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DakotaFest Debate Sponsor Corn Growers Linked to Noem

Last updated on 2013.04.19

Rep. Kristi Noem refuses to debate Matt Varilek on the Freedom Stage at the State Fair September 1, because she says that debate host South Dakota Farmers Union is an unfair, partisan organization. As evidence, the GOP spin machine submits evidence that SDFU president Doug Sombke has given money to her opponent and other Dems.

O.K., fine. Let's go there.

Wednesday's debate at Dakotafest, which Kristi Noem has agreed to attend, is organized by the South Dakota Corn Growers Association. Former GOP legislator Matt McCaulley lobbies for the Corn Growers. McCaulley donates significant money to Kristi Noem (from

Contributor Occupation Date Amount Recipient
MURPHY GOLDAMMER PRENDERGRAST/ATTOR 11/2/10 $2,050 Noem, Kristi Lynn (R)
MURPHY GOLDAMMER & PENDERGAST/LAWYE 5/18/09 $1,225 Thune, John (R)
SELF EMPLOYED/LAWYER 9/30/11 $500 Noem, Kristi (R)
SELF EMPLOYED 3/28/11 $250 Noem, Kristi (R)

McCaulley's contributions to the Noem campaign were apparently sufficient to win him a spot on stage behind Kristi with the Noem family during her 2010 election night victory speech:

KDLT screen cap showing Matt McCaulley at Kristi Noem's victory speech, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, November 2, 2012

There he is in a screen cap from KDLT's video of Noem's victory speech.

Matt McCaulley at Kristi Noem's victory speech, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, November 2, 2012. Photo by Jay Pickthorn, Sioux Falls Argus Leader

There he is in a slightly clearer picture of McCaulley applauding the Congresswoman-elect, taken by Jay Pickthorn of that Sioux Falls paper, with McCaulley's LinkedIn profile shot next to it.

At-large SDCGA board member Mark Klumb has served as Davison County GOP treasurer. His son Joshua interned for Senator John Thune in 2007 and is secretary to the Republican Majority Leader in Pierre.

Corn Growers' District 3 rep is Doug Noem, who raises corn, soybeans, wheat, and bacon near Bryant. Bryant is in Hamlin County, Kristi and hubby Bryon's home stomping grounds. (And of course, Kristi loves pork.)

Connect the dots, Matt: it's a trap!

By Noem's own standards, the South Dakota Corn Growers appear rife with connections to partisan activities (not to mention Noem's own family) that cause their event not to qualify as a safely fair and non-partisan event. Yet on she goes to the DakotaFest stage... as does Matt, who makes no beef about the possibly partisan composition of the sponsors or the audiences. Go figure.

By the way, South Dakota Farmers Union has sent out the following postcard to encourage farmers to attend "your only chance to ask Rep. Noem questions about the critical Farm Bill vote that is still held up in Congress because House Leadership won't take a vote on it."

South Dakota Farmers Union postcard to members encouraging attendance at DakotaFest debate between Rep. Kristi Noem and Matt Varilek, August 2012
South Dakota Farmers Union postcard to members encouraging attendance at DakotaFest debate between Rep. Kristi Noem and Matt Varilek, August 2012

Nice way to counteract Rep. Noem's effort to stack the audience with friendly Sioux Falls supporters who would cheer her fluff and nonsense.


  1. Jana 2012.08.20

    Hey, maybe Kristi can bring in Missouri Republican Todd Akin and they can talk to the students about legitimate and illegitimate rape.

    Then they could discuss how they are in agreement with Paul Ryan that the Personhood bill, HR 212, would be a good thing for South Dakota Women. You know, the bill that would make using popular contraceptives the same as being a murderer.

    Heck, they could even boast about redefining rape in their original HR 3 bill with a special guest appearance by Bill Napoli.

    At least Kristi wasn't one of the Republican freshman congresspeople skinny dipping in the Holy Land.

