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Noem’s 2021 National Guard Publicity Stunt Cost $1.45M

Tennessee junk billionaire Willis Johnson gave Governor Kristi Noem a million dollars to send the National Guard to the southern border to get What-a-Burger and give Noem another excuse to campaign in Texas. Johnson’s gift, then unethical and now illegal, covered about two thirds of the total cost of this wasteful and harmful stunt, says Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington:

Governor Kristi Noem’s deployment of the South Dakota National Guard to the Texas border cost $1,451,699.59, according to new records obtained by CREW through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

The deployment, which was funded in large part by a $1 million donation from billionaire GOP donor Willis Johnson, immediately raised legal and ethical concerns by seemingly offering a private donor unprecedented control over the National Guard’s deployment. The rest of the deployment was likely covered by a state emergency fund. The costs covered salaries for 48 national guard officers, equipment including 11 humvees, flights to Texas and lodging.

Governor Noem sent the South Dakota National Guard to Texas to support “Operation Lone Star,” an initiative started by Texas Governor Greg Abbot purportedly meant to stop cartels and smugglers, but that has largely resulted in thousands of asylum seekers and migrants being arrested for trespassing on private property. Some Texas National Guard have called the operation “aimless, political and oversized” and were stationed over 80 miles away from the border to protect ranches owned by the wealthy and politically connected. South Dakota National Guard troops were deployed to the state for 70 days—meaning that the state spent more than $20,000 a day to support a public relations stunt [Lauren White, “Kristi Noem’s Border Stunt Cost $1.5 Million,” CREW, 2022.05.05].

$20,000 a day—wow! Kristi’s private video studio doesn’t cost anywhere near that amount to operate, and she gets much better public relations from all those live sit-downs with Fox News.

Noem continues to throw Guard resources into border posturing by signing South Dakota onto the “American Governors’ Border Strike Force,” which smells like a vague ploy by 26 Republican governors to set up their own shadow military. Let’s hope her continued photo-opping of our National Guard doesn’t leave us shorthanded when we need them to respond to tornados, floods, and other real problems in South Dakota.


  1. Nick Nemec 2022-05-11 08:52

    Meanwhile we can’t find the money to pay for one dedicated investigator to work in South Dakota investigating cases of missing native women. It’s all about priorities.

  2. BobJ 2022-05-11 10:07

    Queen Kristi, needs to have here wings clipped. I am looking at you legislators, and voters!

  3. All Mammal 2022-05-11 17:09

    Mr. Nemec- I recently heard Rapid City Police Chief, Don Hedrick will be assuming the role of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women investigator position. So I’ve heard. Actually, I consider that a stellar choice.
    As far as how desperately we rely on our state’s National Guard, while Noem was forcing them to turn tricks for her ‘benefactor’ last year in TX, the Auburn Fire, north of Rapid City burned for at least 2 weeks! Noem showed up to pose with the fire as her dramatic backdrop. Made me toss my cookies. Her cameo was completely pretentious and didn’t help put firefighting boots on site. I fear frizzy hair might be enough to set the whole dry thing on fire this summer. Forecast looks bleak.

  4. Mark Anderson 2022-05-11 19:12

    Come on folks, apart from the snow, Kristi’s Queen for a day.

  5. Arlo Blundt 2022-05-11 21:04

    Do documents actually exist that Willis Johnson gave a million to the State of South Dakota?? Where was it deposited and how was it disbursed?? Who got the cash and how???

  6. Mark Anderson 2022-05-12 09:34

    It is an authoritarian little state now Arlo, isn’t it?. Anybody have Willis Johnson’s address? I could use some invisible cash. I’d switch sides for a million five. Nahh it’s just the lyrics speaking.

  7. Marie 2022-05-13 13:45

    Priceless. For Governor Noem, $1.45 million to send South Dakota’s National Guard on a feckless “me too” MAGA Governor’s Texas border security excursion–no problem.

    But for South Dakotan’s today, when Governor Noem was asked whether additional South Dakota National Guard troops would be called up to assist with Thursday’s , May 12, 2022 widespread storm damage, Governor Noem was quick to respond that the National Guard was the most expensive emergency response we had,, and that it must be paid for–no further National Guard callups were planned.

  8. R Morrison 2022-05-14 08:24

    So, I understand that she declared a “State If Emergency” for the storm affected areas.
    If I am not mistaken that would give her federal Funds to pay for it! She sure had no problem spending money on the guard sending them to Texas.
    She sure would do better if she would prioritize her agenda and the needs of All South Dakotans.

  9. Darrell Solberg 2022-05-14 10:37

    Noem has discovered if you lie enough, even the liar begins to believe the lie!! When is her lying and corrupt ways going to catch up so her?

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