Transportation Bill Moves to House Ahead of Deadline →

Chairman’s Note: Congresswoman Kristi Noem again finds herself out of step with both Senator Tim Johnson and Senator John Thune – this time supporting a widely opposed measure to hijack transportation funding for more oil drilling in environmentally sensitive areas. At stake are millions of highway transportation dollars, thousands of jobs, and hundreds of roads across South Dakota.  Noem just doesn’t seem to care.

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Noem: I’d like to Thank Exxon for This Opportunity

Being the day after Groundhog Day, we hate to be the bearers of bad news. Unfortunately, it looks like Congresswoman Kristi Noem has seen her shadow and nine more months of phantom representation are in the pipeline for South Dakota families. (and yes, the pipeline pun is entirely intentional, for you see kids – Kristi Noem’s latest attempt at being a lawmaker is being brought to you by Exxon Mobil and some very large donations to her campaign last year.)

Called “the worst transportation bill ever,” Kristi Noem and her fellow Republican leaders in the U.S. House are hoping that they can tie highway funding to Big Oil profits, which are in large part a result of their efforts to continue subsidizing an industry that contributes heavily to their campaigns. Let us pause here to note what a great idea Kristi Noem has stumbled upon (with the help of very large checks).

Back to the bill at hand—Kristi Noem wants to destroy the concept of a highway trust fund, the very trust fund that South Dakotans are depending on to fix roads washed out by recent record flooding across our state. Brilliant.

It is also clear, and it must be said, that the only job Kristi Noem is concerned about is her own.  For the construction workers who have built and maintained bike paths, and sidewalks, and roads, and bridges to carry our youngest citizens to school, home, and daily activities, Noem has only one thing to say to you, “You’re fired.”

Well, Big Oil may think that answer is just fine. But here in South Dakota, where we expect our lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives to actually do more than just lip-service, we have just one reminder: despite Mitt Romney’s claim, Exxon Mobil doesn’t vote; we do. And there are 277 days until Election Day.

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Nesselhuf Statement on Stephanie Herseth Sandlin

South Dakota Democratic Party Chairman Ben Nesselhuf released the following statement after former Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin announced that she will not run for office in 2012:

“South Dakotans are calling for an alternative to Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s efforts to end Medicare as we know it and to increase taxes on working families. Matt Varilek and Jeff Barth will continue to focus on solutions for South Dakota instead of obstruction in Washington. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin will remain a source of leadership, insight, and determination through this election and many more to come.”

Matt Varilek, former Economic Development Director for Senator Tim Johnson, and Minnehaha County Commissioner Jeff Barth are seeking the Democratic nomination for South Dakota’s lone congressional seat. More information on both candidates can be found at and or by following them on Facebook at Matt for SD and Jeff Barth for Congress.

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Ten Million Reasons Kristi Noem Hates Santa

Remember Congresswoman Kristi Noem professing that the government is broke and can’t afford more regulation?  We do too. That’s why we can’t figure out why she wants U.S. taxpayers to spend $10 million on her bill aimed at “farm dust” – a bill that would in effect regulate farm dust because such regulations currently do not exist. Let us repeat: regulations by the EPA on farm dust DO NOT EXIST.

Now, you don’t just have to take our word for it. The President of the United States (you know, the one in charge) has never created regulations on farm dust, nor are there plans to. In fact, President Obama’s predecessors, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush all determined that when it comes to “farm” dust, there is no such number.

Which brings us back to Kristi Noem – what does she know that Ronald Reagan didn’t in 1987 when he put the existing coarse particulate standard into effect?  We’ll give you a hint: it involves some not-so-secret santas and some very special interests. Continue Reading »

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Noem Your Price

Kristi NoemAttention beetles and Tinkerbelles: if you want a seat at the witness table with Rep. Kristi Noem, it’s going to cost you. A lot.

You see, kids – Noem isn’t just content working against South Dakota; she’s insistent on milking every penny out of her War on Working Families.

According to a just released article by the Associated Press:

Twice in the last four months, Republican Rep. Kristi Noem has held or testified at congressional hearings in South Dakota and Washington where the tables were packed with witnesses who between themselves, their employees and their families have given her a total of more than $19,000 in campaign contributions.

It may be that folks are paying Noem to get the microphone. It may also be that thousands of dollars in campaign contributions are helping Noem make up her mind.

In either case, we know one thing for sure – Kristi Noem doesn’t solve problems.  She creates them.  Just ask Tinkerbelle…

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Witnesses at Rep. Kristi Noem Congressional Hearings Also Have Donated Thousands to Campaign →

Chairman’s Note: A new Associated Press investigation suggests that Kristi Noem is rewarding her big donors with invitations to testify before congress. It’s just another example of Noem representing the few at the expense of many. Bottom line: Kristi Noem works in the people’s house. Everyday South Dakotans shouldn’t have to pay Noem just to have a seat at the table.

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Kristi Noem Continues Fight Against Non-Existent Dust Regulations

Congresswoman Kristi Noem just can’t let the non-issue of dust regulation die.

Today, Noem testified in support of her dust regulation bill (H.R. 1633) in the House Energy and Commerce Committee despite powerful, critical editorials last week from the Yankton Press & Dakotan and Sioux Falls Argus Leader deploring Noem’s singular focus on “imagined problems” rather than real ones. Continue Reading »

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Confused about Noem’s War On Dust? So is Tinkerbelle.

