South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem generally hasn't earned a reputation as a scandal-plagued figure, but the Republican this week confronted an unfortunate controversy — which has not gone unnoticed in the state attorney general's office.
The Associated Press reported on Monday that the governor's adult daughter applied to become a certified real estate appraiser. When the relevant South Dakota agency moved to deny the application, Noem "summoned to her office the state employee who ran the agency, the woman's direct supervisor and the state labor secretary." The governor's daughter also attended the meeting.
Soon after Noem's daughter ended up getting the certification she sought, at which point the state labor secretary allegedly demanded the retirement of the relevant agency head.
You don't have to be an expert in government ethics to see this story as a legitimate abuse-of-power controversy. Making matters worse, the governor didn't even try to deny the core elements of the story, choosing instead to accuse the media of "trying to destroy" her children, which was a bizarre response.
As the Associated Press reported yesterday, Jason Ravnsborg, the state's Republican attorney general, has taken an interest in the matter.
South Dakota's attorney general said Tuesday he is reviewing concerns from state lawmakers over a meeting Gov. Kristi Noem held last year that included both her daughter and a state employee who was overseeing her daughter's application to become a certified real estate appraiser.
"I have been contacted by concerned citizens and legislators," Ravnsborg said in a written statement. "I am actively reviewing their concerns and I will be following the steps prescribed in codified law in relation to those questions."
At this point, under normal circumstances, we'd wait to see whether the GOP attorney general follows through and produces any notable findings. But the current circumstances in South Dakota aren't at all normal.
Ravnsborg killed a pedestrian with his car last year and later pleaded "no contest" to two misdemeanor charges. Because of the way the case was handled, many, including Noem, have called on the state attorney general to resign.
The GOP-led state legislature is even considering impeachment proceedings against him.
In other words, the scandal-plagued South Dakota attorney general, whose political future is very much in doubt, is now reviewing an abuse-of-power scandal involving the governor, who has called for his resignation.
How very messy.