  2. G-Man 2012.08.20

    That's ok that she wants to stack the deck at these events while calling out Varilek. In the end, the voters will decide and I believe many of them already see through the games Kristi plays.

  3. G-Man 2012.08.20

    Cory, thanks for your hard work on exposing this McCaulley guy and his link to Kristi Noem. It's ok that he wants to support her, but, for her to pass off the Dakota Fest debate as non partisan is typical of her hypocrisy. Cory, keep the lid off this stinking dumpster of a campaign Noem's got going.

  4. Jana 2012.08.20

    Some ideas for having fun at the debate:

    Signs with Stephanie Herseth saying "Miss Me Yet?"

    Flash mob with SD Farmers Union members lipsyncing "Call Me Maybe?"
    (kind of like the US Olympic Swimming Team -

    Selling one page books on the "Legislative Accomplishments of Kristi Noem" for $174,000.

    Hand out flyers that invite people to buy a dancing horse and get a big tax deduction.

    Flyers that say support Kristi...Buy subsidized crop insurance from her husband before Kristi eliminates the program.

    A sign saying "Keep your Hands off Kristi's Taxpayer Supported Healthcare" on one side and "Repeal and Replace Kristi" on the other.

  5. Troy Jones 2012.08.20

    First, history is filled with the person (and supporters) behind (usually the challenger) with no name id clamoring for more debates while the person (and supporters) ahead and superior name id restricting the number of debates. The reason is simple. The person ahead has everything to lose while the person behind has nothing to lose.

    Second, in most cases, where one stands depends on where one sits in a particular situation. If ahead, you don't want debates. If behind, you want debates.

    Third, Noem's position reflects what nearly everyone knows- Noem is way ahead.

    This said, I think there is a purpose for debates and a rationale for limits to them.

    Purpose for debates: It is a good forum for compare and contract. It is also an opportunity for one to stake out the reason for positions to inform the public.

    Rationale for limits: They are an easy means for easy bromides that don't address real solutions or problems, preparation takes time away from day jobs (Noem does have a day job).

    Personally, I think the two parties (outside of an election) should come to some concensus on which debates get institutionalized in our regular routine as well as formats with protections to insure some modicum of fairness. Whether it be one, two or three fair debates and tv debates, I don't care much. Just get a consensus and move on.

    During an election year is no time to deal with this. Noem is rational to limit debates and she chose the Farmer's Union debate. Varilek is rational to call for as many debates as possible. In 2008, Johnson eliminated debates. Yell to high heaven all you want but Noem is not going to agree to more debates. Varilek would accept any debate in any location. In both cases, neither is better or worse.

    Each are reflecting the reality Noem is way ahead and Varilek would try anything that might change the reality.

    Rather than lamenting Noem won't fall into the challenger trap, I think we should collectively work/discuss to find the right mix fair to both and serves the greater purpose.

    As a starting point: One or two major "fair" debates (I personally lean to one so it has focus) per major race (Senate, Congressional, Governor) that rotates among the three or four (I wonder if Central States wants to be a host as that is regional vs. a "South Dakota" fair but that isn't my call). One year for instance the State Fair would get the Governor debate, Dakotafest the Congressional, and Sioux Empire the Senate. In the year we have only one major debate, the Constitutional Officers and Referendum/Initiated measures would be at the other fairs. We'd do that same thing with regard to TV debates.

    The path has been set for this year. No whining about it will change a single vote. Noem supporters will still vote for Noem. Varilek supporters will vote for Varilek. Noem will still win.

  6. Steve Sibson 2012.08.20

    Troy, you have to admit that the SDGOP went after Dems when they would not debate (Tim Johnson). I just hope the Dems implement some of Jana's ideas, then they can't complain when pictures of aborted persons show up.

  7. Steve Sibson 2012.08.20

    Jana, how about your man Matt telling women harmed by abortion that their hurt is illegitimate?

