Thune Pays Tribute to Tim Johnson on Senate Floor

Thune Pays Tribute to Tim Johnson on Senate Floor

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) took to the Senate floor today paying tribute to retiring Senator Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota). Below are video and transcript of his remarks on the Senate floor.

“Mr. President, I rise today to bid farewell to my colleague and friend, Senator Tim Johnson.

“Tim has deep roots in South Dakota and in the towns of Canton and Vermillion in particular.

“He has served our state for more than 35 years, first in the state legislature, and then, after winning a highly competitive primary against two well-known Democrat opponents, in the halls of Congress.

“In 1996, after a decade in the U.S. House of Representatives, Tim won the first of his three terms in the U.S. Senate.  I am well acquainted with his second election because I came out on the short end of that stick.

“But I’ve had the privilege of serving with him in the South Dakota delegation for over 16 years, and today I want to pay tribute to his many years of public service and all he has done for our home state.

“I’d also like to take a moment to thank his staff for their dedicated work.

“They have worked closely with my staff for many years, and I’m grateful for their efforts.

“Mr. President, like many South Dakotans, I will always remember Tim as a fighter.

“South Dakotans are tough, rugged folks, and Tim has exemplified that spirit every day in the U.S. Senate.

“A big part of his legacy as a public servant will be his tenacity, his work ethic, and his unwavering focus on the policies that he believed to be in the best interest of South Dakota.

“Tim and I haven’t seen eye-to-eye on every issue, but we’ve always been able to come together and work for South Dakotans in times of crisis.

“From drought relief, to flood and tornado responses, to protecting the Black Hills from wildfires, Senator Johnson and I have always been able to quickly respond to the needs of our state, regardless of party differences or past disagreements.

“Mr. President, when you represent a state like South Dakota, what some people call a “flyover” state – a state some of our colleagues here in the Senate occasionally mix up with North Dakota – there are days when it can seem like the concerns of rural Americans aren’t given fair consideration, that the needs of rural America are not being heard by the administration or the more densely populated coastal states.

“I have had the great pleasure of working with Tim to bring a voice to the concerns of rural America and those of us who hail from the middle of the country.

“To highlight just one of the many examples I could bring up, since his first term in Congress Tim has fought for water infrastructure to deliver clean drinking water to families in South Dakota and throughout the Great Plains.

“Water is a vital resource in the rural expanses of South Dakota, and Tim’s efforts have helped meet this basic need in underserved Indian reservations, small towns, and rural areas across the state.

“These investments will pay dividends well beyond his tenure in the Senate.

“Throughout Tim’s long career in public service, from his beginnings in the South Dakota Legislature to his ascension to the chairmanship of the Senate Banking Committee, he has had a hand in numerous efforts that will help South Dakotans and Americans alike for generations to come.

“And I know I speak for all South Dakotans when I say thank you for your dedication and service to our great state.

“Tim, it’s been an honor to serve with you here in the Senate.

“Thank you for your example, your efforts on behalf of our beloved South Dakota, and most of all, for your friendship.

“On behalf of my wife Kimberly and myself, I wish you, Barbara, and your family the very best as you begin a new chapter.”


Harry Reid’s head-scratching sendoff to Tim Johnson

No wonder Harry Reid didn’t support Rick Weiland. Weiland just hadn’t been able to win any prior elections in Ohio:

Reid spoke of Johnson’s electoral success and talked of rushing to the hospital in 2006 where Johnson was being treated for bleeding on the brain caused by a cerebral arteriovenous malformation, a condition Johnson had unknowingly been living with since birth.


Reid erred a couple of times near the end of his seven-minute speech. He said Johnson fought for “the people of Ohio,” and he said Johnson beat Larry Pressler by 524 votes in 2002 and then received Pressler’s endorsement in the next election. Johnson did get an endorsement from Pressler in 2008 after beating Pressler in a previous Senate race, but their race was in 1996 and the margin was about 8,500 votes. Johnson’s 524-vote margin of victory was in 2002 against current GOP U.S. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota.

Read it all here.

