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On Sale Now: South Dakota National Guard!

Noem and National Guard troops decked out in sponsors badges and Noem 2024 campaign patches
This war brought to you by… you can see why this could be a problem, right?

Governor Kristi Noem is pimping out South Dakota’s soldiers for hire to the highest radical bidder. She’s letting Tennessee car parts billionaire Willis Johnson, who has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the party of insurrection and who met Noem at a Tennessee political fundraising event, spot the cash to send South Dakota National Guard troops out on a Mexican border photo op for South Dakota’s aspiring Presidential candidate:

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said Tuesday she will use a donation from a Republican donor to fund a deployment of up to 50 South Dakota National Guard troops to the U.S. border with Mexico.

…Willis and Reba Johnson’s Foundation made the donation directly to the state, [spokesboy Ian] Fury said. Willis Johnson, a Tennessee-based billionaire, is the founder of an online used-car auction called Copart. He regularly makes large contributions to Republicans, including $200,000 to the Trump Victory Committee last year [Stephen Groves, “GOP Donor to Fund Cost of Sending South Dakota National Guard Troops to Texas,” AP via Military Times, 2021.06.29].

Johnson says his purchase of troops is an expression of his patriotic duty to take his country back from an “idiot” President:

“I fought in Vietnam and a lot of my buddies died over there,” Willis Johnson told TPM in a Tuesday phone conversation. “And now we’ve got people saying we can’t even protect our own borders.”

“This President would rather help other countries than help America,” he added.

…“God gave America to us and God can take it away,” Johnson added. “If our people don’t protect it, then I don’t know what’s gonna happen.”

…Johnson told TPM that he had reached out to Noem about financing the deployment because Noem “stood up for America.”

…Johnson went on to call Biden an “idiot,” saying that the President “just wants to do everything that Trump didn’t try to do — he doesn’t care if it’s right or wrong.”

…“People don’t respect nothing unless they work for it,” Johnson said, referring to the Biden administration’s policies.

“You’ve gotta work for what you got, and you’ve gotta respect what other people has — but not shooting and killing and lying and raping and doing other kinds of stuff because they’ve got free money,” he added

“It’s just chaos with this President, and he don’t care,” Johnson added [Josh Kovensky, “Auto Scrap Billionaire Who Paid to Send National Guard to Southern Border Sounds Off on Why He Did It,” Talking Points Memo, 2021.06.29].

Johnson appears to be saying that if you aren’t happy with government policy and you are “really, really rich,” you should be able to buy military resources to implement your own policy, outside the regular processes of public appropriation and oversight. We the People are supposed to foot the bill collectively for soldiers and police to ensure that the state’s force of arms is always deployed in the public interest and not in the service of any private party or partisan minority. Letting private money grease the wheels for a military deployment sets a terrible precedent. What’s next: will Johnson and other wealthy Republicans buy National Guard time to send troops to break up protests against pipelines? Will they pay to ship even more Guards to the border so they aren’t available to respond to the next right-wing insurrection at the Capitol?

I’m not the only observer alarmed at this privatization of our military forces:

“We’re flabbergasted,” said Mandy Smithberger, a national security accountability expert with the non-profit watchdog Project on Government Oversight. “Our military and Guard should be used for advancing our national security and safety, and it’s extremely troubling to see the Guard’s actions being dictated and supported by a private donor. It sets a troubling precedent and risks further politicizing our forces.”

South Dakota State Sen. Reynold Nesiba, a Democrat, was similarly concerned that an individual donor is paying for the deployment. “SD National Guard members signed up to serve our state and country, not to generate airtime for our Governor on Fox News or to be mercenaries for some wealthy donor,” he tweeted. “Our National Guardsmen and women are not professional soldiers for hire” [W.J. Hennigan, “Billionaire GOP Donor Bankrolls National Guard Border Deployment,” Time, 2021.06.29].

At least one Republican legislator shares Senator Nesiba’s concern:

“It seems to me like our National Guard soldiers are hired mercenaries and whoever is willing to pay a certain amount of money, they are going to be sent off to go and do… Who knows what,” said State Rep. Aaron Aylward (R-Harrisburg) [AP and Austin Goss, “Private Donor Paying for S.D. Nat’l Guard’s Mission to Border,” KSFY, 2021.06.29].

Supporting the troops does not mean buying their time and trouble to carry out rogue national policy. It means exactly the opposite: resisting the privatization and politicization of soldiers so they answer solely to the will of the people, not the will of a handful of rich campaign donors.

