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Video: Bjorkman Says Refusing Special-Interest Money Central to Fixing Congress

Tim Bjorkman, speaking in Aberdeen, SD, 2018.06.26. Photo by CAH.
The only thing Tim Bjorkman has to say to PAC money.

In remarks to an audience of 49 (non-staff, non-press) interested citizens in Aberdeen yesterday, Democratic candidate for U.S. House Tim Bjorkman made clear that rejecting special-interest money is central not only to his campaign but to his vision of fixing a broken Congress.

Bjorkman reiterated his pledge not to take money from political action committees or to participate in the “dialing for dollars” telemarketing that consumes more than half of the typical Congressperson’s day and which Senator Tim Johnson criticized in his farewell address to the Senate in 2014. Bjorkman also blasted the “dues system” in which leaders of both parties assign members to Congressional committees based on how much money they raise for the national party.

Bjorkman said this addiction to big money produces a Congress that is dedicated to the “ultra-wealthy” instead of the public good. He said big campaign donations explain why Congress can’t rein in rising health care and prescription drug prices. He said his Republican opponent, Dusty Johnson, is taking PAC money and will keep taking PAC money, meaning that he’ll take what I will call the Trump/Pruitt line in favor of Big Oil over South Dakota ethanol.

Bjorkman did not include Democratic Party money in his criticism of big money in politics, as he did in a June 7 press conference in Sioux Falls. That’s probably a good thing, as the audience included a number of local Democratic leading lights, including Sharon Stroschien, Deb Knecht, and Lars Herseth, who planned to walk across the street after the public forum at the library to a Bjorkman fundraiser at the ARCC. However, Bjorkman did repeat his desire to see Nancy Pelosi replaced as Democratic leader in Congress, a position he has maintained since he launched his campaign last July.

Bjorkman’s opening speech focused on the ills of special-interest money, but it also made several other salient points:

  • At 8:40, Bjorkman inserted his declaration of support for country-of-original labeling (COOL) for agricultural products, opposition to vertical integration in meat-packing, and desire to strengthen the Trump/Perdue-hamstrung Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration in favor of small producers.
  • At 10:10, Bjorkman roasted the Trump Administration for its “erratic” trade policy and demanded that our Congressional delegation “do more than wring their hands” and protect South Dakota from the Trump tariffs by reasserting their Article 1 Section 8 authority to regulate commerce with foreign nations.
  • At 15:20, Bjorkman, the father of veterans of foreign wars, said it’s a “moral wrong” for us to send our children to war and then dump on their generation the costs of that war due to our cowardly deficit spending.

After his remarks, Bjorkman took questions. To a compound question on Citizens United and public lands, Bjorkman returned to the theme of big money capturing Washington. He noted that Senator Thune took big money ($928,428) from big Internet service providers and let net neutrality die. He tied the public lands question to special-interest money as well, saying President Theodore Roosevelt created national parks and monuments to protect public lands from special-interest exploitation:

Asked why he didn’t run as an independent, Bjorkman noted that there are no independents in the House, thus implicitly acknowledging that running with a party gives a candidate a much better chance of winning. Bjorkman could have cited the example of Larry Pressler, who basked in the “glorious freedom of independence” from PAC money during his 2014 independent bid for U.S. Senate but only finished third. Bjorkman said “proud to say” that more of his inclinations lean toward the Democratic Party but that he has his disagreements with the party. He drew applause by saying that we need people “who put country over party again.”

Any debates coming? Bjorkman says debates will happen at DakotaFest in August and at the State Fair in Huron on Sunday, September 2. He also expects the usual TV debates.

Larry Stroschien asked Bjorkman how he avoids opposition attacks tying him to Nancy Pelosi:

How do we lower health care costs? Bjorkman recommends Medicare as a public option, a combination of mental health treatment and drug addiction treatment with work training to get people back into the workforce so they can afford health coverage, price transparency, community health centers, and standing up to Big Pharma to get cheaper drug prices.

Shared-parenting advocates are everywhere, persistently pushing their personal inability to keep their families together into public policy issues. The former judge, a member of the judiciary often deemed corrupt by angry dads who lose custody cases, turned the question more deftly than I do, acknowledging that he tried to rule from the bench for the best parent, saying he likes equal time when possible, but noting that the root problem is absent parents (who 85% of the time are absent dads) and citing data from his magnum opus law review paper that children in homes with a single parent and an unmarried lover face ten times more risk of abuse than children in married two-parent homes. Bjorkman also noted that South Dakota’s 2011 budget cuts led to a 35% drop in the number of children protected by the Department of Social Services and led our state to the lowest “screened-in rate,” the percentage of child abuse reports on which the Department of Social Services follows up, in the nation.

To a question on soybeans, trade, and tariffs, Bjorkman repeated his disgust with the “impetuous” behavior of the current White House and cited Congress’s Constitutional authority to manage international trade:

Note how often (three of the seven questions) Bjorkman turns the conversation back to Big Money. The issue of special interests co-opting our Congress appears to genuinely outrage the Democratic candidate, and he’s counting on voters to share and act on that outrage.


  1. Porter Lansing 2018-06-27 10:44

    I’ve not heard a political candidate speak of the abuse and neglect of single parented children with the true loving heart that candidate Bjorkman has … ever! This segment (for me) was the highlight of the session. Who knew that South Dakota has the lowest “screened-in rate,” the percentage of child abuse reports on which the Department of Social Services follows up, in the nation.
    Tim Bjorkman is an opportunity for South Dakota to rise in national status and should be chosen overwhelmingly by all political factions.
    WOW! So impressive.