What a difference being a lame duck makes; Johnson only no vote among Keystone XL States

As Mary Landrieu scrambles for her 60th and deciding vote on the Keystone XL pipeline to be held this afternoon, an interesting fact has come to light about who is voting for, and who is voting against moving forward on the long languishing Keystone XL pipeline.

If you look at the route of the pipeline:

…there are a number of states involved. North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Texas, etc., are all involved in the existing pipeline. The specific Keystone XL component that’s being argued about runs through Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska.

In those three states, all three Governors support the Keystone XL pipeline. And in those states, almost all of the congressional delegations support it. Montana’s Walsh & Tester are both on record for it. So is Republican Congressman Daines. Nebraska’s Fischer & Johanns, Fortenberry, Terry & Smith are all in on Keystone XL. And In South Dakota US Senator John Thune is for it, and so is Kristi Noem.

And then there’s Democrat Tim Johnson.

Among the congressional delegations and the Governor, US Senator Tim Johnson, who is effectively in Lame Duck status after taking a pass on running again is unique among the three states as being the only no vote to the pipeline.

Traditionally, Johnson had driven along the middle of the road on issues, playing it safe and keeping a majority Republican constituency happy. But after announcing his plans to retire from the US Senate, his politics have veered a hard left.

Changing positions on same sex marriage, and voting with the president on a near constant basis, Johnson has effectively aligned himself in lockstep with President Obama, and gives little voice to the Republicans who put him in the seat 6 years ago.  Which likely puts Keystone out of reach until next January.

While the November elections selected a Republican successor in Mike Rounds, until Rounds takes his seat, don’t expect Tim Johnson to give an inch, despite what his constituents are calling for.  As recently as October 30th, these South Dakota constituents supported keystone on a 60/30 basis. Those are not insignificant numbers.

What a difference 60 days will make. And, what a difference being lame duck makes.

Tim Johnson siding with Obama Administration on Keystone XL.

As far as Tim Johnson is concerned, Obama’s stonewalling on Keystone is more important than South Dakota jobs. Why? Because Johnson just announced he’s a no vote:

Sen. Tim Johnson said Friday he would vote against the Keystone XL pipeline if the Senate brings the much-delayed project up for a vote next week, a potential blow for supporters who are struggling to get the 60 lawmakers they need to pass the measure.


The pipeline has been consistently supported in the GOP House but delayed in a Democratic-controlled Senate. In January, Republicans will regain the majority in the Senate with 53 or 54 seats, so it could have little trouble passing the bill next year. Republican Sen.-elect Mike Rounds, who is replacing Johnson in the Senate for South Dakota, supports the pipeline.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., told reporters Thursday that Keystone needs to pass to create jobs and ease the strain on railroads that have seen oil carloads soar in recent years due to a surge in production in the Bakken field.

Read it here.

So, Obama who has stonewalled on the project for years is more important to Tim Johnson than South Dakota Jobs, South Dakota Tax revenue, and South Dakota grain producers.

Too bad. It’s a black mark on his record as he exits the political arena.

So, where is Tim Johnson?

From the National Review:

With 60 votes, the embattled Louisiana Democrat could secure a filibuster-proof majority to approve the Keystone XL pipeline when a bill she has sponsored authorizing the project comes to the Senate floor next Tuesday.

But Landrieu does not appear to have 60 votes—at least not yet.

There have looked to be 57 Senate votes in support of the long-stalled project, which would transport heavy crude from Canada’s oil sands to refineries along the Gulf Coast. And in the last week, that count has risen to 59.

Read it here.

So, where is Tim Johnson going to be on this vote? Is he siding with Obama and will vote to block aporoval? Or will he side with his Democrat colleague and South Dakota, and will vote to approve it?

Press Release: Delegation Calls on FEMA to Update Sioux Falls Flood Map

Delegation Calls on FEMA to Update Sioux Falls Flood Map

John_Thune_official_photoWASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senators John Thune (R-South Dakota) and Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota), and Representative Kristi Noem (R-South Dakota) today sent a letter to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director Fugate calling on the agency to develop a new flood map for Sioux Falls as soon as possible.

