of funding, including her own pocket. The Governor alone made the decision to ignore a private sector solution to her quandry and instead, decided to use the taxpayer’s dime for her personal frolic.

  16. Loti 2022-09-21 21:31

    Why not use an electric car now and then, in between all the flights. KN can stop here and there and say hi to the locals.

Comments are closed.