South Dakota DCI agents investigate alleged violation by Kristi Noem's campaign

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - South Dakota's Division of Criminal Investigation agents are investigating whether Governor Kristi Noem violated a campaign finance law during her campaign for the state's top job. A Sioux Falls resident, Sheryl Johnson, said she violated a law and wants her to pay the city back.

The Sioux Falls Police Department spent $20,000 to provide extra security for President Donald Trump's trip to Sioux Falls.

"To me, that in no way helped the citizens of Sioux Falls and I just thought we shouldn't have to cover his security costs," Johnson said.

She said President Trump's visit for Noem's campaign violated South Dakota's, campaign finance law 12-27-20. It reads in part, "The state, an agency of the state and the governing body of any county, municipality, or other political subdivision of the state may not expend or permit the expenditure of public funds for the purpose of influencing the nomination or election of any candidate." You can read the full law here.

Since the city covered the security cost, she believes that's a violation.

"It just was rubbing me the wrong way. I thought this is just not right," she said.

Mayor Paul Tenhaken's Deputy Chief of Staff, T.J. Nelson, would not do an interview on camera because the complaint is under investigation. But he said regardless of the purpose of any president's visit, the city will provide security. They won't get "bogged down on purpose of a travel."

"I can understand where they're coming from. I think they're wrong. I think because it influenced an election, I think that is the key difference," Johnson said.

She's holding her public officials accountable because this was a private event specifically for a fundraiser for Noem's campaign. Citizens had to be invited to it and pay a minimum of $500 to get in.

"And I would just like the city to get their taxpayer money back," Johnson said.

A spokesperson for Governor Kristi Noem's campaign released a statement about the complaint.

"We very much appreciated the President's visit and the opportunity to showcase Sioux Falls to him first-hand. Governor Noem was grateful for the incredible work of the Sioux Falls law enforcement team who made sure both the President and the public remained safe. There was of course a cost associated with this work like there is everywhere the President travels and we are thankful for the city's commitment to being a good host."

"He didn't come and visit the city. He did not come and visit the state. Yes, he stopped in the state. He went from the airport to the convention center and back, but he only really saw the people at this private fundraiser," Johnson said.

And she believes taxpayer money was wasted in the process.

The Secretary of State's office and Attorney General's office, where the DCI is housed, will not comment on the complaint, citing the investigation still in process. The DCI will finish it then pass it on to Secretary of State, Steve Barnett, to decide what should happen.

Some people may compare President Trump's visit to former President Obama's visit to Watertown and ask 'what is the difference?' President Barack Obama was not in the state to campaign. He spoke at Lake Area Tech's commencement ceremony in 2015. It was a ticketed event but individuals did not have to pay for them.