South Dakota Congresswoman Kristi Noem is once again facing attendance allegations. Noem's Democratic House of Representatives challenger, Matt Varilek, says Noem has missed more than 75 percent of the House subcommittee meetings on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs. Noem says the accusations are a non-issue.
Varilek came forward with similar accusations this past summer regarding the freshmen congresswoman's committee meeting attendance. Noem maintains she is doing her job and misses meetings because of her demanding schedule.
“I serve on three major committees and nine subcommittees. Many times those committees are meeting at the exact same time. I have to wake up every day and look and see where I can be most effective for South Dakota,” she said via phone from Clear Lake, South Dakota.
“This absolutely undercuts her explanation for the first set of absences on the Ag Committee. She said she couldn't go to the Ag Committee because she had other priorities on other committees, and now we find out it was the Native American Subcommittee,” Varilek said.
Varilek says Noem has missed 17 of 22 Native American Affairs subcommittees since she took office two years ago. Noem issued a report detailing why she did not attend those meetings.
“We have a very significant Native American population and significant issues there. And committee work is where work gets done,” Varilek said.
Noem says some of those meetings focused on issues in other states, not on South Dakota's Native Americans. Other days she was traveling or attending other meetings. Noem says she has worked on issues important to our state's tribes.
“I've been very aggressive on the issues that concern them, such as carrying a bill that would protect their sovereignty when it comes to National Labor Relations Board, making sure Native women have the opportunity to petition for restraining orders in Federal Court rather than just Tribal Court,” Noem said.
And Noem says this latest attack is an effort to avoid the issues, while Varilek says his campaign is doing its part by bringing up a big issue.
“There's no back-up,” Varilek said. “And so if she is not speaking for South Dakota in the House, that means no one is. Our voice deserves to be heard on Native American issues, ag issues and issues on behalf of all South Dakotans.”
“I have a 99 percent voting record in committee and on the floor and that's important to me,” Noem said. “I'm where I can do the best good for South Dakota.”