  8. Dave 2012.08.20

    Troy makes some good points in trying to defend Kristi ... but, in the end, we all know, thanks to Cory, that the DakotaFest "event" (I really doubt it can be called a debate) will be just a three-ring campaign circus, with a stacked audience bussed in by Kristi, and a host that has rigged the event so it runs in her favor. Since DakotaFest is made possible by an organization that can hardly be termed politically impartial, hopefully it will slowly dawn on the audience that the key elements to Kristi's "successful" campaign is not her ability or her accomplishments, but rather the support of sugar daddy campaign contributors like the Corn Growers (and the crowd in California, etc.) and her own hypocrisy.

  9. mike 2012.08.20

    McCauley is also Noem's attorney for her campaigns. If you see one of her petitions he is the legal signer on it.

    Hopefully this story you pointed out Cory gets some attention from the media.

  10. Troy Jones 2012.08.20


    Every argument you make against the DakotaFest debate is applicable in reverse on the State Fair debate. And, it proves my points:

    1) Varilek has no choice but to accept anything on any terms as he is behind. Noem has choice as she is ahead.

    2) People see "fair" through their own eyes. You think the State Fair is "fair" but not DakotaFest. Republicans see it the other way.

    The solution will only be found outside of the current realities of a particular campaign. This WhineFEST is not going to change anything.

    Those who want debates for the sake of debates need to get something done outside of the election year. Otherwise, we'll just always have each side complaining based on their own realities.

  11. mike 2012.08.20


    I'm upset that Noem won't hold open meetings or town halls. Cleary you don't think she is doing a great job being open to constituents.

    I don't care about the debate other than the fact that Noem has double standards and Cory is right to point them out.

  12. mike 2012.08.20

    The debate is on a wednesday so her federal staff should be there in force because they don't have anything else to do. The SF and Watertown offices will be empty do to their campaign interests.

  13. Troy Jones 2012.08.20


    Tom Daschle called for debates against Jim Abdnor. Barely if at all debated Char Haar and Ron Schmidt. Reluctantly agreed to a few with Thune.

    Double standards for him? Everybody sees things through their eyes. Daschle was for debates when it is in his interest. Against them when it is not.

    And, I'm not picking on Daschle except for the reason he is a Democrat to put the shoe on the other foot.

  14. Justin 2012.08.20

    I dont think anybody was claiming it wasnt her choice.

    Cory is just pointing out she is a liar and a hypocrite.

    Given her inability to sound intelligent in any scenario, it is probably the right choice for her.

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.08.20

    Troy, is it not just as rational to deduce that she's saying no because she's really bad at debating and that Varilek would take her apart? Doesn't that fear underlie your rationale?

    If debates lend themselves to mere bromides, then Noem is running from her best skill.

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.08.20

    Mike: McCaulley is her campaign attorney? Uff da! I didn't know that!

  17. Dave 2012.08.20

    Troy: I don't think anyone in South Dakota, up until about a week ago, ever had a notion that the "traditional" political events in the state -- including the DakotaFest debate and the State Fair Farmers Union debate -- had ever NOT been fair. Kristi is the first SD politician I can recall declining to participate in a "traditional" political event because she believes it is unfair. You can sneer "neener neener" at my earlier comment above, but that doesn't change the fact that Kristi felt she had to come up with a lame excuse about the state fair event while ducking it. I would think then, if she wishes to continue on that premise, that at the beginning of the DakotaFest debate she will tell the audience of the campaign financial ties between her and a lobbyist in the South Dakota Corn Growers which is hosting the event. And why it is okay for her to participate in the Mitchell debate but run away from the event in Huron.
    I know people like to bring up examples from the past -- Daschle and Abdnor, Johnson, etc., which is just a lame attempt to come up with an excuse for your politician's dumb decisions. Such talk serves as a big turnoff to voters. What they would like is a thorough discussion of ideas to solve some of the pressing issues our state and nation faces, and so far, that isn't happening in the U.S. House race. Kristi keeps coming up with excuses, such as the debate host is biased. Or she follows your playbook, Troy, and simply stays away from any event where she may be asked a tough question because she thinks she can just "coast." It may be a winning strategy for Kristi, but it's a plan in which she treats voters like a bunch of losers. Don't you think South Dakotans deserve to be treated better than this by their elected representative?

