Kristi Noem Shows Why Republicans Can’t Have Nice Things

Multiple sources have informed American Greatness that South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem is having an extramarital affair with adviser Corey Lewandowski, who previously served as a campaign manager for Donald Trump. The alleged fling reportedly has continued for months, sources say. 

Lewandowski accompanied Noem across the country as she stumped for Trump’s reelection last year. According to South Dakota Republicans, former Noem chief of staff Joshua Shields left, in part, because of Lewandowski’s butting in. Lewandowski, who is married with four children, still has the former president’s ear, which he reportedly uses to Noem’s advantage. 

American Greatness contacted Noem’s office for comment on Tuesday. No comment had been received at the time of publication.

Noem, a married mother of three, has been eyed as a possible running mate for a Trump presidential bid in 2024. Bloomberg reported in March that Trump’s closest advisors are pushing either for a black or female vice presidential candidate. Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Noem have both been named among the favorites by members of Trump’s inner circle. 

On March 5, Donald Trump, Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle hosted a fundraiser for Noem at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and home in Palm Beach. Noem was invited to a second fundraiser there in April. Lewandowski has played a key role in boosting Noem’s clout with Trump. 

In a brief interview with the New York Times, Lewandowski praised Noem as having “a huge future in Republican politics.” But these recent revelations, in combination with other challenges, threaten her chances of winning a ticket to the White House.

“There are members of Congress close to Mar-a-Lago who have called the affair ‘an open secret’ and worried that about Noem’s viability as a national candidate and within the movement,” a source familiar with the matter told American Greatness.

The governor has recently been on the defensive against Republicans upset with her handling of issues ranging from transgenderism to corporate vaccine mandates in her state. Critics have described her supposed “conservative principles” as hollow. 

Noem has a habit of saying one thing from the saddle of a high horse and doing another.

After South Dakota Republicans brought a bill to Noem’s desk to ban biological males from competing in women’s sports, the governor killed the legislation with a “style and form” veto. Republican Representative Rhonda Milstead denounced the move to local reporter Robert Mercer. “It is overreaching by trying to legislate law as the executive branch,” she said. Noem subsequently issued diluted, face-saving executive orders in lieu of legislation. 

Noem attempted to defend herself by making a bizarre and incoherent appeal to Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments Act on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” But detractors pointed out her connections to interest groups that oppose anti-transgender legislation, namely, Amazon and the Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce.

In April, Noem appointed her chief of staff, Tony Venhuizen, to the South Dakota Board of Regents. He currently sits on the board of directors for the Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce, where Amazon had been planning to build a fulfillment center that lawmakers worried would be axed in response to Noem signing the transgender sports bill.

In August, Noem found herself on the ropes again. This time, for refusing to prevent private companies from imposing vaccine mandates on employees. “You can’t be a constitutional conservative only when it suits you,” she wrote in the Washington Times. “Since when did the Republican Party become the party of big government and social engineering using government power to force behavior?”

Noem’s message to Americans was that her “conservative principles” relegated her to inaction. Further, anyone upset about corporate vaccine mandates could always just quit their job: “Our robust economy and job market gives them the option to find a new employer that values personal choice and responsibility, and doesn’t force mandates on their employees,” she said.

In practice, however, Noem’s fidelity to principle is plastic.

The Associated Press reported this week that after a South Dakota state agency denied her daughter’s application to become a certified real estate appraiser, Noem met with the state employee who ran the agency, the woman’s direct supervisor, the state labor secretary, and her daughter. Four months later, Noem’s daughter received her certification. Shortly after that, the labor secretary demanded the retirement of Sherry Bren, the agency head, according to a complaint reviewed by the Associated Press. South Dakota’s attorney general announced Tuesday that he is looking into the matter.

Noem appears to be fine with being on the side of “big government and social engineering using government power to force behavior” when it comes to landing her daughter a job and advancing corporate interests. The reports of an affair with Lewandowski and strong-arming nepotism represent personal duplicity in a woman who has already proven politically hypocritical. 

Noem wears the skin of a principled politician to deflect criticism and thus tarnishes what it actually means to be one. She preaches virtue yet has proven utterly venal. Noem appeals to constitutional fidelity to excuse inaction and graft but has no such fidelity herself. To understand why political cynicism abounds, look to the likes of the governor of the Mount Rushmore State.

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About Pedro Gonzalez

Pedro Gonzalez is associate editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture and an adjunct fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He publishes the weekly Contra newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @emeriticus.

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

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