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Kristi Noem’s Surrender To Big Business

SD governor, a Trump ally and aspiring national politician, sells out women athletes and common sense
Screen Shot 2021-03-22 at 11.16.30 PM

One of the stories I tell often is about going to Capitol Hill in the autumn of 2015 to give a talk, then meeting with some key GOP Congressional staffers afterward. This was several months after Obergefell. I asked them what plans the Republican Party had for shoring up religious liberty in the wake of that ruling. The answer was: none. No plans at all. Wasn’t on their agenda.

I don’t know why, but I can make a pretty good guess. Earlier that year, the Indiana GOP and Gov. Mike Pence backed down on a state version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act after a powerful business coalition, including the NCAA, threatened to punish the state economically for its supposedly anti-LGBT legislation. That was the Waterloo of the social and religious conservatives, and it showed who holds the power in the Republican coalition: business.

Well, it has happened again, though this time not to religious believers:

South Dakota’s GOP governor declined on Friday to sign a bill from legislators in her own party that would have banned transgender girls from participating in women’s high school sports.

In a statement released on Twitter, Noem said that she was sending the bill back to lawmakers for changes, and indicated that she thought the ban should not be extended to college athletes.

“Unfortunately, as I have studied this legislation and conferred with legal experts over the past several days, I have become concerned that this bill’s vague and overly broad language could have significant unintended consequences,” Noem wrote.

“I am also concerned that the approach House Bill 1217 takes is unrealistic in the context of collegiate athletics,” she added, writing that banning transgender athletes from collegiate sports would cause conflict with national college athletic associations.

To be fair, the GOP lawmakers did their job. It was the GOP governor who collapsed. The NYT writes:

Ms. Noem’s goal, she said on Monday, was to avoid punishment by the N.C.A.A. that could be financially damaging to schools and surrounding communities in South Dakota, even though the association has not yet issued an official rebuke to the 20 other states that are enacting or considering similar bills.

“South Dakota’s chances of winning a lawsuit against the N.C.A.A. are very low,” Ms. Noem said at a news conference in Pierre, the state capital, on Monday.

“The N.C.A.A. is a private association — that means they can do what they want to do,” said Ms. Noem, who consulted widely for legal advice on the measure. “If South Dakota passes a law that’s against their policy, they will likely take punitive action against us. That means they can pull their tournaments from the state of South Dakota, they could pull their home games, they could even prevent our athletes from playing in their league.”

Jon Schweppe of the American Principles Project explains what happened from his angle as an activist pushing the bill that Noem vetoed. Excerpts:

House Bill 1217, called “An Act to promote continued fairness in women’s sports,” was introduced by South Dakota Rep. Rhonda Milstead last month. The bill advanced out of committee in short order on February 22nd, 11-2, and passed the full House on February 24th, 50-17. Many speculated that the bill would ultimately die in the Senate, and there’s a reason for that.

South Dakota is a one-party red state, but it’s a state where the Chamber of Commerce and other socially left-wing factions, such as financial and health sector corporate interests, enjoy a great deal of power. The Senate is controlled by Republicans 32-3, but conservative bills that pass the House easily often fail to escape committee. Last year, the House passed legislation, 46-23, banning puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and surgeries for the purpose of sex changes for children under the age of 16, but the bill died in committee. While Governor Noem managed to avoid publicly endorsing or condemning the bill, she did tell one media outlet that she had “concerns.” (Sources within the state have told my organization that she effectively killed it.)

But protecting women’s sports isn’t exactly a radical idea. Not only have 28 other states introduced similar legislation, but 25 Members of Congress and 18 U.S. Senators have signed on to a federal version. Would this really be a difficult lift in a state President Trump won by 26 points? Unfortunately, yes. On March 3rd, like so many good bills before it, House Bill 1217 was killed in a Senate committee.

But something strange happened. Using a rarely used legislature procedure colloquially referred to as a “smoke out,” the Senate voted to revive the bill out of committee, 18-17. The bill then passed the Senate on March 8th, 20-15.


For two weeks, Governor Noem effectively went dark. In the first week, her office told supporters of House Bill 1217 that a decision would be coming shortly. In the second week, when rumors began to fly that she might change her mind about the bill, her office ignored requests for meetings with the bill’s sponsors and even with Republican House and Senate leadership.