57 Comments

  1. Hank 2021-06-30

    Are they still SD National Guard who answers to the Commander in Chief or are they now the “South Dakota Interstate Legion”, a separate paid mercenary force?

  2. Loren 2021-06-30

    Hank, according to a Washington Post article, because they are NOT federalized and it is a “state” operation and privately funded, Kernal Kristi is the commander of these forces, not Uncle Sam. I’m waiting for someone to make a bid for the Air Guard. They got the cool resources! :-0

  3. leslie 2021-06-30

    Her latest vain attempt to come up with her “next big thing”. In other words, Assume one of the 50 suffers a lifetime injury. Liability? Expert calls it a “stunt”. Our rodeo riding flag waving stunt lady in the oh—so tight orange (get it?) cocktail dress and Oath Keepers tactical cap. Stay “classy Kristie”! Like racist TFG.

    A “further step down that slippery slope.”

    @steve_vladeck
    To the second, I wrote last summer about a dangerous precedent of having what are effectively red state armies and blue state armies, even when it’s the federal government requesting assistance.

    https://lawfareblog.com/why-were-out-state-national-guard-units-washington-dc-justice-departments-troubling-explanation…

  4. Vi Kingman 2021-06-30

    Hopefully South Dakotans see what this really is-a political ploy. Noem needs something to propel herself to the national stage and she’s using this to get it. It has nothing to do with the border.
    Using our guard members as mercenaries is BS. If it isn’t illegal it should be and it’s definitley morally wrong.
    I’d also like to see Johnson’s record as far as what this moron actually did in Vietnam. These Trumpsters tend to lie just a little bit.

  5. Donald Pay 2021-06-30

    This is the most unAmerican thing we’ve ever seen.

  6. mike from iowa 2021-06-30

    Noem made this announcement from Mt Rushmore which included her latest spiel about no fireworks and it was raining. She’s a bigger spoiled brat than her mentor drumpf.

  7. John 2021-06-30

    How is this lawful?! noem has no jurisdiction outside of South Dakota.
    The guard is not federalized. Any injuries or disabilities will be federally covered under DOD’s Tricare, medical care, etc. Are Johnson, or noem personally on the hook for life to pay for any injuries or disabilities? Is the State on the hook to solely pay for these non-federal rabble-roushers? What are the implications of a member of the guard not following this illegal order?

    What do these governors think will be the next step . . . send corporate sponsored troops to open the Canadian border? Stop the immigration by basing them in Nicaragua? Open the beef and pork markets in China?

    The Chair of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe points out that noem was leaderless in helping State residents contain the COVID virus. She championed against helping contain the virus.

    The State’s senior senator belatedly sees how immigration is vital to run the tourism and agricultural agencies – working to increase labor immigration. noem’s actions fight against those industries.

    The federal government should immediately decrease funding and support to the National Guard in states pulling theses unlawful corporate rent-a-soldier stunts: Florida, Iowa, SD . . . .

  8. Porter Lansing 2021-06-30

    If I paid for a NG deployment, I’d want to be there giving advice to the officer in charge.
    It would be like playing Army men, only better.

  9. jerry 2021-06-30

    Putin will need some hired guns to protect his interests. As trump and Putin are bro’s, it’s only fitting for their gal pal to provide them… for her price. What is the going rate for guardsmen and women these days? As they are rented, who covers their health insurance if something happens? Will they be awarded a Purple Heart for wounds suffered at the hands of the perceived horde or will they just get a discount for used car parts?

  10. mike from iowa 2021-06-30

    The Tennessee auto-scrap billionaire who’s funding South Dakota’s deployment of National Guard members to the U.S.-Mexico border claims he’s doing so because immigrants are “killing and raping people” and spreading COVID-19, according to an interview with Talking Points Memo.

    Noem and johnson and drumpf, a lying threesome made in that other place.

  11. jerry 2021-06-30

    As Thune says we need those workers in South Dakota, could it be that the South Dakota National Guard will be smuggling/trafficking those workers here like in Iran/Contra? Our South Dakota National Guard may be cartel outlaws. Whenever you hear a republican open their yaps, know that someone paid them to do that.

  12. sx123 2021-06-30

    God gave it and God can take it away? but he can’t protect it?

    Gotta stock up on weapons and troops and control the most physics to do that. Funny how that works.

