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South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem used a state airplane to shuttle her around the country to right-wing political events, racking up huge bills on the taxpayer dime as the GOP darling traveled to events hosted by, among others, the National Rifle Association, Turning Point USA, and a Las Vegas confab put on by the Republican Jewish Coalition.
That’s according to flight records reviewed by Raw Story, which also reports Noem unnecessarily blew thousands on air travel by having the state airplane fetch her at her family home in Castlewood, SD, rather than at the official governor's residence in Pierre, where the plane is kept. Noem once had the airplane pick her up at her daughter Kassidy’s wedding, which was held in Custer State Park.
From a legal perspective, wrongful use of the plane goes well beyond an ethics violation, as state-owned aircraft are only supposed to be used for official state business. Fines for improper travel can reach 10 times the cost of the flight.
"Governor Noem follows the law when weighing whether it is appropriate to use state aircraft," Noem's spokesman told Raw Story in an email. "One of Governor Noem's primary roles as Governor is to be South Dakota's top ambassador to the rest of the nation. She has made this a big part of her governorship, advertising to attract businesses to our state, to drive tourism to our state, and to appeal to particular industries."
Noem, the costs of whose taxpayer-funded security detail—which tailed her as she traveled throughout the U.S. to campaign for former President Donald Trump’s unsuccessful reelection—are already under scrutiny by state legislators, last month requested $5 million to upgrade South Dakota’s aircraft fleet.
Earlier this month, Noem responded to a Twitter post about a food bank in a Texas school by saying, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” However, as The Daily Beast reported at the time, Noem isn’t averse to receiving handouts when it benefits her: Between 1995 and 2020, the governor’s family-owned ranch collected USDA farm subsidies totaling more than $4.2 million.