Associated Press Reporter Relies on Russian Collusion Fantasist in Noem Hit Piece


In his September 27 attack article on South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem, Associated Press reporter Stephen Groves quotes a rampant Russian Collusion hoaxer Professor Richard Painter, who he presents as a credible arbiter on ethics.

Groves’s articles nominally focus on the governor’s effort to find out why her daughter Kassidy Peters, who graduated from South Dakota State University with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and business management and had more than three years of experience working as a junior appraiser, was denied her application to become a state-certified residential appraiser.

Peters was denied in late July 2020, but after the governor’s administration inquired into the circumstances around the denial, the governor’s daughter received her certificate in November 2020.

Groves going to Painter is troubling because he deceptively fails to mention that the professor is anything other than a partisan opponent of former President Donald J. Trump and his allies.

While Peters was applying for the certification, Noem should have recused herself from discussions on the agency, especially any that would apply to her daughter’s application, said Richard Painter, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, who was the chief ethics lawyer for former President George W. Bush.

“It’s clearly a conflict of interest and an abuse of power for the benefit of a family member,” he said.

It is out-and-out fraudulent that Groves fails to mention that Painter ran for U.S. Senate in the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (MDFLP). The MDFLP functions as the local brand of the Democratic Party, and here he is telling voters that Trump is a Russian agent:

As a guest on “Real Time with Bill Maher Show,” he said: “It’s a very difficult situation for this White House; If they were to throw out everyone who was a wife beater or collaborated with Russians, they might have a thin staff.”

Here he claimed the Russians were blackmailing Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-SC):

Noem, who has spent much of her time on the national stage, has been dealing with ankle-biter scandals pimped out and pumped up by her rivals inside the state’s Republican Party.

When Trump spoke at the July 4, 2020, celebration hosted at Mount Rushmore by the governor and former congresswoman, it was seen as a critical pivot for Trump, who was making his case for a second term. As a result, the sky was the limit for the governor, whose speech and presence signaled her emergence onto the national stage.

Among the controversies spun up by Noem’s rivals were her daughter Kennedy’s decision to study for her MBA in Tennessee, not South Dakota, her efforts to fix the language of legislation banning biological males from competing against biological females in student athletics, and her decision to send South Dakota National Guardsmen to Texas to secure that state’s border with Mexico.

In the case of Peters’ application scandal, it comes as Noem and other conservatives have struggled to crack open appraisals as a career field in the state.

It is important to note that an economy like South Dakota’s, dependent on ranching and farming, relies on long-term, medium-term and short-term financing, especially for family-owned businesses. This financing is backed by the land, equipment and future harvests, which makes the appraiser almost a shaman in the process of getting crops in the crops and cattle to market.

For three decades, the gatekeeper to the career field was Sherry Bren, who worked as the executive director of the South Dakota Appraiser Certification Program.

There are four levels in South Dakota: state-registered appraiser, state-licensed appraiser, state-certified residential appraiser and state-certified general appraiser. According to Peters’ LinkedIn profile, she worked as a state-registered appraiser for 14 months for the Brookings, South Dakota, based Northern Plains Appraisal from May 2016 to June 2017.

Peters worked again as an appraiser for the Pierre, South Dakota, based Dakota Plains Appraisal for 27 months from September 2018 to November 2020.

While she was working at Dakota Plains Appraisal, Peters applied to be a state-certified residential appraiser in July and eventually secured the certificate in November when she left that firm to work at her own Pierre firm Kassidy Peters Appraisal.

Groves also relies on a local Noem-hater for his coverage, without giving the reader the proper context to frame his opinions in his October 1 article “South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem defends daughter’s licensure.”

However, Johnson, the appraiser from Watertown, said that the governor’s “apparent interference” in the licensing of her daughter has worried other appraisers in the state. Federal regulators are currently auditing the certification program, raising concern that if they find something amiss, it could affect everyone with an appraiser license from South Dakota.

“Any appearance that something is not right in our appraiser certification program puts a black eye on the industry, and we don’t appreciate it,” he said.”