  13. John 2021-06-30

    The republican fascists never die; they change form.
    MG Smedley Butler wrote his famous antiwar book, War is a Racket, exposing how the US right wing governments abused the US Marine Corps for decades to represent the interests of corporations from Standard Oil, United Fruit, American sugar interests, banks, and others.
    “I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.”
    MG Butler served for 34 years and is 1 of 19 twice awarded the Medal of Honor. MG Butler was responsible for breaking up the corporate (coup) Business Plot against the White House in 1933 – a corporate-like January 6th attempt to overthrow the US government.

    noem should be recalled. noem’s fascists must be exposed and defeated at every opportunity. Our nation cannot long survive the neom fascists.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smedley_Butler
    ““I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.” “

  14. cibvet 2021-06-30

    My oath of enlistment did not have a expiration date. Must have been different for this rich moron or maybe if you don’t take an oath ( trump,kristi and etc), then the constitution is null and void. No surprise though as this was started with blackwater in Iraq and now it appears all military will be sold to the highest bidder.

  15. O 2021-06-30

    So if the National Guard is the military force of the Governor, and the Governor can order that force to rectify federal policy that she or he disagrees with, then I would expect there is a list of Governors who now realize missed their opportunity to send armed forces to the January 6th insurrection.

    I think the most repulsive line was: “God gave America to us and God can take it away,” Johnson added. “If our people don’t protect it, then I don’t know what’s gonna happen.” The inference is that these immigrants are Godless or in some way not favored by God. Keeping people in need from American resources and opportunity is not serving the Christian God (who I will bet Johnson is referring to); it does serve the golden idol worshiped at CPAC.

    Finally, Johnson is not looking out for America; he is looking out for himself. The idea that his wealth could be put at risk by others must terrify him. This is all about not sharing the enormous piece of the pie he has cut for himself. Unfettered selfishness is the core of the GOP.

  16. Mike Livingston 2021-06-30

    Could this be a trial run for how the GOP will assemble a militia to to save Ole kink donnie from commies?

  17. Mark Anderson 2021-06-30

    Gosh, why do you expect sanity from the lying losers. The South Dakotan’s can kick back in Austin have a few and relax.

  18. bearcreekbat 2021-06-30

    What’s next, a bounty on the scalps of immigrants? Some states apparently paid about $25 apiece for Native American scalps in the late 1800’s (even more for proof of murdering Native American leaders), so there is a precedent that Noem could follow. Noem could use some of Johnson’s money to pay for scalps of those dang moms, dads, and kids who have the audacity to seek asylum and hope for safety, freedom and some semblence of economic securty in the US. Imagine the nerve of those people!

  19. Eve Fisher 2021-06-30

    (1) Can we have proof that the “donation” Johnson gave the State of South Dakota is actually going to this deployment? (Personally, I think the whole thing smells like a feed lot.)
    (2) Since apparently there’s a price list for using our National Guard, can it be shared? I’m sure we all have some ideas.
    (3) Can we make this illegal? After all, one of the ways The Republic of Rome finally fell into dictatorship was because their legions became private armies for various rich men. And were used as such

  20. Turingtest 2021-06-30

    So the South Dakoka Nationa Guard is now a private army, like Hitler’s SS?

  21. Eve Fisher 2021-06-30

    Dicta, I know that the donation was given – I just want to know for sure if our Gov is going to use it for what she says she is – this deployment. Or is it going somewhere else? I just don’t trust her.

  22. cibvet 2021-06-30

    BCB—you are getting warmer as we are already paying a bounty on other varmints. Not a huge step for the blow queen to designate immigrants as vermin.

  23. Arlo Blundt 2021-06-30

    Well…if a hundred so called illegal aliens showed up in South Dakota tomorrow at 8AM they would be hanging dry wall, tarring roofs and shoveling silage by Noon. At on;y God knows what wage.

  24. MD 2021-06-30

    This whole thing stinks of manufactured controversy.

    This would hardly be a headline, except Noem wanted to include the line that it would be paid for by private donations. Sending 50 guard members for 60 days is not unheard of, and wouldn’t normally generate controversy over who is paying for it.

    Kristi’s play for attention related to the Mt Rushmore fireworks display failed because the ongoing drought made the no from the federal government a no brainer (much to her dismay). She needed additional controversy to try and stir up her brand while talk of 2024 starts up, so she jumps on this.

    She is trying to whip up Trump’s base to support her, so anything is fair game, even undermining the constitution. The logical people will be appalled, while the illogical people in the Trump base will be invigorated by the controversy.

