County Prosecutor To Decide If Noem Violated Law In Use Of State Airplane


    Whether South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is charged with a crime for allegedly using a state-owned airplane to fly to political events with family members likely hinges on how a county prosecutor interprets an untested law passed by voters in 2016. 

    That law allows the aircraft to be used only “in the conduct of state business.” Noem used it for events hosted by political organizations, saying she was serving as the state’s “ambassador” to bolster the economy and intergovernmental relationships. 

     Logs for the state plane show Noem flew to out-of-state events hosted by political organizations in her first year in office. 

     The logs also show Noem often had family members join her, attending family events such as her son’s prom and her daughter’s wedding and blurring the lines between official, personal, and political travel.

     In the case of the prom, Noem had flown to an official event in Rapid City but after the return flight stopped in Pierre, it continued on to Watertown – near the prom.

     The plane returned to Pierre for the night, then came back the next morning to get Noem for a political event trip to Las Vegas. The extra Watertown flights cost the taxpayer about $3,700. 

      Noem’s trip sparked a complaint to the attorney general’s office by several state senators which then-Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg forwarded to the state ethics board.

    The board referred the allegations to the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation last month at the same meeting it ruled that Noem had improperly interfered in her daughter’s application for a state real estate appraisers license.