D.C.-based watchdog group American Oversight is taking Governor Kristi Noem to court over her refusal to release records relating to her interstate travel and legal costs arising from her vindictive nepotism. Team Noem claims it has to keep travel expenses secret for “security reasons”, to which American Oversight says bush-wah:
Under South Dakota’s Sunshine Law, the public has a right to access government records, including “any state … expenditure involving public funds.” While the law contains a narrow exception for sensitive security information, the request submitted by American Oversight specifically excluded records of “costs related to Governor Noem’s security associated with this travel.” But in June, the governor’s office refused to release any expense records at all, claiming that allowing the public to see any details of Noem’s travel spending would create a security risk, without explaining why it wasn’t able to redact only specific information that might reasonably be described as security-related. American Oversight followed up later that month with a formal request, which was again denied.
Notably, American Oversight has repeatedly obtained and published government records related to travel expenses — including those of high-level federal officials. “Even the Secret Service releases travel costs for the president,” said American Oversight Executive Director Heather Sawyer, “but instead of complying with the law, the governor’s office is trying to hide all of its travel spending behind vague arguments about ‘security,’ leaving American Oversight no choice but to go to court to uphold transparency in South Dakota” [American Oversight, press release, 2022.09.20].
Rather than make stuff up, the Noem Administration is simply ignoring American Oversight’s request for records on the Sherry Bren affair:
In December 2021, American Oversight filed a request with DLR seeking records related to Bren’s alleged forced retirement, but the department has failed to acknowledge the request. In August, we followed up with a written request to DLR but have not yet received a response or acknowledgment [American Oversight, 2022.09.20].
Team Noem is treating this records request as a political attack, not a matter of state. Noem appears to be assigning responses to the lawsuit to her campaign rather than to her elected office:
KELOLAND News reached out to the governor’s office on Thursday, Sept. 22, to get Noem’s reaction to the lawsuit. Communications director Tony Mangan told us the request was being sent on to Ian Fury, who has temporarily left the governor’s office to work on Noem’s campaign.
Fury gave the following statement to KELOLAND News:
“This is a baseless political attack by an activist liberal organization. They have no interest in the truth. Their tactics are typical election year propaganda” [Jacob Newton, “Why American Oversight Is Suing Noem,” KELO-TV, updated 2022.09.23].
Fury and Noem might want to check the court papers. American Oversight’s complaint names the Office of the Governor and the Department of Labor and Regulation as the defendants, not Kristi Noem as an individual or as a candidate. Responses to a lawsuit against the Governor’s Office ought to be coming from the Governor’s Office, not from her partisan campaign.
But Noem’s inability to properly separate her campaign and her personal affairs from her elected office is what sparked this lawsuit in the first place.