Over the past several years, the City of Sioux Falls has worked withkristi noem headshot May 21 2014 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the congressional delegation to upgrade the levee system along the Big Sioux River and Skunk Creek, taking the necessary flood protections to help protect nearly 1,600 Sioux Falls residents and businesses under FEMA’s expanded 100-year floodplain. These homeowners and businesses have been required to purchase flood insurance due to the potential hazard the previous levees posed to flooding the area. It is now up to FEMA to work with the community to issue a new flood map for Sioux Falls based on the upgraded levee system.

The delegation writes, “Now that the Corps has certified the levee upgrades, it is critical that FEMA work with the city to approve a new flood map that accurately reflects these community and federal investments in enhanced flood protection as soon as possible. Any unnecessary administrative delays in adopting an updated map would result in prolonged and avoidable financial hardships on affected families and businesses.”

The text of the delegation letter follows:


September 10, 2014

Mr. William Craig Fugate
Director, Federal Emergency Management Agency
Federal Center Plaza, 500 C Street, SW
Washington, DC 20472

Dear Director Fugate:

We write to request your prompt action on finalizing a new flood map in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

For the past several years, the City of Sioux Falls, the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), the State of South Dakota, and the South Dakota congressional delegation have worked to upgrade the levee system along the Big Sioux River and Skunk Creek, which was originally built in the 1950s. At the delegation’s urging, the city took the extraordinary step to advance fund the federal government’s outstanding federal obligations to accelerate the necessary flood protections, which are now complete. On August 22, 2014, the Corps notified the city that the levees have been certified for the design storm flows. Accordingly, the city and the Corps have submitted the Letter of Map Revision to your office to commence the drafting of a new flood map in Sioux Falls.

Following Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) began a review of the Flood Insurance Rate Maps that resulted in an expansion of the 100-year floodplain and requirement for an additional 1,600 Sioux Falls residents and businesses to purchase federal flood insurance. The expanded threat of flooding posed a potential hazard to the community and created a financial hardship for families and businesses. Now that the Corps has certified the levee upgrades, it is critical that FEMA work with the city to approve a new flood map that accurately reflects these community and federal investments in enhanced flood protection as soon as possible. Any unnecessary administrative delays in adopting an updated map would result in prolonged and avoidable financial hardships on affected families and businesses.

We thank you for your timely response to this request and welcome the opportunity to meet with you at your earliest convenience to discuss the importance of finalizing the new flood map as soon as possible.




Tim Johnson versus Kristi Noem on saving the Hot Springs VA.

From You Tube comes a documentary clip of a group trying to Save the VA in Hot Springs as they speak on the phone to a member of Tim Johnson’s Staff:

An stirring moment of a “Save the VA” meeting during a conference call with Senator Tim Johnson’s staff where Vietnam veteran Don Ackerman pleads for a Congressional field hearing to address the “lies” told by VA leadership in justifying the proposed closure of the VA in the highly rural Hot Springs, South Dakota, a town known as “The Veterans Town.”

From the forthcoming documentary, “The Veterans Town.” The documentary shows how, in some of the most politically turbulent years in recent history, one small South Dakota town unites, crossing every political, racial and belief border, to try to save their century-old VA hospital, which serves three highly rural midwest states, including the nearby Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

Tim Johnson says on his web site ….

“We must provide our veterans with the quality health care they deserve and were promised. It is for this reason that I am proud to serve as the Chairman of the Senate Military Construction and VA Appropriations Subcommittee. This Subcommittee is responsible for providing funds to run the Veterans Administration and associated agencies. As Chairman, I will continue working to provide the VA with the timely and full funding it needs.”

 Read it here.

But if you look at the video, it would not appear that his staff is following that line in South Dakota.

That was several months ago. How is Tim Johnson addressing the problem at the moment?

Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) is greeted by Phyllis Karolevitz of Yankton during a gathering held at the Yankton Community Library Tuesday afternoon. The event was part of Johnson’s “farewell tour” across South Dakota. The Vermillion native is retiring from the U.S. Senate after three terms.

Read that here.

As Chairman of the Senate Military Construction and VA Appropriations Subcommittee, Johnson, despite being in a position to do what his veteran constituents are literally begging for, does not really seem to be doing much to move President Obama’s administration.

