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Noem Doles Out $2.5M in State Subsidy for Governor’s Cup Rodeo

I guess vanity license plates aren’t enough for Kristi Noem’s narcissism. She has to have a vanity rodeo. And unlike vanity plate buyers, the Governor can’t even pay for her own indulgence. Instead, she raids the public treasury to pay for her public preening:

In September, Gov. Kristi Noem carried the American flag on horseback into a Sioux Falls arena full of fans.

It was the Cinch Playoffs Governor’s Cup, advertised as “the richest rodeo in South Dakota history,” with $1 million in prize money. Noem handed out awards, posed for photos with the winners, and shared the images with thousands of followers on her social media accounts.

Several months earlier, Noem had decided to use tax dollars from South Dakota employers to help pay for the event.

In June, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development awarded a three-year contract worth up to $2.5 million to rodeo announcer Rorey Lemmel’s Dean Entertainment Group, to promote and conduct the annual event. The contract said Sioux Falls would contribute additional matching funds.

The state money is from a special fund under the exclusive control of the governor. It’s called the Future Fund. Legislators created it in 1987 at the behest of then-Gov. George Mickelson, “for purposes related to research and economic development for the state,” according to the brief, two-sentence text of the law [Joshua Haiar, “‘Governor’s Cup’ Rodeo Among Recipients of Millions from Public Fund Controlled by Noem,” South Dakota Searchlight, 2023.12.28].

The Cinch Playoffs Governor’s Cup wasn’t Noem’s first rodeo with the Future Fund. She’s used that government slush fund to pay for Donald Trump’s fireworks and her bad-plumber ads. But this is likely the first rodeo in South Dakota ever subsidized to the tune of seven figures by state government.

Yes, that’s Freedom™ you smell all right—freedom from any sense of shame, fealty to law, or obligation to use public dollars for public good and not personal image-making.


  1. V 2023-12-29 07:10

    All while children are going to bed hungry.

  2. Nick Nemec 2023-12-29 09:14

    Governor Noem has devised more ways to frivolously spend tax money than any South Dakota governor ever. It is all about priorities.

  3. All Mammal 2023-12-29 10:06

    This is more proof our governor is discriminating against the poor and we should file a lawsuit against her to force her to accept equal subsidies to help feed kids and subsidize low-cost energy with solar panels for regular folks as she does for well-to-do white people. At least balance the freebies she offers to her rich pals with the federal programs she always turns away for poor people. It is time we take her to court instead of allowing her to keep up her discriminatory behavior.

  4. Loren 2023-12-29 10:08

    Next up, $1,000,000 to the Snow Queen Pageant. ;-)

  5. DaveFN 2023-12-29 11:45

    “I can’t think of better ways that Future Funds could be invested to generate a strong ROI for South Dakota,” Fury said, using the abbreviation for “return on investment.” “Yes, some of this is new and innovative. That’s the point — it’s working.” —cited from the Southdakotasearchlight

    Trying to make the logical connections between what’s happening, what’s working and not, and why unbridled lack of oversight and carte blanche means it’s innovative —other than it’s Fury’s job description to defend Noem. Appears he’s retrofitting and justifying the means utilized in order to address a nebulous objective. Poor fall guy that he’s hired to be.

    Let’s get Noem herself on the stand.

  6. grudznick 2023-12-29 11:51

    Rodeos are mean to cows.

  7. larry kurtz 2023-12-29 11:59

    South Dakota earth hater former legislator Betty Olson blamed deer for bovine tuberculosis while praising the destruction of the cougars, coyotes and wolves that control deer. She wondered why Game, Fish and Plunder hadn’t slaughtered every wild critter in northwestern South Dakota.

    Rodeo stock were ultimately established as the carriers.

  8. Arlo Blundt 2023-12-29 11:59

    When I was a kid, rodeo was no big deal. It was strictly a West River thing, Casey Tibbs of Fort Pierre was a world class bareback bronc rider, but Casey performed out of state mostly, places like Regina and Denver. The Days of 76 Rodeo and one in Belle Fouche were a “sorta big deal” but had to be described as “local”. Rodeos were not covered in the Argus Leader of Mitchell Daily Republic. They didn’t matter in the Easy River. In the East River, we were farmers. Now we’re still farmers but we have aspirations to wear a big hat and be “ranchers”. Is it worth 2.5 million tax payer dollars to stroke that fantasy?? Archie Gubbrud and a real cowboy like Walter Dale Miller would think not.

  9. O 2023-12-29 12:59

    Maybe she could book Bret Farve to (not) do some speaking engagements too.

  10. Arlo Blundt 2023-12-29 16:57

    Mr. Kurtz–your list of GOP funders is very old…at least 10 years old. Your cite also does not say what they were donating to…whether the Party or a campaign fund and for what candidate…it just indicates those folks in south Dakota, mostly business owners and prominent investors who form the backbone of the Republican Party in our state. If nothing else, I suppose, it shows how far the Democrats have to go to be competitive with the GOP.

  11. leslie 2023-12-29 17:22

    Indignity noted.

    Little fish. 800-900,000 uneducated majority of people overtaken by power of the GOP which by the way is in a death spiral throughout the rest of the world. Still clinging to your lost cause, eh? Thr GOP isn’t even competative—at all. Try some bipartainism snd truth.

    The Democratic Party strives to live up to norms and ideals of good will and good conscience, for ALL.