    This is Noem’s “Critical Race Theory”

  25. MD 2021-06-30

    On a slightly lighter note, I saw a comment on an online post about Noem’s action that I thought was amusing
    “All Biden needs to do is sign an executive order recognizing the sovereign rights of Native Americans to the Black Hills, and I bet the National Guard would never leave the borders of South Dakota”

  26. DaveFN 2021-06-30

    And today Trump shows up in Texas.

    What will be the grand finale of this Abbott–Noem–Johnson–Trump miniseries with the longer term objective of taking back Congress?

    Sounds almost too cheesy for Trump, Jr and Lewandowski to mastermind, were it not for the mentality of their manipulated base, but…

    Any wager on 4th of July fireworks over the Rio Grande? And let’s throw in Kristi on a horse.

  27. mike from iowa 2021-06-30

    Noem quoted in Stars and Stripes kills irony as surely as she killed constituents with covid…. “The Biden administration has failed in the most basic duty of the federal government: keeping the American people safe,” Noem, a Republican, said in a statement. “The border is a national security crisis that requires the kind of sustained response only the National Guard can provide.”

    Drumpf did send guard troops to the border and Biden has carried on with that program.

  28. Donald Pay 2021-06-30

    I’d like to see Biden federalize the South Dakota Guard and order them back to South Dakota.

  29. mike from iowa 2021-06-30

    Slightly OT, in the there are things we know an d there are things we don’t know, We do know Donald the murdering dirtbag Rumsfeld has left the building still scratching his brains over Saddam Hussein.Buh-bye!

  30. Mike Livingston 2021-06-30

    What is the evidence that supports the claim that there is a national security crisis at the southern US border?

  31. Mark Anderson 2021-06-30

    Again, let them go crazy. It’s great for Democrats around the country. Republicans are proving to be just Trumpers and he can’t win, he’s a proven lying loser. At least he’s tearing the pub party apart Q boys and girls, please kept it up.

  32. W R Old Guy 2021-06-30

    I wonder who is supplying the equipment (vehicles radios,weapons, etc). It is all federal property and cannot leased out to a private company. I would guess the National Guard Bureau and several other federal agencies are taking a close look.

  33. O 2021-06-30

    Mark, I have to disagree with your Trump analysis. Although he lost the last election, we have to acknowledge that he did win the first one. As to him being a loser or winner, it depends who you ask. As to he and the Maga-maniacs tearing apart the GOP, I think more accurately what is happening is that they are DEFINING the GOP. They are pushing it to the extreme right/cult of personality. So many of the nay sayers and never-trumpets come around to the dear leader in the end. Although it seems that crazy should be inversely proportional to electable, this new lot has flipped that script. I would say for Noem specifically, crazy-MAGA is the only real path to election victory; what other path is there for her?

  34. mike from iowa 2021-06-30

    Tennessee billionaire is only subsidizing Noem’s militia and none of the other guv’s militias. Must be sweet on her or he wants first dibs on Ravnsborg’s next wreck and her national campaign trainwreck.in 2024,

  35. Francis Schaffer 2021-06-30

    W R Old Guy
    I was wondering the same.
    Donald Pay
    Federalize them once they are there if that makes them active duty military, and then invoke Posse Comitatus.
    Thoughts?
    Kind of disappointed in Jeff.

  36. Observer 2021-06-30

    Is this Noem’s final solution to her “Ravnsborg” problem?
    “As Governor I officially announce my utmost regret on the loss of….”

  37. DaveFN 2021-06-30

    Well, la dee dah. The workers, aka Willis Johnson, own/control/deploy the means of production, aka the National Guard and its functioning.

    Marxism, pure and simple. Did Gov. Noem afford herself to be the shill of Lewandowski in Trump’s continuing effort to destabilize democracy and its norms in his effort at cultural revolution? Your response, Governor Noem?

  38. RST Tribal Member 2021-06-30

    America’s Governor is at it again. The inbreds in Pierre and Washington are looking for sensibility in their collective empty heads. One way to look at the deployment; there are 50 SD citizens who will not get ran over by a distracted Republican officer or legislator driver during the 4th of July weekend.

    Humm, if a fool has enough money he/she/it can buy anything in South Dakota. A Governor. A legislator or several. An army. Anything. Going places with many faces could be the new tag line.

    Or, has America’s Governor gone a bit too far? Goodness if she loses in November 2022 those unqualified ballot counters in AZ will be counting in the Danny Event Ctr with lights, cameras and the inbred Republicans screaming stolen.