Compare that to what Congresswoman Kristi Noem, a member of the opposition party to the administration just announced today:

Noem to Host VA Committee Hearing on
Hot Springs Hospital Thursday

Rapid City, S.D. – Rep. Kristi Noem will be hosting a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on Thursday, August 14, at 10:00AM (MT) on the issues faced by the Hot Springs Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital. A media availability will be held immediately after the hearing at approximately 1:00PM (MT). The hearing will look to further investigate the VA’s proposed restructuring of the VA Black Hills Health Care System.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

WHAT: Noem to Host House Veterans Affairs Committee Hearing: Challenges in Rural America: Infrastructure Needs and Access to Care
WHEN: Thursday, August 14 – 10:00AM (MT)
WHERE: Mueller Civic Center (801 S. 6th Street, Hot Springs)
• House VA Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (FL-1)
• House VA Committee Vice-Chairman Gus Bilirakis (FL-12)
• Representative Adrian Smith (NE-3)
• Bryan Brewer, President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe
• Amanda Campbell, Member of the Save the VA Committee
• Tim Jurgens, South Dakota American Legion Commander
• Bob Nelson, Co-Chair of the Save the VA Committee
• Pat Russell, Co-Chair of the Save the VA Committee
• Larry Zimmerman, South Dakota Secretary of Veterans Affairs
• Stephen DiStasio, VA Black Hills Director
• Dr. Steven Julius, VISN 23 Chief Medical Officer

WHAT: Noem, Miller, Bilirakis to Hold Media Availability on Hearing
WHEN: Thursday, August 14 – Immediately following the hearing (approx. 1:00PM MT)
WHERE: Mueller Civic Center (801 S. 6th Street, Hot Springs)


Would it be appropriate for Tim Johnson to postpone his farewell tour until the issue with the Hot Springs VA is resolved?

The ever evolving $200,000 donation from Tim Johnson to the Democrats.

The $200,000 donation from Tim Johnson to South Dakota Democrats seems to prove the theory of evolution…. because like some mutation, in acceleration of Darwin’s theories, it keeps evolving by the hour.

First off, we had twitter reports about the donation:

and through the associated press:

The Yankton Press and Dakotan reports that Tim Johnson made the announcement at the State Democratic Convention in Yankton Friday night.

Johnson says he’ll be transferring the remaining funds from his Political Action Committee to the party.

Read it here.

And it percolated for a day or so, with David Montgomery initially reporting the AP story…. but then adding a new wrinkle:

The Associated Press says that this money isn’t coming from Tim Johnson’s personal campaign account. Rather, they say it’s coming from his leadership political action committee, the “South Dakota First” PAC.


But I’m not sure if they can do this — a political action committee can give no more than $10,000 to a given state or local party (PDF). Only candidate committees can make unlimited donations to parties. I’ve reached out to try to clarify.

Read that here.

Oops!  Federal law could prohibit that donation?  Doh! Unfortunately, Monty took leave of his critical thinking skills, and after Tim Johnson’s staff has had sufficient time to attempt an odd if thinly plausible solution, we have an even more bizarre accounting of how they intend to give this cash….   and it was what they intended all along. Maybe:

FIRST: this gift isn’t going to do a thing to help South Dakota Democrats win in November.

“It’s not going to take place until Tim’s term has concluded,” wrote Drey Samuelson, Johnson’s chief of staff, in an email, about the $200,000 transfer.

That means January 2015 at the earliest, barring any unusual developments.

SECOND: The money is coming from Johnson’s PAC, but it’s probably not subject to federal campaign finance rules.


THIRD: The lump sum of money isn’t intended to support an ad campaign, or an army of volunteers.

Most unusually of all, this $200,000 isn’t intended to be spent all at once — or even at all, really. Rather, Samuelson writes, the intent of the donation is to set up a sort of endowment that will give the party an annual income off the fund’s interest.

Read it all here.

Montgomery’s editors must have clipped off that part where he quotes himself saying “Gee Drey, that sounds like a whole lot of Bullsh!t.

So….. Tim Johnson isn’t really going to give $200,000 to support the party, he’s going to set up a ‘scholarship of awfulness’ for the Democrat Party and dribble it out $7,000 at a time?  And that was always the intention?

