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Former GOED Official: Bidding Process for Noem’s Workforce Ads Was Sham

In the “you’ll never work in this town again” file, Nate Welch, who used to direct marketing for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, testified before the Legislature’s Executive Board yesterday that the bidding process for Governor Kristi Noem’s “Freedom Works Here” workforce recruitment/VP-promotional campaign was mostly a sham and that the fix was in for her preferred Ohio chums:

It was Welch’s job to compile and evaluate the seven proposals submitted for the Freedom Works Here workforce development campaign in consultation with the GOED staff. Welch said he questioned the decision to choose Go West Media, a subsidiary of The Strategy Group, an Ohio-based firm that works for major Republican candidates, including Noem.

While he wasn’t pressured by members of the governor’s staff, it was clear, even before the request for proposals was made public, that Go West Media was the choice for the contract.

“There were multiple conversations with different staff members of GOED who encouraged me and asked me to allow Go West to be selected. That would have been multiple individuals,” Welch said during testimony.

“In those discussions in an early on conversation it was known, and relatively obvious, that Go West was the favorite and the preferred” [Patrick Lalley, “Gov. Kristi Noem’s Political Consultant Was the ‘Favorite and Preferred’ Option for Workforce Contract,” Sioux Falls Live, 2024.01.08].

Recall that Go West chief Ben Yoho was in Pierre last January tweeting love from Kristi Noem’s second inaugaration. He sat next to Noem’s close friend Corey Lewandowski during her oath and speech in the Rotunda. Yoho’s firm essentially wrote the RFP for the contract. Pile Welch’s brave whistleblowing on top of all that, and we get a picture of a bidding process that was nothing more than an opportunity for Noem’s lazy Ohio pals to harvest ideas for the campaign from the saps who thought they were bidding for an open contract but never really stood a chance.

Speaker Hugh Bartels and Senate President Pro-Tempore Lee Schoenbeck said the E-Board doesn’t need to discuss the matter further, but Schoenbeck at least takes some parting shots at Noem’s stinkery:

Schoenbeck said he thinks the board should put the issue to rest because he doesn’t think anything illegal occurred, but said he is still troubled by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development’s actions.

“What’s beyond ridiculous here is the level of connivery and misuse of the process when all you had to do was pick the one you wanted,” Schoenbeck said [Joshua Haiar, “Former Official: Politically Connected Firm Was ‘Obvious’ Favorite for Noem Ad Campaign,” South Dakota Searchlight, 2024.01.08].

Democratic Senator and E-Board member Reynold Nesiba says no, this connivery warrants further discussion:

Despite our hearing today, there are unanswered questions…. Why did Go West get this contract? Did people associated with Go West also get paid to create criteria for the RFP that ultimately influenced the decision that Go West was selected? How is it possible that the creative material from one firm’s proposal ended up as the final product from the winning firm? I am also troubled by the allegation that the Governor influenced this process [Sen. Reynold Nesiba, press release, South Dakota Democratic Party, 2024.01.08].

Favors from the Governor for friends who raid the treasury and the steal South Dakota ideas, covered by an open call for contracts that was really a lie—yeah, there’s more to discuss here. Let’s hope former officials like Welch will speak up more to make it impossible for establishment Republicans like Bartels and Schoenbeck to sweep Pierre’s corruption under the rug.


  1. jim 2024-01-09 06:51

    “Beyond ridiculous.”

    “It was Welch’s job to compile and evaluate the seven proposals…” It was his job. He did it. The governor overruled him and sent the money to her buddies. Your money. Your ideas too.

    Welcome to the swamp.

  2. Jeff Barth 2024-01-09 07:22

    Were all of the Governor’s family members too busy to get the contract?

  3. sx123 2024-01-09 08:00

    “you’ll never work in this town again”

    “Welcome to the swamp.”

    “Were all of the Governor’s family members too busy to get the contract?”

    All true. All funny. :)

  4. Algebra 2024-01-09 08:06

    Advertising is a matter of style, not substance, and style is subjective. It’s hard to evaluate, consequently there are wide variations in price.

    This is why women don’t like to take their husbands shopping.
    I am surprised this needs to be explained to you.

  5. larry kurtz 2024-01-09 08:57

    TriCare pays for some abortions chosen by military personnel so after Kristi Noem becomes some Earth hater’s Veep choice will a Governor Larry Rhoden sue to overturn a winning ballot measure codifying Roe? Mrs. Noem certainly has a future in adult films if politics doesn’t work for her. South Dakota-based Black Hills Energy laid off 44 employees across their eight-state service region, 24 of those positions in Rapid City.

