Cowgirl Kristi Noem ropes in Capitol Hill: A Washington love story

Noem grew up on her family’s working ranch in Hamlin County, South Dakota. Her father was “was kind of superman,” Noem said, “You know, he was a cowboy and a very hard worker. I don’t remember very many days where he wasn’t up and out the door by 5 or 6 a.m. He came in late at night. Nobody ever out-worked him. He demanded a lot out of his family. He taught us to work hard and to do everything with excellence, but he never expected more out of us than he was willing to do as well.”

On the campaign trail, Noem spoke frequently with Hustead about her father, remembering how he would wake her up before the sun rose to go elk hunting and stay up past her bedtime reading the Bible. She had wanted to be just like him. “I knew from the time I was little that I wanted to grow up and to farm and ranch with my dad,” Noem said.

But while she was away at South Dakota State University, Noem’s father died in a tragic farming accident. “If you happen to fall into a grain bin with corn, it can almost suck you up like quicksand, and that’s what happened to him,” said Bob Faehn, the former Republican leader in the South Dakota State House.

Her siblings in other states, Noem left college to come home and run the family ranch. The wrenching loss colored what had been her dream. “It was very hard to imagine doing it without him,” she said.

In the midst of loss, the family was hit with a major financial burden from the estate tax.

“We had to make a decision if we were going to sell land to pay those taxes or take out a loan. We chose, and made the decision, to take out a loan. But for 10 years that loan really impacted our ability to make a profit every year,” Noem said.

The tax hit turned into a galvanizing moment for young Noem politically. “That was definitely when my eyes opened. You know, when you run a business, you have a lot of experiences that teach you the ways that government can interfere or make it more difficult for you to keep your doors open,” she said.

Two years later, to make ends meet, Noem opened a lodge, guiding pheasant hunts. “I have a Benelli 12 gauge that I shoot most of the time. We have a 20 gauge, too, but usually one of my daughters is using that one,” she said. Asked if she was a good shot, Noem replied: “I can hold my own.”

Meanwhile, Noem’s widowed mother bought a coffee shop, part of a lifelong dream to own a restaurant. “Within about six months or a year she called and said, “I need some help, you know the restaurant business is hard.” So I would go up there at night and I helped do her books and help manage her employees and things like that. That got to be kind of involved after a while and took more and more time,” Noem said.

A quick rise in South Dakota politics

Resolved to limit the sometimes destructive role of the government on business, Noem started dipping her toes into politics, serving on local boards and committees.

In 2006, Noem ran and won for a seat in the state House. In her second term, she was promoted to assistant Republican leader under Faehn, who saw great promise in his junior colleague. “I want you to remember her name,” he told colleagues.

Noem was a quick study and stuck to her party’s script. She was known for being forceful behind closed doors. “She’s very outgoing and friendly. But she certainly can be tough. She absolutely can be tough,” Faehn said.

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  • TommyV

    You do if you sell it and can’t or don’t want to use the one-time exclusion.

    Look it up, dumbass.

    The point of the estate tax is collecting taxes on property which has appreciated in value and is passing to a new owner outside of a normal sale transaction.

    Joe….I’m sorry if I’m moving too fast for you. I wonder how many lies and rationalizations you have to tell yourself to completely ignore the facts. You must take lessons from Odumbo himself…the king of all the Lib Liars!

    She never sold the farm jackass so there’s no income tax due……end of that story…no? IF she sells it she needs to pay the income taxes and we all know that….nobody’s arguing that but YOU!

    The “new owner” didn’t buy the place and the place was never sold….it’s his daughter and she’s just trying to run it….how does the government have any right to that money Joe? There is no money until it’s sold…..don’t the non-producers like you steal enough of the producers money as it is through taxes? Don’t they Joe?

    Here’s a fact for you….I don’t care about you or anybody else that isn’t in my family or is my friend…you don’t deserve any of my money….none of it even though you’d love to take it. I am not my meighbor’s keeper even if my neighbor is someone like you that has their hand out and is begging for just a little more of someone else’s success.

    And here’s my last piece of advice….try being successful yourself and you won’t need to beg for anyone else’s fruits of their success ;)!

    The sad thing is that you have a vote.

    • Joe Steel

      TommyV said: “She never sold the farm jackass so there’s no income tax due……end of that story…no?

      Try again, dumbass.

      She never sold the farm but ownership was transferred at the time of her father’s death. Had she sold the farm then, she probably wouldn’t have owed any tax on it because her basis in the property was the market value at the time she acquired it. She would have paid no income tax because she would not have earned income.

      Had her father or his estate sold the farm, it almost certainly would have generated income because the basis of the farm almost certainly was less that the market value at the time of death.

      The problem is, the farm wasn’t sold. It transferred to the heirs at a value almost certainly greater than the father’s basis. That’s a taxable event under some circumtances according to the Congress of the United States. The American People believe giving land owners an almost completely free ride is bad for America. If you and your family and your friends don’t like it, you can leave.

      • thephranc

        For some one who gets it wrong every time its the height of hilarity to see you call someone dumb.

      • des1

        Thank you for reminding us how stupid you have to be to be a Liberal.