Sure it was.

Clearly, what happened is Johnson’s people made a promise to a very cash strapped Democratic Party, and found out that the mechanism for donating it was a little more complicated than they’d anticipated.

And they had to alter the deal.

Democrats should pray they don’t alter it further.

Tim Johnson signs on to Democrat letter asking Washington Redskins to change their name; SD Tribes say “Thanks for nothing.”

The Argus is reporting today that Democrats sent a symbolic letter to the owners of the Washington Redskins to change the name of their team, and US Senator Tim Johnson joined them.

The reaction from SD Tribes? Thanks for nothing:

The letter, signed by 49 senators, says that recent action taken by the NBA against Clippers owner Donald Sterling for his racist remarks “opened up a national conversation about race relations.”


In their letter, Johnson and the other senators note that professional sports have tremendous power to influence society and strengthen communities.


Michael Jandreau, chairman of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, said if Congress was really interested in helping Native Americans, lawmakers would focus their attention on making sure tribes received money they have been promised and work to eliminate hurdles that make it harder for economic growth and prosperity on the reservation, rather than throwing their weight behind changing a team name.

Read it here.

Ranchers face being evicted from their leases over the creation of first Tribal National Park. Sponsored in part by Tim Johnson.

From the Tri-State Livestock News newspaper comes a story that I first noticed about the time Annette Bosworth first contemplated jumping in the US Senate Race. And it hasn’t gone away. Back in June of 2013, US Senator Tim Johnson signed on to sponsor legislation to return 133,000 acres to tribes, to make part of the Badlands National Park into a Tribal National Park.

Basically the federal government has hatched a plan to transfer back 1/2 of the Badlands to the Pine Ridge Reservation to serves as the first Tribal National Park. And there’s a lot of people who don’t like it:

The public has until June 6 to weigh in on the Tribal National Park proposed for the South Unit of Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

Affected ranchers are against it. Residents of the Pass Creek District are against it. Members of the Red Shirt Community are against it. The Great Sioux Nation Treaty Council, which is something like a group of advisors to the various tribal governments, is against it.

But on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, 1,000 head of paper buffalo are relentless in their march to the proposed Stronghold Grazing Unit on the proposed Tribal National Park. The Tribal National Park would be created from the 133,000-acre South Unit and include some land that is currently being leased by both native and non-native ranchers in the area. It would be the nation’s first Tribal National Park, and would require Congressional action to authorize. The idea is supported by the tribal council of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, including President Bryan Brewer, and the National Park Service.


May tries to be understanding of the tribal government, but he is frustrated by a long list of things. “I think they have a hard job, so I don’t want to damn them for everything they do, but it’s Washington D.C.-funded anarchy,” he says. “Bryan Brewer and his core team have been Harry Houdini-ing us on this thing. I’ve tried to get them together so we could talk and they’ve ducked and dodged at every turn.”

Both May and Temple say the tribal leaders are straying from good management practices when it comes to employees and finances and the tribal park issue is just one item in a long queue of concerns. May points to a list of general fund contractors for 2013 to illustrate his skepticism of the administration’s ethics. On the list is Wesley “Chuck” Jacobs, who received $30,000 for his duties as tribal park coordinator. “I don’t know what Chuck is actually doing,” says May. “He’s certainly not showing up at meetings.”


“I would like to live in a Utopia with fairy tales and pixie dust, but I don’t,” says May. “I’m not anti-buffalo, I guess. I’m anti-condemnation, and anti-removing the ranchers, and anti-giving our land away.“

“Eric Brunneman [the superintendent of the Badlands National Park] keeps saying ‘I’m just doing my job,’” May said. “Finally one day I said to him ‘Eric do your bosses know how mad these people are down here about what’s going on?’ And he said, ‘Well no I haven’t told them that.’ And I said ‘Don’t you think maybe you should do that?’”

May is still hopeful about the outcome. “I’m trying to get all the parties to a meeting, where we can sit down and just be diplomatic about the whole thing. You know, sit down and talk about it.”

The public comment period for the proposal is open until June 6th. Comments may be submitted at

Read it all here.