  18. Owen Reitzel 2012.08.20

    I think I'll have to take time off and go to the debate to try to even things up for Matt. I hope it won't get ugly

  19. grudznick 2012.08.20

    Is it wrong for a campaign manager to give money to the candidate? I don't know I'm just askin...I bet Mr. PP would know.

  20. Troy Jones 2012.08.20

    CH, KN did great against SHS. She can debate.

    Dave, for decades the State Fair debate has been known as going to the Dems home court. This is not new.

    I'm for a fully vetting of issues in a good spirited debate. But debates at fairs before what has always been before mostly two groups of partisan crowds isn't the only forum.

    That is why we need to get some plan that is fair for all over time. Otherwise, it will be this selective memory and standards that change based on whose the person ahead in the race.

    PS the outrage over McCauley is hilarious. I remember the same thing at the state fair. Secondly, if you can find a group in SD that is unbiased, I will show you agroup disengaged.

  21. Charlie Hoffman 2012.08.20

    Everyone can think anything they want to about anyone debating when and where for whatever reasons. Great points by both sides; though few votes here on this blog truly make a difference in the final outcome of the race. Doug Somke; a truly great guy and South Dakotan wrote an op-ed for the American News a few years ago praising the potential of Carbon Credits for South Dakota farmers. Those of us who do not believe that the world is coming to an end because of the burning of coal and fossil fuel believe that Carbon Credits will lower CO2 as well as buying 12 Cheese Cake credits will keep you from gaining weight if you eat a dozen pieces a day. The SDFU backs; as President Sombke stated in the op-ed, things that just don't add up to the conservative agriculturally backed science we know here in South Dakota will propel us into the 22nd century. Not back into the 20th driven by horses. (Cory you may ride your bike back and forth and get the job done but our factories and farms need more power than two legs can produce.)

    The real crux though is trying to run Matt McCaulley through the ringer as somehow manipulating what Representative Noem is doing with a few campaign contributions. No thread of reason connects those dots for anyone who is sane minded. But this is the political season and people do and say some strange things when their emotions take over their brains.

  22. Owen Reitzel 2012.08.20

    "That is why we need to get some plan that is fair for all over time. Otherwise, it will be this selective memory and standards that change based on whose the person ahead in the race."

    I agree Troy. I think a debate without the yelling and screaming would be nice.
    But the debate at the State Fair has been pretty fair for a long time even though the Farmers Union leans towards Democrats.
    If Kristi is true to her convictions it shouldn't matter who sponsors the debate. I think thats her problem now. She can't back up or explain what the Republicans in Washington are doing or what Romney is going to flip-flop on next.

  23. Justin 2012.08.20

    Thanks, Charlie its always worth a chuckle to hear conservative and science in the same sentence.

    But I thought we were talking abiut fashion show Barbie and her inability to debate.

  24. Charlie Hoffman 2012.08.20

    I praise my opponents Justin and you use inuendos. There is a difference in our debate attack mode.

  25. Justin 2012.08.20

    Such magnanimity from the guy who once called me an oxymoron, thinking it was an insult to me.

  26. Rorschach 2012.08.20


    A few years ago when it looked (ever so briefly) that cap and trade might become a reality, the Farmers Union as well as every other organization was looking for ways that people could make money on the legislation if it passed. Regardless whether you are for or against cap and trade, you should be able to agree that it's a good business decision to analyze it and see whether there may be profit for you. That said, the PPACA (Obamacare) is the law of the land so maybe you and I ought to both figure out how to invent a new mousetrap using the provisions of that law. If nothing else, reading it will cure your insomnia better than a 6-pack.