Johnson is the owner of Johnson Appraisal, and in November 2020, he wrote in his “Watertown Public Opinion” column that Noem’s mask policy was endangering the public:

Gov. Noem says those professionals are wrong and that we simply must exercise personal responsibility. Her national political image largely prevents her from changing her mind as the disease spreads more rapidly.

She pins her hopes on a vaccine, which may first appear in mid-December. It will take until April for enough of it to be available to the general population. Even then, a significant part of our population will refuse to take it, ensuring its continued spread.

Johnson’s beef with Noem goes back beyond her mask policy. His columns have relentlessly criticized Noem for being too tough on former President Barack H. Obama Jr., reading a script from Speaker John A. Boehner (R.-Ohio), signing a bill lifting the background check requirement for concealed carry permits and for not supporting increased immigration.

In the 2018 GOP gubernatorial primary, Johnson gave $1,000 to her Republican opponent, state Attorney General Marty Jackley.

Finally, in 2019, Noem took Johnson off the South Dakota Board of Water and Natural Resources, where he had served since 2003, including 14 years as board chairman.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that Johnson has been out in front going after Noem with his latest attack column: “Brad Johnson: Appraisers furious with Gov. Kristi Noem’s intervention on daughter’s behalf.”

Two South Dakota appraisers who were not furious at how Kassidy Peters was treated are her two former bosses: Brian Gatzke and Kristine Juelfs.

Gatzke, who owns Northern Plains Appraisal, and teaches real estate appraising at South Dakota State University, told James River Broadcasting reporter Jody Heemstra the real story is the absurd process for becoming an appraiser in South Dakota.

“I’m a licensed supervisor for new appraisers. It is way too tough for young folks to enter this field,” he told Heemstra:

South Dakota was one of just five states that forced new potential appraisers to take a license level exam early on in the process. There’s a roughly 30 percent passage rate for that exam. These are students who were getting A’s and B’s in their college classes, but they were asked to pass a 2nd-tier level exam at the entry-level. These barriers to entry were an overreach of the regulatory authority. Governor Noem and the Department of Labor removed that entry exam, and my students will be better off for it.”

When Peters was working for Juelfs, when she applied for her certificate, and she told the Associated Press she was shocked Peters was denied.

However, Bren did confirm that at the meeting, she was presented with a letter from Peters’ supervisor, Kristine Juelfs, who wrote that she disagreed with the denial and charged that Peters had run up against an “inefficient process.”

“In the past week, I was notified that my trainee, State Registered Appraiser Kassidy Peters, was denied upgrade of her license to State Certified Residential Appraiser,” Juelfs wrote. “This came as quite a shock to myself as she has represented the knowledge and skills necessary.”

Juelfs’ letter blasted the application evaluation for lacking “timeliness and professionalism” and said the examiner reviewing Peters’ work had “acted unprofessionally when conversing with Kassidy.”

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Neil W. McCabe is a Washington-based national political reporter for The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. In addition to the Star Newspaper, he has covered the White House, Capitol Hill and national politics for One America News, Breitbart, Human Events and Townhall. Before coming to Washington, he was a staff reporter for Boston’s Catholic paper, The Pilot, and the editor of two Boston-area community papers, The Somerville News and The Alewife. McCabe is a public affairs NCO in the Army Reserve and he deployed for 15 months to Iraq as a combat historian.
Photo “Stephen Groves” by Stephen Groves. 



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One Thought to “Associated Press Reporter Relies on Russian Collusion Fantasist in Noem Hit Piece”

  1. DA Porter

    Noem’s daughter may be a fine appraiser; Noem may be correct about the obsolete appraiser cert setup; but you conflate these issues with conflict of interest: Noem’s meeting in Pierre is similar to the judge meeting with the jury before the verdict is in – a good meeting does not excuse the conflict. In fact you cannot even fairly describe conduct taking place in the context of a conflict. That is precisely WHY conflicts create such anger and backlash.