  6. e platypus onion 2024-01-09 09:23

    what is surprising is the dairy that bought Noem’s overpriced land didn’t get the contract as an added incentive.

  7. DaveFN 2024-01-09 11:29

    “Bartels added the campaign was a personal services campaign that had served its purpose to get the word out that South Dakota has jobs.

    “I don’t think any of the laws were a shortcut or missed. I think it’s a subjective process,” Bartels said. “It appears that all the I’s were dotted and the T’s were crossed out in the process.”

    Yep, all those T’s were definitely “crossed out in the process.”

    Swept under the rug, in other words.

  8. Noem's nemesis 2024-01-09 13:20

    Patrick Lalley’s informative article, cited above, merits another reading. Especially interesting is his final sentence noting that none of those allegedly involved in behind-the-scenes machinations offered any explanation, excuse or denial, despite the obvious challenge to their integrity. I would expect a person who thinks he or she has acted appropriately, honestly, reasonably and/or correctly to act quickly to disabuse the writer of his insinuations. Silence––especially from those who wield power/influence––is typically the choice of those with something to hide or who know they are wrong.

  9. Arlo Blundt 2024-01-09 17:57

    While there’s nothing new here, the rules on the State Contract Competitive Selection Process, are (or were) quite rigid in the Janklow and Kneip, Wollman and Mikkelson administrations. I doubt that Walter Dale Miller changed them. There were ways to get around them, but Mr. Welch apparently followed the rules and crafted a decision compliant with the Rules. He was pressured to select Mr. Yoho’s firm by members of the Governor’s staff. Refusing to circumvent the rules kicks in the “You’ll never work in this town again,” sanction” which kicks in the “Sell your house, pull your kids out of school, and go job searching elsewhere without a recommendation from your past employer” sanction. He paid a stiff price for his morality. The fact is, the Governor’s staff and the Governor didn’t comply with the Administrative rules, which, state employees are told, have the same status as do state statutes. The Governor got caught with her hand in the cookie jar, plain and simple.

  10. Susan Wismer 2024-01-09 21:29

    Mr. Blundt, the law regarding the RFP and bidding process was changed in 2010 by HB1046. Part of the overhaul (actually it was the most substantive part, buried in several pages of repeal and replacement) was that certain professional services were exempted from all of the normal bid laws. See the exemption at . It seems like that exemption would apply here, thus Rep. Lesmeister’s question: “If you’re going to pick the company you want, just pick them,” said Rep. Lesmeister. “Don’t waste state employees’ time and people’s money by creating these RFPs if you know who you’re going to pick. If it can be done, as long as the outcome is good, that’s all we want.”

    It’s rather humorous that the exemption is for “Services of such a unique nature that the contractor selected is clearly and justifiably the only practicable source to provide the service” and yet the contract winner stole the idea from another bidder. I presume that is why Bartels & Schoenbeck are letting it go, once they let Karr have his day.

  11. Arlo Blundt 2024-01-09 22:51

    Ms. Wismer: I’m sorry to hear that. I think the repeal is an open invitation to corruption. Exempting the RFP process for State funds is an open invitation for corruption. What is the criteria for determining that a service is unique …and the contractor selected is clearly and justifiably the only practical source to provide the service?” Are there any criteria? Mr. Lesmeister’s concern that they were wasting time and money creating RFP’s? ” is double talk. State Government creates RSPs and bid requirements all the time to insure competitive equality and quality proposals that can be monitored for efficiency and be evaluated qualltatively and quantitatively. RFP’s are nothing new to state employees. They are part of their “world or work.” That’s my opinion. Ask pros like Lawrence and Schiller or Media One what their opinion of the process was.

  12. grudznick 2024-01-09 23:14

    Here is one of Ms. Wismer’s blind acorn moments.
    She has abilities that are clearly of a unique nature, but somehow the voters can’t see it.
    So grudznick writes that off as a matter of subjective opinion.

    Eh? Otherwise, Ms. Wismer would be there ripping her hair out as Mr. Car’s partner in fail.

  13. Arlo Blundt 2024-01-09 23:43

    Grudznick–remember…this is about a 5.5 MILLION dollar contract to a fellow named Yoho, of Ohio, a crony of Corey Lewandowsk, which included stolen creative product unique to other bidders. This material was leaked to Mr. Yoho by members of the Governor’s Staff. It’s a good thing the State has deep pockets, a certain amount of legal immunity, and a truckload of lawyers at its’ disposal. 5.5 Large isn’t exactly Chump Change in South Dakota.

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