  27. Justin 2012.08.20

    Mitt Romney sure liked it.

    Surely that is rationale for Noem to avoid the RNC too? Being biased in the same way FU apparently is.

  28. LK 2012.08.20

    Do these talking points exchanges that are mislabeled as debates really change any voters' minds?

    Troy is right about the spectacle that voters are treated to every election year: incumbents who are safely ahead dodge being on the same stage as an underfunded challenger.

    Recent political debates feature a moderator asking inane questions that allows the candidate to say "I believe in good but my opponent is double ungood." Candidates then get to use buzzwords "liberal," "reactionary," "socialist," "radical." After each debate, spin doctors explain why their candidate "won."

    I can't remember the last time I heard a debate featuring candidates establishing and defending a logical position.

    I like good debate more than most people, but these events aren't debates.

  29. Garyd 2012.08.20

    Cory, I am having a hard time with the broad brush you are painting with the Corn Growers. First of all, you are correct that Doug Noem is a board member but what makes any difference in him being a second cousin to Kristi's husband. Is that any different than the Duffy's in Oldham, the Vanderwals in Volga or the Alverson's in Chester? In small town South Dakota most of the people are related in one way, shape or form.
    Do you realize that Jim Burg, former vice chair of the state Democratic party is on the board or the Keith Alverson is Vice president of the Corn Growers? His dad is hosting a fundraiser that same evening for Matt so is that some indication of where Keith might stand?
    Or perhap that one of the top 3 staffers is good friends with the former chief of staff for SHS?
    South Dakota is a small state with many interconnections so I think you are adding 2+2 =6 as far as the Corn Growers are concerned!

  30. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.08.20

    Indeed, Gary, Mitakuye Oyasin ought to be our state motto.

    And you make exactly my point: my brush is exactly as broad as the one Noem is using to whitewash her dodge of the Farmers Union debate. SDFU includes Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. It should be as acceptable as a debate host as the SDCGA.

  31. Jeff Barth 2012.08.20

    Matt should have a debate with or without her every week.

    [CAH: Jeff gets me thinking that Varilek should adopt U2's "With or Without You" as campaign theme song for the next two weeks. "Sleight of hand and twist of fate // on a bed of nails she makes me wait // And I wait without you...."]

  32. Charlie Johnson 2012.08.20

    KN refusal to debate in Huron is not a strategy for an incumbent to play it safe but rather a tactial mistake by a less than qualified congress person who now has propelled herself into dangerous territory of perhaps not getting reelected. The votes/support that she has lost while MIA for the Huron debate is far greater than if she had performed poorly in Huron.

  33. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.08.20

    MIA! MIA! That makes a much more useful abbreviation than the one Mr. Kurtz keeps working into our conversations. Great chant for town halls: Where is Kristi Noem today? M-I-A! M-I-A!

  34. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.08.20

    Charlie Hoffman, you totally overstate the point I'm making. I do not try to run McCaulley through the wringer or establish that he is manipulating Noem (though I can understand how you might incorrectly read that into the picture of MM stand behind KN on stage). I'm simply pointing out that MM is clearly a Noem partisan; MM works for SDCGA; therefore, MM raises concerns about SDCGA's ability to provide the kind of fair and non-partisan forum to which Noem says she will limit her "debate" appearances.

  35. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.08.20

    And yes, LK, these "debates" are nothing like real debates. I want to see two candidates forced to face each other for an hour and conduct a real conversation about real issues.

  36. John 2012.08.20

    The Corn Groaners are just welfare queens by another name.

  37. Jana 2012.08.20 Washington DC and at our State's Fair. Maybe a good name for Kristi would be Miss N Inaction.

    Just as a side note. In the last election, Stephanie Herseth granted Miss N Inaction 7 debates, even in hostile environments.

