KCCR News – Brendan Johnson “not now” thinking about running for statewide office.

Tony Mangan at KCCR news got the closest thing to a hint about Brendan Johnson’s political future yesterday when interviewing the outgoing US Attorney:

Johnson announced Wednesday that he is resigning March 11 to go into private practice in Sioux Falls. Johnson, the son of retired Democratic U.S. Senator Tim Johnson, has long been rumored to be a possible candidate some day for a statewide office.

But Johnson, who has declined in the past to speculate about any such intentions, tells KCCR News that he is not now thinking about that possibility.

Read it all here

Thune’s Office Accepting Summer Internship Applications

Thune’s Office Accepting Summer Internship Applications

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) is currently seeking intelligent, hard-working college students to serve as summer interns in his office in Washington, D.C., as well as in his offices in Aberdeen, Rapid City, and Sioux Falls.

Interns in Thune’s state offices will participate in constituent service and state outreach activities, while students in the Washington, D.C., office will have the opportunity to witness the legislative process, give Capitol building tours, and attend Senate votes and hearings. Both in-state and Washington, D.C., internships will allow students to work closely with constituents, hone their research and writing skills, and learn a multitude of valuable office skills.

“Students have a unique opportunity to experience democracy in action as interns in a Senate office,” said Thune. “Interns gain valuable knowledge about both state and national issues and an understanding of the inner workings of a Senate office. I encourage all students to consider applying for this rewarding experience.”

Thune is chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and a member of the Senate Committees on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, and Finance.

College students who are interested in interning in Senator Thune’s Washington, D.C., office should submit a resume and cover letter by March 10, 2015, to:

Senator John Thune
Attn: Logan Penfield
511 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

By Fax to: 202-228-5429

Or by E-mail to:
[email protected]

College students who are interested in interning in Senator Thune’s Sioux Falls, Rapid City, or Aberdeen offices should submit a resume and cover letter, by March 10, 2015, to:

Senator John Thune
Attn: Robin Long
5015 South Bur Oak
Sioux Falls, SD 57108

Or by E-mail to:
[email protected]

For more information, please call 202-224-2321.


Amid Labor Dispute, Congressional Leaders Urge President Obama to Keep Ports Open to Commerce

Amid Labor Dispute, Congressional Leaders Urge President Obama to Keep Ports Open to Commerce

-Self-imposed slowdowns are having a profound impact on businesses and larger U.S. economy-

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security Chairman Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Penn.), Transportation Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.), and Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) have sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging action on the unnecessary gridlock of goods at 29 West Coast shipping ports.

The effect of the delay on American consumers, shippers, and our economy grows each day. It is estimated that the ongoing delays will cost billions of dollars in higher transportation costs, increased storage fees, and food spoilage along with the costs of shippers’ damaged relationships with both domestic suppliers and international customers. A February 10, 2015, hearing held by the Senate Commerce Committee also focused on the lingering consequences of the slowdown.

The text of the letter to the president follows:

Dear Mr. President:

We write today to urge you to act quickly to ensure our nation’s ports remain open to commerce. The ongoing labor dispute at our West Coast ports has disrupted our nation’s transportation network, supply chain, and, most significantly, our broader economy.

Unfortunately, the dispute has already had a substantial negative impact on the movement of goods throughout the nation, and the effects continue to grow as each day passes without a resolution. As an increasing number of ships idle offshore, waiting to be loaded and unloaded, consumers and businesses across the country face empty shelves, agricultural producers lose access to international markets, and manufacturers struggle to find needed inputs.

These import and export delays have significant negative economic impacts and lingering consequences. The very real costs of delay include spoilage, especially of agricultural products, missed scheduled ports of call, higher transportation costs, or increased storage fees. In addition, shippers with goods to export have missed deadlines and been forced to pay late-delivery penalties. This dispute has damaged American suppliers’ relationships with their domestic and international customers, some of whom have started to turn to competing suppliers in other nations.

The U.S. transportation network serves the American economy by moving goods in a cost-effective and competitive manner to global marketplaces. For the transportation network to work properly and serve our nation’s shippers and consumers, our ports must function efficiently and reliably. This message was underscored at a subcommittee hearing held by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on February 10, 2015.

We fear this ongoing dispute will develop into a permanent loss of American jobs. While we appreciate you dispatching the Secretary of Labor to meet with both sides, should there not be resolution by March 2, 2015, two months after the federal mediator was appointed, we hope we can count on your commitment to keep America’s ports open and operating efficiently by exercising additional leadership to resolve the situation.


Philip man charged for throwing beer at kids in Rapid City. Does the charge fit the crime?

The Rapid City Journal was reporting yesterday that a man has finally been named and charged with disorderly conduct after it was reported that someone was hurling racial slurs and beer at a group of native american school kids at a semi-pro Hockey game in Rapid City about a month ago:

The charge, a Class 2 misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine upon conviction, was greeted with anger and disappointment on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

The Rapid City attorney’s office filed a complaint charging that Trace O’Connell, 41, did “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly utter any words or perform any acts which physically abused or threatened any person or persons.”