Meanwhile, she and her team were actively engaging critics of the legislation, which included the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce, the Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce (arguably more powerful than the state chamber), the South Dakota Board of Regents, the Sioux Falls Sports Authority (presumably representing the interests of the NCAA), left-wing advocacy organizations, and, not surprisingly, Amazon, the censorious Big Tech behemoth, which is planning to bring more than 1,000 jobs to the state by building a fulfillment center in Sioux Falls.

By the end of the second week, it was widely known that Noem had listened to the advice of the bill’s critics and was preparing to veto, and sure enough, she dropped a “style and form veto” at 4:30 P.M. on a Friday.

Last clip:

It’s well known that Noem had hopes of building a national profile and perhaps even running for president in 2024. People really liked her. She handled COVID-19 beautifully. Her speech at Mount Rushmore with President Trump was exceptional. And now she loses everything she built, and for what? To please the Chamber of Commerce? To keep a few college presidents happy? Whoever advised her on this issue did her a great disservice.

Read all of it. 

Gov. Noem went on Tucker Carlson Tonight last evening to defend her decision. He called her out on her b.s.:

These Republican politicians like Noem have to learn that there will be a price to be paid if they side with Big Business over their voters. It has happened far too many times. I am hearing that there are some folks putting together a kind of NRA of social conservatives — an organization that makes lawmakers who cross them pay a price.

(For that matter, why should the NCAA have the power to frighten a state out of passing basic protections for its female athletes?)

Tucker looked like this for most of the interview. I watched it too, and I know how he feels:

Whaddaya know, it turns out that one of Gov. Noem’s closest political associates is also the state’s most powerful lobbyist for the Chamber of Commerce. 

In the years to come, when the United States has turned into the People’s Republic of Canada on these issues, we can thank Republican politicians like Kristi Noem, who cared more about corporate interests than the common good. Here’s the latest from the front lines of social justice in Canada:

There is a man in Canada who can only be alluded to as He Who Shall Not Be Named, the father to a child who is undergoing gender transition. For the sake of natural justice, it is important to speak this man’s name. He is now the Canadian state’s prisoner of conscience.

The warrant was issued by a judge for the arrest of a father after calling his biological female child his “daughter,” and referring to her with the pronouns “she” and “her.” The father was found to be in contempt of court.
The father is a father to a gender non-conforming biological female 16-year-old who identifies as transgender and prefers the use of male pronouns. The father has repeatedly called this person his daughter, though the court has forbade it. The transition has been underway for more than two years.
On Tuesday at 10 am Vancouver time, the father surrendered himself to the court in response to the Attorney General of British Columbia’s warrant his arrest for contempt. He was the arrested and jailed. The warrant was issued by Judge Tammen on March 4, 2021.
The father opposes his child’s undergoing “gender affirmative” medical procedures, and has stated this opposition again and again, in the hope of saving his child from irreversible harm. The Canadian medical system, the legal system, and the child’s mother press ahead with social and medical transition of the child.


In 2019, the father abided by the court order, hoping to get his daughter off testosterone. However, in January 2020, the highest court in British Columbia declared that the child should continue to take testosterone. It also imposed a conduct order on Hoogland that he must continue to refer to his biological female child by male pronouns.

The father said that “They’ve created a delusion, and they’re forcing parents to live in this delusion.”
“What happens when the bubble explodes and the delusion ends… She can never go back to being a girl in the healthy body she should have had… These kids don’t understand. What kind of 13 year old is thinking about having a family and kids?” He said, lamenting his child’s stolen future.
The father gave interviews to several Canadian commentators. The broadcasts were suppressed by digital platforms, and he was threatened with contempt of court proceedings.

“What kind of father would I be if, in ten years time she’s detransitioning, and she asks me ‘why didn’t you do anything to stop this? None of your stuck your neck out for me back then,'” he said.

You know who told us this was coming? Him:

And so I ask once again: where are the Republicans? A majority of the South Dakota legislature found the spine to buck Big Business, but Kristi Noem surrendered. Conservatives cannot allow politicians like Noem to succeed after showing what they are really made of: that they are the kind of people who do the bidding of rich and powerful corporate leaders who shred the fabric of society for the sake of making more money.



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