  2. Roger Elgersma 2018-06-27 11:59

    When I got divorced 25 years ago the child protection people would ignore complaints from divorced parents. When leaving their office one day two of those women said to each other, ‘just another Dad trying to get custody”. Well I should have had custody but that is no excuse to ignore problems. I was not trying to get custody that day, but they were not at all trying to do their job. Later at a different meeting when they did not know who I was, they said that they ignore the 20% of reports of abuse because they are from divorced parents. So when we are guaranteed no justice ever no matter what by the divorce court judges and then again by child protection, they should figure out why 80% of the people want shared parenting. That is why the lawyers put through a totally fake shared parenting law a few years ago just to make the public think it would get better. Lawyers are more into psychologically conning the public than they are into justice. When Bjorkman wants to get at the source of the problem, he at least has a chance of improving the system.

  3. Debbo 2018-06-27 21:01

    I like what Bjorkman has to say. He’s smart, logical, experienced and obviously paid attention during his judgeship, learning a great deal from the people who came before him.

    So Tim, get more excited! Let your passion, enthusiasm and concern come through in your voice and gestures. You’ve got to stand out man!

    I’d vote for him.

  4. Adam 2018-06-28 09:58

    Needs to find his inner prosecutor, but I’m definitely voting for the guy.

    I think many special interest groups in Washington DC give a lot of reasonable people a larger voice and greater representation. They are all so very dedicated to people seeing issues ‘their way’ that, if not persuaded by them, still, we can all truly learn an awful lot by just listening to them when they blab on and on about the facts around issues they specialize in.

    Ask a liberal which specific special interest groups they hate, and they will name 3 to 5. Ask a conservative, and he/she will name “the Sierra Club“ as that will be all they can think of.

    Even the average conservative knows that the highest leverage special interests groups are mostly on their side; they just don’t want to admit it out loud.

    I just can’t help but feel like standing up to bad special interests, and accepting support from the good ones, is how candidates build a constituency, bridge the gap between ideologies and get elected.

    I hope Tim’s way works!

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-28 13:43

    For the record, if there are any special interest groups that want to support Tim and thus have a tub of money sitting around that Tim won’t take, I will be happy to put that money to use in my District 3 Senate campaign.

  6. Debbo 2018-06-28 14:05

    Cory, 😋. Pragmatist.

  7. Jason 2018-06-28 14:19

    Is he taking money from the teacher’s union special interest group?

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-28 16:15

    Check his FEC reports, Jason. The answer so far is no.

    Teachers unions, feel free to send your rejected Bjorkman dollars my way.

  9. mike from iowa 2018-06-28 16:45

    Pragmatist? No abortion for you, young lady. You made your bed, now lie in it.

    Pragmatist is not about being preggers? Never mind.

  10. Jason 2018-07-03 14:18


    What are you views on Marxism?

    Marxist philosophy, abortion, gun control, open borders and transgender advancement were among the political ideas marketed to educators and their classrooms last weekend at the National Education Association (NEA) annual union meeting, hosted at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

    As teachers perused booths retailing titles such as “Marxist Education,” “A World to Win, the Life and Works of Karl Marx,” and “How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America,” some attendees questioned the legitimacy of the union as a representative body. As one vendor put it, “[D]o you really think that the average joe, like a normal guy just off the street would come in here and be like yeah–this is what I think a teachers union should look like?”

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-07-03 15:37

    Jason, what’s your favorite chili recipe?

    Someone may have served chili at the NEA meeting, which Tim Bjorkman did not attend and did not mention in his remarks in Aberdeen last week. Bjorkman has not taken money from the NEA or from the American Marxist PAC or any other such special interest group.

    If you have a question that doesn’t fit a blog topic, I do have a contact form. You can also start your own blog.

  12. Jason 2018-07-03 15:40


    You said you would take money from the NEA That’s why I brought it up.

    You are the one running for office, not me.

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-07-03 18:55

    Jason, I’ll take your money. Write me a check. Watch me spend it on yard signs or radio time. I’ll even give you a special shout out by name on the disclaimer: “Paid for by Heidelberger Campaign Fund, with special support from Jason the Persistently Off-Topic Blog Commenter.” (or we can use your full name, your choice.) My accepting and spending your money doesn’t mean I believe in straw-man arguments, anarcho-capitalism, the oppression of women, or whatever other vile beliefs we might deviously ascribe to you. It just means I want to give you a chance to write letters to the editor lambasting Senator Cory Allen Heidelberger. Come on, you know you’d enjoy that….

  14. Porter Lansing 2018-07-03 19:33

    Your last campaign Jason went by the name Lynn and branded us the “pot blog”, told lies continually and took way too much of the candidate’s time. (He even used his mom Donna to set up Muslim hate groups in Aberdeen.) Standing on his neck every day of this campaign should be a mission for us all.

  15. Jason 2018-07-03 23:00


    Are you saying you won’t tell the people of your District what you think or believe in regards to the NEA? Are you a member of the NEA?

  16. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-07-05 09:02

    There you go again, Jason, down a tangential track, trying to create some false impression, always on the lookout for a “When did you stop beating your wife” campaign blip rather than an intelligent contribution to what’s been said.

    Jason, you haven’t indicated any interest in chili recipes. Are you saying you won’t tell the people of your District what you think of their chili? Are you insulting your neighbors’ cooking?

    I’ve made my position clear. I’ll take NEA’s money. I’ll take your money. That doesn’t mean that I agree with every word or action of the NEA or you. Of course, I’ve never received money from NEA or you. As far as I know, NEA does not contribute to South Dakota Legislative campaigns. Do you? I have received money from SDEA, and hope to again.

    I believe that teachers, like every other group of workers, have a right to organize and fight for their labor rights. I believe that Bjorkman will take better pro-worker stands than Dusty Johnson.

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