Gov. Noem reports cash flow from national profile

In this Aug. 27, 2020 file photo, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem stands in the crowd on the...
In this Aug. 27, 2020 file photo, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem stands in the crowd on the South Lawn of the White House during the fourth day of the Republican National Convention in Washington. Noem has no plans to get tested for the coronavirus before heading back to the president's campaign trail this week, even though she attended a fundraiser with the president shortly before he tested positive. Noem tested negative for the virus on Sept. 29, a day before the Trump fundraiser in Minnesota.((AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File))
Published: Oct. 21, 2020 at 4:43 PM CDT
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(AP) - South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem reported a relatively large haul of campaign cash this year as she vaulted to prominence in conservative circles nationwide for her hands-off approach to the pandemic.

The Republican governor’s state is currently suffering through one of the worst surges in the country, but she has downplayed the severity of the virus and campaigned across the country as a surrogate for President Donald Trump. Noem has cashed in on her nationwide appearances, with her gubernatorial campaign committee raising more than $850,000 between May 17 and Oct. 14.

That’s a big uptick from the $136,000 she raised from January to May, and more money appears to be headed her way. She attended a private fundraiser in Texas on Monday with recommended contributions ranging from $1,000 to $8,000. On Wednesday, her campaign organized a reception in Pierre with a suggested contribution of $1,000.

Noem’s campaign is also selling T-shirts that say, “Less COVID More Hunting,” borrowing a line she used in a recent Twitter video in which she shot a bird. Her staff has pointed out that she is using the newfound fame to pitch the state’s tourism and business offerings.

But the T-shirts and Noem’s refusal to step up her messaging on the seriousness of the pandemic as deaths mount this month has drawn blowback from critics.

“Our healthcare workers are exhausted and South Dakotans are dying daily,” said Democratic Party vice-chair Nikki Gronli in a statement. “I can’t believe she’s treating these deaths as a joke. This is truly tasteless.”

Noem reported donors from 41 different states and Washington, D.C., in her latest campaign finance report. About $110,000 of the fundraising came from small gifts that were $100 or less. One of the largest donations was $100,000 from the Republican Governors Association’s RGA Right Direction PAC.

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