    Kristi won't even attend a West River debate to be hosted by the Rapid City Journal.

  38. Troy Jones 2012.08.21

    SHS agreed to seven debates because she was behind and knew it. Not because she was magnanimous.

    Look, I don't know if most of your posts are just an opportunity to beat up KN or you really want debates for debates sake.

    If it the former, you are singing to the choir (people who already won't support KN) and everyone else will remember your collective silence when the roles were reversed.

    If it is the latter, this will not accomplish anything in the short term or long term.

    My only purpose is to appeal to some here who care about issue debate about getting some universal format is more than the current general waste of emotion these debates are.

  39. Lee Schoenbeck 2012.08.21

    The comments about Matt McCauley are, well, unusual. Bob Mercer has a good post on the Corn Growers Executive Directors susbstantial contributions to Herseth. That track record would make the opposite point, mostly because your premise is, well, unusual. The Corn Growers are as bipartisan as they come. They do have a strong bias - about issues involving corn, which is, well, not unusual. The Farmers Union is an advocacy group that for a long time has been a dependable source of support for Democrats. It's their right to do that, but some times it has consequences, which is, well, not unusual.

    Having said that - all candidates would do well to take the Janklow attitude of any time you want, any rules you want. I always liked that in my own campaigns. But most won't, and it is without regard to political registration and it isn't a new phenomenon (Sig Anderson wouldn't debate Joe Robbie in the 1952 gov race). The leader never wants to draw a forum for the challenger, which is, well, not unusual.

  40. Anne 2012.08.21

    The comment about SHS is simply uninformed and dead wrong. It is absurdly ironic that it would be made in the same breath that accuses someone of "beating up" on an incumbent who has such a record of feckless bumbling.

  41. Justin 2012.08.21

    FU is an advocacy group but Matt McCauley isn't an advocate?

    Those comments are, well, unusually dumb. Which on reputation is, well, usual.

  42. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.08.21

    Troy, what planet did you watch the 2010 debates on? SHS killed Noem on facts and policy in the debates. Noem dodged questions much more frequently than SHS. (Remember, I'm a debate judge.)

    But suppose, Troy, that I accept your thesis that the number of debates in which the incumbent agrees to participate is inversely proportional to the size of her lead. May I then conclude that every additional debate that Noem accepts is a sign that her lead is narrowing? Consider that she has now accepted the RCJ's invite to debate. She skipped West River debates last time, which your thesis suggests is a sign that she knew she had West River wrapped up. Now she has to run out here and debate? Hmm....

  43. Julie Gross (NE) 2012.08.21

    --(Remember, I’m a debate judge.)


    My dad can beat up your dad.

    So what?

  44. Lee Schoenbeck 2012.08.21

    oops - that was the 1950 election, not 1952. And for the forensic folks above - Joe Robbie was a former Sisseton High School debator who had sought pointers from the Webster High School coach, after Robbie lost a debate to Webster. The gracious Webster coach, Sigurd Anderson, willingly gave the young lad pointers -- but unequivocally declined the debate invitation years later when the lad ran against then Attorney General Sigurd Anderson. fyi

  45. Justin 2012.08.21

    How is Julie doing on points?

  46. Julie Gross (NE) 2012.08.21

    Glad you asked Justin.

    Being well-versed in philosophy and the Socratic method (I was a Socratic method coach after all), I suspect that I'm winning 'cause you know, I'm an expert at counting, 'cause after all, I was the Math Counts coach.

    Wha'? My candidate lost the election? How could she? I watched the debate, and as a debate coach, she won hands down! I'M A DEBATE COACH but she lost the election?

    puff, puff, puff.

  47. Shelly 2012.08.21

    Sheesh, Julie. Do ya feel better now?

  48. larry kurtz 2012.08.21

    Control the federal bench, Dems: a vote against Kristi Noem puts impeachment control one click closer back into the hands of the 99%.

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