    Time for the good doctor to prescribe the weed to the Gov to take a load off. July 1 cannot come soon enough for her.

  39. Gwen 2021-06-30

    SO if I get into a disagreement with my neighbor can I hire the National Guard now to protect my fence line????

  40. Lottie 2021-07-01

    Money money money, the root of all evil, LOL
    KN continues to come up with more and more comedic acts. I bet other states are definitly aware of it. So embarrasing.

  41. mike from iowa 2021-07-01

    Wouldn’t a battalion of engineers be more likely to plot out a course for a border wall than harass legal migrants seeking asylum and safety in America?

  42. V 2021-07-01

    I, along with many others, shot Speaker Spence Gosche an e-mail about this usurpation of authority. This is his response.

    “Thanks for reaching out. I have definitely expressed the same concerns to the Governor on the issue of national guard deployment. Privately funded state militia deployments are concerning to say the least. Unfortunately, as part time legislators, there isn’t much that we can do when we are not in session, something that likely can’t happen unless the governor calls for it. The laws do allow this to happen and many of us are looking to further evaluate this authority. I will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that our brave men and women aren’t forced to step outside of their legal authority, ultimately putting them in harm’s way.”

    On a side note, the great news is the construction of the singing bridge will start on July 6, so I am excited for the completion of that project.

    Thanks again for reaching out, stay cool in the up coming weeks, and have a happy 4th of July!!!!

  43. Richard Schriever 2021-07-01

    “Our National Guardsmen and women are not professional soldiers for hire” Actually – since the end of the obligatory term of service to the country known as “the draft”, the USArmy et al, have in fact become an entirely professional organization. this is PRECISELY what the founders feared and why they approved the 2nd amendment – to AVOID the known bane of the professionalization of the military they had known as standard practice in Europe. In fact, much of the failure of the British forces in the revolution could be laid at the feet of the percentage of it that was comprised of Hessian and other mercenary professionals.

    Come on all you 2nd amendment advocates – WAKE UP. It’s the professionalization of the CONSERVATIVE US military that you have to fear – not the peacenik Liberals. Institute a system of mandatory public service for all 18 year-olds, military or non. End the professionalization of the US military. Institute a Swiss style system of management of the armory of the citizenry. every citizen serves. every citizen is armed. Every weapon and all ammunition is controlled at the local armory level – not by a military professional – but by a fellow citizen – a friend or neighbor performing their mandatory public service.

  44. Richard Schriever 2021-07-01

    This of course precisely Fascism as defined by Mussolini himself – The ownership and control of the workings of government (and the military) by private business interests.

  45. Jake 2021-07-01

    Schriever-YOU are so correct! Sweden (and others) do what you said.

  46. Lottie 2021-07-01

    KN flexing her arms to see what she can get away with and theres not a thing SD will do about it.

  47. jerry 2021-07-01

    I wonder what the family members of these pawns feel like knowing that their loved ones will be leaving them and their children for political purposes. Gotta hurt.

  48. O 2021-07-02

    I see that one Democrat state senator in California would like to also bid on the SD National guard so that they can come to his state and help stop hate crimes. As long as they are up for bid . . .

  49. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-07-02

    V, Gosch is mistaken: he and his fellow legislators can call themselves into Special Session if two thirds of the members of each chamber request in writing that they so convene (SD Const Article 3 Section 31). They could meet and impeach Noem and Ravnsborg.

  50. Whitless 2021-07-02

    Noem sets a terrible precedent by allowing a wealthy junk yard dealer to bankroll the deployment of national guard troops. It clearly undermines democracy. If South Dakota was a country, it would be the action of a weak leader of a third world country. As a nearly lifetime South Dakota resident, I’ve been dismayed by political leadership that debased the state by suspending usury limits to attract credit card companies, or passing laws that have made South Dakota a haven for the super wealthy from around the world to shelter their riches in trusts. Noem’s decision marks a new low, but one that is not surprising because Noem is ethically challenged and lacks an understanding of the principles upon which this nation was founded.

    Her poor decision making further illustrates why she should not be the governor of South Dakota and definitely not the president of the United States. Fortunately, this blunder is fodder to attack her lack of competent leadership by those who treasure democracy as well as her political rivals. Rivals like Governor DeSantis may not attack her directly, but there are plenty of proxies to shower contempt on her. I hope they do so.

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