On Wednesday, a Democratic legislator urged an investigation into South Dakota’s Republican Governor Kristi Noem’s jaunt to Texas for dental work. She even starred in a promotional video where she thanked the doctors for giving her “a smile I can be proud of and confident in.”

State Senator Reynold Nesiba thought the nearly five-minute video was just plain weird at first. Later, he thought more deeply about it and asked the Republican co-chairs of the Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee to include it on the agenda of the panel’s next meeting agenda in July for discussion and questions.

Nesiba Questions Governor Noem’s Dental Trip And Video

“I just thought it was a very strange video about how much she enjoyed having her teeth done at that particular place,” said Nesiba, a member of the audit committee.

Source: Flickr/peche abellana

Nesiba’s curious if Governor Noem flew on a state plane or used public money for her Texas trip. He also wants to know if the governor paid for the dental procedure or if she got a discount because of the video.

Noem Stays Silent On Video

Noem’s office has not responded to questions about the promo video she shared Monday night on her personal X account. In it, she gave a shoutout to the dentists and staff at Smile Texas, a cosmetic dental spot near Houston.

Source: South Dakota Governor

In the video, Noem complimented the dentists who recently “gave me a smile I can be proud of and confident in.”

GOP Glamour and Trump Tunes

Noem, a potential vice-president pick for Trump, introduces herself as South Dakota’s governor in the video. She’s shown speaking at a Republican party event with Trump signs in the background.

Source: Chip Somodevilla

A woman who picked up the phone at Smile Texas refused to give out any information. She cited privacy under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act after a news outlet asked to speak with staff. When asked if Smile Texas intends to use Noem’s video for promotion, the woman replied, “No, she posted that,”  and then ended the call.

Gifting Public Officials By Lobbyists A Misdemeanor

According to South Dakota law, gifts exceeding $100 from lobbyists to public officials and their immediate families are prohibited. Violation of this law is considered a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a $2,000 fine.

Source: X/KristiNoem

The state attorney general’s office declined to comment on whether the gift ban applies to individuals who are not registered lobbyists.

‘Smile Texas Is The Best,” Says Noem

Noem’s video, where she says she chose Smile because it was “the best,” comes at a time when South Dakota has invested $5 million in a recruitment ad campaign. She has starred in TV spots as a plumber, electrician, nurse, and other in-demand workers.

Source: Freepik/Kireyonok_Yuliya

In one ad, Noem plays a dentist in blue scrubs, talking over a patient with a dental tool in her hand while a drill whirs in the background. Nesiba said that the dental promotion “just undermines the millions of dollars that we have invested in her as being a spokesperson for South Dakota.”

Miskimins Sees Nothing Wrong

Paul Miskimins, a Republican former state legislator who practiced dentistry for over 37 years in South Dakota, said he saw nothing wrong with Noem seeking care out of state. He mentioned that he too had sought dental care from a friend in Canada.

Source: Mitchell Republic

Miskimins added that celebrities often give testimonials about dental work, and he didn’t see why a public official couldn’t do the same. “I think that this is America, and we all have a right to choose where we receive our care,” Miskimins said.

Not The First Time

Noem has faced ethical questions before, like in 2019 when she was investigated for using a state plane to attend six events outside South Dakota hosted by political groups, including the Republican Governors Association, Republican Jewish Coalition, Turning Point USA, and the National Rifle Association.

Source: X/keloland

During that time, the governor’s office justified the trips as essential to her role as the state’s “ambassador” to enhance the state’s economy.

Dakota’s Board Dismissed Previous Complaints

Noem also faced criticism for bringing family members along on multiple trips. However, her office stated that this was consistent with a precedent established by previous governors.

Source: John Raoux

In the end, South Dakota’s ethics board dismissed the complaint about Noem’s flights to political events in 2022 because state law isn’t clear about what counts as “state business.”

Ethics Board’s Misconduct Concerns

However, the ethics board did suggest that Noem might have “engaged in misconduct” when she interfered with her daughter’s application for a real estate appraiser license.

Source: X/pierremercer

The governor stepped in with a state agency after it had initially decided to reject her daughter’s license application in 2020.

Meeting On Daughter’s License

Noem arranged a meeting with her daughter, the labor secretary, and the director of the appraiser certification program to discuss. A plan was discussed to give Noem’s daughter, Kassidy Peters, another opportunity to demonstrate she could meet federal standards in her appraiser work.

Source: Austin Goss

Noem claims she followed the law in handling her daughter’s licensure and insists Peters received no special treatment.

No Special Treatment For Kassidy

“I never once asked for special treatment for Kassidy,” the Republican governor said in a video posted on YouTube days after news on the meeting was first broken by the press. “She is my daughter and I’m proud of her. I raised her to accomplish things on her own.”

Source: Instagram/KASSIDY PETERS

Kassidy Peters, then 26, finally received the certification in November 2020, four months after the meeting in her mother’s office. A week later, the labor secretary called for the retirement of agency head Sherry Bren, according to an age discrimination complaint Bren filed against the department.

Events During The Meeting Unclear

Bren, 70, ultimately left her job this March after receiving $200,000 from the state to drop the complaint.

Source: X/pierremercer

What exactly happened at the July 27, 2020, meeting in the governor’s office remains unclear. Noem declined an interview request, and her office refused to answer detailed questions about the meeting.

Noem’s Motives Called Into Question

Despite these controversies, voters re-elected her in 2022 with 62% of the vote. Michael Card, a retired political science professor at the University of South Dakota, expressed confusion about the governor’s motives for the video and found it puzzling.

Source: Phelan M. Ebenhack

“It just seems unusual for an elected official in office to make an infomercial like that,” he said.