    Your No. 2 couldn’t even say the word slavery.

  12. scott 2023-12-29 18:01

    All one needs to do is look at the name of the event to understand what this is about. She has to get her name on it, so she gets publicity.

    Cinch Playoffs Governor’s Cup vs South Dakota Cinch Playoff Cup.

    She has changed the name of several events to include her name.

  13. sx123 2023-12-29 18:54

    Leslie, South Dakota is not full of dummies, neither Democrat nor Republican. Or did you mean Washington DC?

  14. Arlo Blundt 2023-12-29 20:50

    Thank you Mr. Kurtz for clarifying that list. It’s a 2013 tracking of donors to the Future Fund, initiated by Governor Daugaard, right? Many of these donors have since passed away, but it is an interesting list of people supporting Governor Daugaard’s vision of expanded economic development activities. Why they supported this initiative with their own cash isn’t known but we can say it is partly altruistic, partly self interest, and partly politics, ensuring that people who share their interests in economic development are supported. In this effort money is just a tool to get the job done. As Sam Rayburn said, many years ago, “Politics is the Art of Who gets What.”

  15. Carpe diem 2023-12-29 20:50

    All the complaining and what are we doing about it? Has anyone approached the matter to make a change?

  16. DaveFN 2023-12-29 22:20

    Carpe diem

    Just what is the specific approach that you have in mind?

  17. Carpe diem 2023-12-30 09:06


    I don’t have a specific approach, hence while disappointed, not complaining. Wouldn’t a good start be where the fund started originally?

  18. larry kurtz 2023-12-30 10:46

    Why isn’t there more coverage of Pierre’s culture of corruption in South Dakota’s media?

  19. 2023-12-30 18:19

    And the Future Fund is funded by an extra fee on unemployment taxes paid by all employers.

  20. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2023-12-31 08:29

    The day before the event, KELO-TV promoted the event as having “been likened to the AFC, NFC championship games in football, or the pennant race in baseball….” That likening came straight from the marketing pap posted by the man they were interviewing, the event promoter and recipient of Noem’s welfare, Rorey Lemmel: “The event rodeo fans will see in 2023 in September is like the AFC, NFC championship games in football or the pennant race in baseball.” That’s as bad as Trump slapping the false-buzz “People are saying that…” tag on his own opinions and conspiracy theories.

  21. leslie 2024-01-02 20:09

    Larry, there are only a couple of great reporters in SD.

    It’s been a Fox/Duhamel world, at least west river.

  22. grudznick 2024-01-02 20:18

    Don’t discount Ms. Anya Mueller, Ms. leslie. She, along with that Mr. Jurgensen fellow with the bad haircut are considered by many to be the best here in Rapid City.

  23. larry kurtz 2024-01-03 08:52

    Good morning, Leslie. Jack Dura from the Associated Press announced he will be covering the demonic SD Legislature during the coming session so fresh eyes often can see the Zhit jaundiced reporters miss.

  24. LCJ 2024-01-03 09:08

    Les-lie, most of the newspapers, tv news and other “news media” in SD are of left wing variety.
    Your comment is nothing but a lie.

  25. larry kurtz 2024-01-03 09:27

    Actually, if Republicans failed at marketing sex appeal with Sarah Palin they have more than made up for it with South Dakota’s governor so if you wanna sell a heartless christofascist autocracy with BDE get a pretty girl in blue jeans and eff me pumps to recite the narrative.

    In my home state Pierre was made the capital of South Dakota to be a media desert by design. There is an exodus of journalists leaving the profession for public relations as the media lurch to drive the message to the extreme right. Bill Janklow’s idea of public broadcasting can’t cover Pierre effectively because its funding is reliant on the South Dakota Republican Party, the Associated Press can’t do it because they’ve been neutered so has Gannett’s Sioux Falls Argus Leader. South Dakota’s teevee stations are bound to Republican advertisers and nobody reads college publications.

    In 2015 the Center for Public Integrity even gave the state an ‘F’ for its culture of corruption and it just keeps getting worse. I quit following the South Dakota Newspaper Association on twitter because its feed reads like a bulletin from the South Dakota Republican Party. The Pierre Capital Journal is a joke so are the radio stations based in the capital city.

    So it came as no surprise when South Dakota Republican Governor Kristi Noem’s communications director, Ian Fury admitted on twitter that there is a reporter blacklist. Similar malice blindsided a reporter in New Mexico denied entrance to a Republican gubernatorial campaign event for Mark Ronchetti.

    Softball interviews where nobody gets Mrs. Noem’s or Mr. Ronchetti’s goats are par for the Republican course but real debates with real opponents are far better displays of any candidate’s depth.

  26. leslie 2024-01-03 20:32

    meh. such creativity, though! you are a complete embarrassment. I have never read anything here you have posted, since you have started under this username, that doesn’t contain the same drivel.

  27. ABC 2024-01-09 11:57

    She wastes 1.5 million dollars on a rodeo?

    Here’s what we do—-

    Set aside $150, or .0001 of the amount (1 ten thousandth of 1,500,000) and then show that, we the people, as a group or even a solo entrepreneur, can way out-innovate , and create wonders for everyone, paying high wages for all, showing any one we can absolutely do the formerly impossible and dazzle and shine for humanity!

    Your $150 will do far more good for everyone than her budget mistakes. Let’s go!

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