The group left the game early, during the third and final period of regulation time, following the alleged harassment, which came from a suite above where the students were seated.

“After an extensive investigation by the Rapid City Police Department, a thorough review of the case by my office as well as the Pennington County State’s Attorney Office, the facts support bringing this charge,” City Attorney Joel Landeen said in a news release Wednesday afternoon.

O’Connell’s attorney, Patrick Duffy, of Rapid City, said he apologized “to the children of the Lakota Nation” on behalf of O’Connell for what took place at the game. His client, Duffy said, was given orders not to speak about the incident, “and is absolutely heartbroken over everything that has taken place.”


After an exhaustive investigation, Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo said the elements for felony child abuse or malicious intimidation could not be established.

“We are bound by the evidence as it emerges in the investigation, not as it is reported in the press,” Vargo said in a prepared statement.

Read it all here.

There are a lot of parents of the kids who are up in arms over the degree to which the accused has been charged, many viewing it as being woefully inadequate. But on the flip-side, what kind of crime should it rise to the level of, or what kind of punishment should it entail?

As a parent, I can understand why these parents are not happy. They’re rightfully venting their umbrage over the whole situation. But what you read on the internet & in the newspaper, versus what a prosecutor can gather adequate evidence of are two different things.

What are your thoughts?

US Attorney General Holder has high praise for Brendan Johnson

While the NRSC was throwing cold water on Brendan Johnson, as he announced his exit from the office of US Attorney, in a release today, US Attorney General Eric Holder had high praise for the younger Johnson in his duties, and held him out as “as a key advisor to senior Justice Department officials” including himself:

Attorney General Holder Statement on the Departure of Brendan Johnson as the United States Attorney of the District of South Dakota

Attorney General Eric Holder released the following statement on the departure of U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson:

“During Brendan Johnson’s tenure as United States Attorney for South Dakota, he has distinguished himself as an exemplary leader, a passionate advocate for his fellow citizens, and an extraordinarily dedicated public servant,” said Attorney General Holder.  “As a lawyer and as a leader, Brendan has set a standard of excellence that will not soon be surpassed.  Particularly with regard to public safety challenges on tribal lands, he has served as a key advisor to senior Justice Department officials – including me.  As past Chair of the Native American Issues Subcommittee, he is not only a respected champion for tribal justice in his own right, but a critical national leader – offering sound guidance, wise counsel, and candid advice on a host of pressing issues.  In standing against violent crime, fraud, drug trafficking, violence against women, and countless other threats, Brendan’s fierce and determined service, on behalf of the people of South Dakota, has been without equal.  Although he will be greatly missed, his many contributions will endure.  I thank him for his outstanding service – to South Dakota, and to our nation – and wish him all the best as he takes on new challenges and opportunities.”

Is that an endorsement we’re going to see used in a future campaign advertisement?

NRSC puts Brendan Johnson on notice that they “wont give him a pass” upon his resignation

The Press Conference at which Brendan Johnson has announced his resignation (Effective 3/11, I believe) is still going on, but the National Republican Senatorial Committee is wasting no time in going after Johnson, likely in case Democrats manage to recruit him to take on John Thune.

I personally don’t think that’s going to happen, but it’s politics, and anything goes!  Here’s the release from the Republican US Senator’s Political organization:


 NRSC Statement Regarding Brendan Johnson’s Departure As U.S. Attorney

WASHINGTON – With Brendan Johnson, the son of former Senator Tim Johnson, set to quit his job as the United States Attorney for the District of South Dakota, the NRSC released the statement regarding his impending departure.

“It became clear that young Brendan Johnson was not ready for the job, once his father had to pull a few strings to get him a hearing and the votes for his confirmation. Brendan should know the next time he steps into the ring we won’t give him a pass, nor will his dad be able to bail him out.” – NRSC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek

The non-political, political tenure of Brendan Johnson in the office of US Attorney

I’d predicted it a while ago, and noted it again earlier tonight. Except tonight the dam broke loose.

The second and remaining member of the Johnson family in the public eye is going to be resigning and opening a law office in Sioux Falls, according to sources this evening.  United States Attorney Brendan Johnson, son of retired Democratic Senator Tim Johnson is said to be making an announcement of opening a law office in the Sioux Falls area.

From the onset when South Dakota’s US Attorney applied for the job, his tenure in the non-political job was marked with loads of political controversy, much of it over his relationship with his father, the US Senator.

At the time of his application, the Senior Johnson noted to the state media that he would be seeking no special favors in article in the application of his son for the job. However as recounted in a 2009 article from the political website/magazine Politico:

When Brendan Johnson, a 34-year-old Sioux Falls lawyer, applied for the post of U.S. attorney for South Dakota last January, he made one thing clear to a local paper: His father, Sen. Tim Johnson, would have nothing to do with his seeking the job. “My father said, ‘Don’t consult me. Don’t update me. I’m not going to be involved in the process,’” he said.

The elder Johnson made the same promise.