When Kristi Noem went to Washington, she said she wasn’t interested in how Congress worked. We can tell. Noem has invented a fake issue to advance her fake approach of “helping” South Dakota. It is clear that if you’re one of Noem’s constituents, she’s just not that into you. However, if you’re a particle of dust, well…your Friday night just got exciting. Continue Reading »

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Editorial: Noem pushing ahead blindly in dust-up with EPA →

There are important issues at the federal level right now that will have direct impact on our state.

The dwindling funding for the Lewis and Clark water project and the fight to maintain our state’s Medicare reimbursements Continue Reading »

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Potential House candidate Matt Varilek speaks →

Matt Varilek isn’t running for Congress. Yet.

Varilek, an aide to Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., spoke to 15 members of the Davison County Democratic Party on Tuesday night at LifeQuest in Mitchell. The former high school debater gave a brief but polished speech, fielded questions and then sipped coffee, munched on a brownie and chatted with the Democrats.

He is considering a race for the nomination to run against Rep. Kristi Noem, a first-term Republican, and said he will continue to meet with Democrats and talk with his wife before he makes an announcement.

“We don’t have a final timeframe,” he said.

But on Tuesday night, Varilek, of Sioux Falls, sounded like a candidate.

He took aim at Noem and leveled several broadsides at her, accusing the state’s lone member of the House of having been pulled into a “tea party frenzy” during her year in public life.

“Kristi Noem has not been on our side,” Varilek said.

He said she has supported continuing subsidies for big oil and gas in Congress and he wonders why, since there are no such businesses in South Dakota and the country is in need of tax revenue.

Varilek said a close look at Noem’s campaign finance reports shows she has received thousands of dollars from Exxon, Chevron, Halliburton and other oil and gas companies.

“All of a sudden that vote doesn’t look so mysterious anymore,” he said.

Varilek said he has also watched in dismay as Noem has done little to help South Dakotans who rely on Medicare, children who depend on Medicaid and students who seek financial aid through the federal Pell Grant program. He said she has also not helped towns in need of assistance to maintain and improve their water infrastructure.

“And that really stood out to me,” Varilek said. “I don’t know if she even thinks these are good ideas for South Dakota.”

Varilek said he would be the kind of congressman who reaches out to Republicans and works with them. The word bipartisanship isn’t something he shies away from, he said.

Varilek said he was struck by Noem’s words when he attended a speech she gave recently in which she said politics are too polarized.

“Well, I couldn’t agree more,” he said. “But that’s kind of like Goliath calling David the bully.”

Varilek said he was dismayed when Noem sided with House Republicans who threatened to shut down the government this summer. That would have caused severe economic hardships, he said, and he was surprised she adopted that stance.

“It just made no sense at all,” Varilek said. “And I think that’s reckless.”

He said he favors raising government revenue by closing tax loopholes for big companies while also investing in programs to help people. Varilek referred to that as “a balanced approach to a balanced budget” and said he would vote to reduce the deficit.

Veteran Democratic campaign consultant Steve Hildebrand, a Mitchell native who now lives in Sioux Falls, is one of the people behind a Facebook effort to draft Varilek into the race.

Hildebrand served as a deputy national campaign director for the 2008 Obama campaign and has also worked for President Bill Clinton, Vide President Al Gore, Sen. Johnson and former Sen. Tom Daschle.

Noem’s communications director, Joshua Shields, declined to comment directly on Varilek’s possible candidacy.

“Rep. Noem is focused on her work empowering South Dakota small businesses and reducing their regulatory burdens,” Shields said.

But Tony Post, executive director of the South Dakota Republican Party, said voters deserve to know how Varilek differs from Sen. Johnson or if he shares his views and political stances.

“My first thought is, if he has aspirations, he needs to quit the cushy government job and start campaigning or just keep on the job,” he said.

Davison County Democratic Party Chairman Dave Mitchell said he was impressed with Varilek’s presentation.

Mitchell, a Dakota Wesleyan University professor, said he has often been embarrassed by Noem and some of the things she says. He urged Varilek to run, as did others at the meeting.

Matt Korzan, a South Dakota native who recently returned home after living in Virginia, told Varilek to run and also said finding a way to retain the brightest young people in South Dakota should be a major concern. Varilek agreed.

Kathryn Crockett said while she hopes he runs, she wants Varilek to take firm stands on issues. She said his speech was long on generalities.

Varilek, 36, grew up in Yankton and Tabor and studied at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., where he earned two master’s degrees with an emphasis on economic development. A Carleton professor, Paul Wellstone, stunned the Minnesota political world in the 1990s when he ran a long-shot Senate campaign and unseated a wellfunded incumbent.

“Maybe there’s a lesson there for all challengers,” Varilek said.

He worked as a market analyst before joining Daschle’s staff in early 2004. After Daschle’s loss to John Thune in 2004, Varilek joined Johnson’s staff, where he has served as his economic development director while also writing some speeches for the three-term Democrat.

Varilek started working in Washington, D.C., but moved home to South Dakota in 2007 and now accompanies Johnson when he tours the state. He said he has learned a great deal about government and people by spending time around Johnson.

“Tim says, ‘A South Dakota leader has to put South Dakota first,’ ” Varilek said.

Varilek and his wife, Maggie, live in Sioux Falls with daughters Willa and Mae.

So far, Minnehaha County Commissioner Jeff Barth is the only Democrat to have declared his candidacy for the state’s sole House seat.

U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson, Tim Johnson’s son, is also considered a possible candidate, but Varilek said he didn’t “see any sign of that.”

Former congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, who is now working as a lobbyist for a Washington, D.C., law firm, has said there’s a 50-50 chance she will run for her old seat in 2012.

“That’s not what I’m focused on,” Varilek said of her possible candidacy.

Barth will speak to the Davison County Democrats on Nov. 15. The event will be open to the public.

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