South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem Faces Ethics Questions After Ad for Texas Dental Practice

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Sitting in front of a camera for a well-lit, high-production vertical video with the kind of captions created for silent viewing while scrolling through social media, a SmileTexas patient near Houston tells viewers about traveling from out of state to get his teeth fixed.

The patient, whose teeth needed to be treated for years after a bicycle accident, says in the video that she started crying when she saw her new smile.

“I love my new family at Smile Texas! The video says it all and I am very grateful for your help in fixing my smile,” reads the caption of the photo. video post, shared on various social media platforms.

It could have been a testimonial from any of SmileTexas’ patients, including to the famous chef, influential people, contest contestantsto Professional athlete and a reality starall of which have also appeared in promotional content for the practice.

But the patient in the latest testimony was Kristi L. Noem, the Republican governor of South Dakota, who is considered a possible running mate for former President Donald Trump in 2024.

“This elegant protagonist @govkristinoem “I just received a beautiful, feminine, executive smile here at Smile Texas,” said Bret Davis, the dentist who worked on Noem. he wrote in an Instagram post.. “Later I will post how we got this kind, calm, brave patriot to smile!”

The video, posted to the governor’s social media accounts last week, sparked a firestorm of criticism, a lawsuit and a possible ethics investigation questioning whether she participated in an undisclosed ad or used state resources.

Two spokespersons for Noem did not respond to requests for comment.

The practice, more than 1,000 miles from the South Dakota governor’s mansion in Pierre, regularly works with influencers, many of whom travel from out of state to fix their smile.

It focuses on cosmetic dentistry and dental implants, and boasts an in-house pianist and a dedicated film room. It also promotes travel in practice, listing local accommodation and taxi services on its website.

Federal Election Commission data shows that two dentists photographed with Noem, including Davis, have donated in support of Republican political candidates, including Trump, over the years.

Noem’s promotion of medical tourism, without adequately disclosing it in the ad title or video, is the target of a recent lawsuit from the non-profit organization Travelers United. It is unclear whether Noem received any compensation for the services he received in Texas.

Lauren Wolfe, an attorney for Travelers United who has handled other cases involving travel influencers, said that if the governor “was able to try a basic receipt… that she paid full price for these services, we will be happy to drop the case.”

Alexandra Roberts, a professor at Northeastern University School of Law, noted that the Federal Trade Commission has been sending aggressive messages “about the requirement to disclose any type of material benefit” to social media influencers.

“They have everything about what kind of hashtags [to use] and where the hashtags go,” he said. “And they’ve sent out a ton of warning letters, both to influencers and the companies that pay them.”

An effort is also brewing at the South Dakota Capitol to launch an investigation into the governor’s trip.

South Dakota state Sen. Reynold Nesiba (D) asked the Republican co-chairs of the legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee to put the issue on the agenda for the next meeting in July.

Nesiba said he has questions about whether public funds were used for his trip to Texas. He also questioned whether the trip was an attempt to appeal to Trump, who has publicly praised allies whose appearance seems straight out of “central casting.”

“It just seems like a very timely political stunt to raise his national profile and get the attention of the former president. “This all looks and feels like a political move to try to increase her chances of getting the nomination to be vice president of the United States,” Nesiba said.

But there has been mixed interest among committee members in addressing the issue, he said.

This is not the first time the committee has been asked to investigate Noem’s behavior in office.

The commission was responsible for a legislative report. finding that Noem’s daughter received preferential treatment when she applied for her real estate appraiser license in 2020.

Nesiba said that in addition to raising questions about the use of public funds, the governor’s trip to Texas for dental work contrasts with her efforts to bring workers to South Dakota, including appearing in recurring ads. where he fills several vacant positions to show that they are hiring in the state.

“One of the jobs he disguises is that of a dental hygienist, telling people to come to South Dakota because we have dental openings. And then here she goes to Texas to get dental work done. I just found it disappointing,” Nesiba said, adding that dentists in South Dakota have expressed anger over Noem’s video in Texas.

Since posting the SmileTexas video, the governor has posted two iPhone-style videos to her social media accounts. business promotion in South Dakota.

At an orthotic store in Rapid City, with a bag in her hand and employees on either side, the governor says the store built her new shoe inserts and adds: “I’m going to be perfect. “Now I’m going to be like the Bionic Woman.”

Noem, posing with the owners of a Spearfish coffee shop, says, “This coffee shop is amazing. … You will enjoy it. “They love America.”

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