But last week, when Brendan Johnson’s nomination unexpectedly ran into problems, the senator and his aides began a behind-the-scenes effort to find out what happened. The South Dakota Democrat contacted both Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) to figure out what the delay was.

After a brief period when it looked like the son’s nomination could be put off, the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to take it up Thursday.

Sen. Johnson’s office confirmed that the lawmaker “did ask Leahy about the status of the nomination” but said he did not originally push his son as a candidate for the post with the White House. Brendan Johnson, though, was the only person to submit an application for the job.

Read that here.

The appearance of favoritism dogged the younger Johnson through much of his tenure with the Department of Justice.  And as the elder Johnson was making overtures to take a step back, the old 2009 allegations came up again in 2013, as a group of nine lawmakers, including State Senator Dan Lederman sent a letter to the Senate Ethics Committee as recounted by former Argus Reporter David Montgomery:

…as speculation mounts about if and when Johnson will declare his candidacy, a group of Republican state legislators are reviving some 2009 accusations concerning Johnson’s ties to his father.

State Sen. Dan Lederman and 9 other lawmakers have sent an official letter to the Senate ethics committee, requesting an investigation into possible impropriety collected to Johnson’s 2009 nomination as U.S. Attorney.

The letter rehashes accusations made at the time, that Tim Johnson had improperly influenced the nomination and confirmation of his son. Tim Johnson has denied the claims.

Lederman denied that the letter had anything to do with the rumors that Johnson will run for Senate, but the letter does return the issue to the public eye as political watchers wait to see what Johnson will do.

“This is about getting the right answers, and having the people in charge of this to do their job,” Lederman said.


Read that here.

As originally noted here at the SDWC, the letter was signed by Senator Lederman, Senator Mark Kirkeby, Senator Phil Jensen, Senator Dave Omdahl, Senator Bruce Rampelberg, Representative Don Kopp, Representative Charlie Hoffman, Representative Jim Stalzer,  Representative Jenna Haggar and Representative Don Haggar.

Much of this was posturing may have been driven by the possibility that the younger Johnson was a strong possibility to enter the race for US Senate to replace his retiring father.  As after US Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid had allegedly met with the Senior Johnson to push for Brendan to wait to run for the office, in deference to Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, many of the accusations of nepotism dropped to a low simmer in Republican circles.

Of course, as we all know, Rick Weiland scuttled even those plans, leaving Democrats with himself, a third tier candidate.

Brendan Johnson continued to be a name thrown about in partisan politics in the 2014 US Senate Race, especially when it came to his office’s investigation of the EB-5 Immigration visa matter, as noted by the SDGOP as recently as October:

Democrats Condone Silence By Partisan Democrat
U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson

Hunhof’s “forum” is a partisan sham, cover-up for Brendan Johnson

Sioux Falls, SD – South Dakota Democrats continue to ignore the refusal by President Obama’s handpicked U.S. Attorney for South Dakota, Brendan Johnson, to speak on the end of investigations into the federal EB-5 program.

“Representative Hunhof’s ‘forum’ is a partisan sham,” said Dick Wadhams, spokesman for the South Dakota Republican Party. “Hunhof conveniently ignores the fact that the only public official who refuses to speak on EB-5 is partisan Democratic U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson who refuses to tell the people of South Dakota the truth, that there is no ongoing investigation of the federal EB-5 program.”

“By his silence, Brendan Johnson is lying about EB-5,” Wadhams said. “Brendan Johnson is using his federal office for partisan political purposes by refusing to speak.”

Read that press release from the SDGOP here.

And despite continued calls for him to press charges or clear Mike Rounds from the often wild-eyed accusations in the matter, Johnson continued his silence in the investigation.

With the impending end of his tenure with the office, this places the younger Johnson back into the field as a political player… albeit at a time when Democrats are arguably at some of their poorest numbers of voters, number of elected officials in 50 years or more, and a decimated bench of candidates in the wings.   And it only gets worse from there.

2016 could provide an opening for him, but that would give him 9 months or less in his new position supposedly being announced tomorrow. With the law change set to happen, any petitioning would begin in December.

Not to mention the fact that in 2016 he’d be a new candidate either taking on the experienced US Senate Candidate with $10 million in the bank, or the experienced Congressional candidate with $1 million in the bank.

More conventional wisdom would have the younger Johnson spending some time to establish himself at his new private sector position, as Stephanie Herseth Sandlin has. And possibly waiting until Democratic fortunes are slightly more favorable, such as with open seats in 2018, especially if Noem runs for Governor, vacating her House seat.

But that’s just speculation. A specialty of ours. What we do know is that tomorrow will likely mark the end of the non-political, political tenure of Brendan Johnson in the office of US Attorney.

And you read it here first…

From the associated press comes more on the story that I’d mentioned earlier was making the rounds in Pierre:

The Associated Press reports the U.S. attorney for South Dakota plans to resign and open an office in Sioux Falls for a private law firm.

A source with knowledge of the situation who was not authorized to discuss it confirmed to The Associated Press that Brendan Johnson will announce his resignation Wednesday at a news conference.

Read it here.