Congresswoman Noem has been pretty good at finding excuses for skipping her committee hearings. After failing to respond for a week to the media for missing 16 of 20 ag committee hearings and now another bombshell showing she missed 17 of 22 Indian Affairs meetings, Noem said scheduling conflicts stopped her from attending.
But therein lies the problem: most of her Indian Affairs meetings did not coincide with any other committee meetings on her schedule!
Noem Attendance Excuses Debunked
Frequently skipped all committee meetings on a given day, and absences were rarely caused by conflicting meetings
(SIOUX FALLS, SD)–After a joint Argus Leader appearance Monday in which Rep. Kristi Noem claimed she had fought for Native American interests in Congress, the Varilek campaign released research showing that Noem has skipped nearly every meeting of the Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Subcommittee.
In response, Noem made the recycled claim that she missed those meetings in order to attend others. “Many times those committees are meeting at the exact same time. I have to wake up every day and look and see where I can be most effective for South Dakota,” she said in a KELO TV interview.
Noem’s claim that she missed meetings because of scheduling conflicts is false. New findings from the Varilek campaign show that in the vast majority of cases, Noem had no hearings or meetings scheduled that conflicted with those of the Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Subcommittee. On many occasions she simply skipped all her committee meetings.
Noem skipped 17 out of 22 meetings of the Indian Affairs subcommittee; for a 12-month stretch, she attended none of its meetings at all. In 15 of those instances, none of Noem’s other committees or subcommittees were meeting at the same time. In five cases, the Indian Affairs meeting was her only one of the day.
- On April 1, 2011, the subcommittee hearing she skipped (which concerned tribal energy development) was her only meeting of the day. She attended a Fox News interview later in the day.
- On September 22, 2011, she had four hearings on her schedule and skipped all four. She attended a fundraiser in the evening. She also missed National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands and Water and Power subcommittee hearings on this day, as well as an Education and the Workforce hearing.
- On November 3, 2011, she skipped all four hearings on her schedule. Bureau of Indian Affairs Director Mike Black, a South Dakota native and Oglala Sioux member, testified before the Indian Affairs subcommittee on that day. She also missed meetings of the Natural Resources Committee, the Agriculture Committee, and the Education and the Workforce Committee on this day.
Noem also claimed that the meetings she skipped focused on issues that did not affect South Dakota’s Native Americans. This is also false. Those meetings dealt with such issues as universal telecom service mandates in rural areas, the Indian Health Services budget, and the American Indian Empowerment Act.
On the rare occasions when Noem did attend a subcommittee meeting, she often passed on opportunities to speak on behalf of South Dakota. On July 24, 2012, Indian Affairs Subcommittee Chairman Don Young (R-AK) had to repeatedly call on Noem to get her attention because she was typing on her phone. Noem looked up from her phone and declined her chance to speak. Watch the video here.
Noem’s excuses echo claims she made earlier this year, when research found that Noem had attended just 4 out of 20 meetings. Agriculture Committee, the Education and the Workforce Committee, and the Natural Resources Committee.
Varilek called on the Noem campaign to come forward with any evidence showing that Noem did in fact attend any of these meetings. The Noem campaign has not yet responded.
Argus Leader Editorial Board Forum: “We have record levels of suicides on our reservations. We have inadequate job opportunities, we have underfunded Indian health services. We have continuing issues with BIA law enforcement on the reservations. What specific plans do you have that are geared toward resolving the problems on South Dakota’s reservations going forward?…And I want to be specific. Not necessarily money, but what efforts are you going to make if you’re elected over the next two years to deal with the issues that we have on South Dakota’s reservations?” (Question from Editorial Board, 9/24/12)
Varilek Attacks Noem’s Subcommittee Attendance. By Kelly Bartnick. [KELO TV. 9/26/12]
Release: Noem Skipped 17 of 22 Indian Affairs Meetings. [Matt for SD. 9/25/12]