Congressman Dusty Johnson’s Weekly Column: The Case of the MMIW

The Case of the MMIW
By Rep. Dusty Johnson
September 24, 2021

If you turned on the news this week or scrolled through social media, it is likely that you came across the tragic story of 22-year-old Gabby Petito whose body was found in Wyoming this week. A little less than two weeks ago, Petito’s family filed a missing person’s report when her fiancé returned home to Florida from a cross-country road trip without her.

Unfortunately, Gabby’s tragic story is not unique. Thousands of people go missing each year, and many cases go unsolved, leaving grieving loved ones with unanswered questions, a lack of closure, and no justice.

Across our nation, a disproportionate number of indigenous women and girls go missing or are murdered. In South Dakota alone, 65% of missing persons are Native Americans despite making up only 9% of the population. Of the 103 persons currently missing in the state, one-third are indigenous women.

A growing movement marked by a red handprint is the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) movement, a group dedicated to spreading awareness, providing support to families, and demanding justice for these women and girls.

The statistics are startling. On some reservations, Native American women are murdered at a rate more than 10 times the national average. Many cases go unsolved due to a lack of resources, underreporting, poor data collection, and jurisdictional difficulties between tribal, local and state police.

Last year, I was proud to see the Savanna’s Act signed into law. It took years to get this legislation across the finish line and because of it, the Department of Justice is now required to assess and develop law enforcement and justice protocols to address cases involving missing or murdered indigenous people. The Savanna’s Act was named after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a member of the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe who was violently murdered in 2017.

Our nation is making strides but there’s more to be done. In 2019, President Trump signed an executive order to form The Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives. Earlier this year, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary, established a Missing and Murdered Unit, an interagency agency team aimed at collaboratively combating this tragic crisis.

As a Member of Congress, I am committed to supporting indigenous women and girls and working to end this horrible problem plaguing our indigenous communities.


Congressman Dusty Johnson’s Weekly Column: Recess Recap

Recess Recap
By Rep. Dusty Johnson
September 15, 2021

With August recess wrapping up and Members of Congress soon returning to Washington, I wanted to provide you with some of the highlights from my time spent in South Dakota over the summer work period.

I hosted nine “Inside Scoop” town halls in South Dakota – they ranged from three people to one hundred people – but each one was as engaging and fruitful as the next. Topics ranged from infrastructure and our national debt, to border security and Afghanistan. I am grateful for the feedback and am eager to get back to Washington to work on the most pressing issues South Dakotans are facing.

Throughout the month of August, I had the honor to host eleven Vietnam Veteran Pinning Ceremonies across the state. In total, 124 veterans from the Vietnam era were recognized for their service. From Seabees to airplane mechanics, radio operators and nurses, South Dakotans dutifully answered the call to serve, despite the lack of recognition they received upon returning home.

During these ceremonies, veterans recalled sobering stories of protestors throwing tomatoes and being called names upon their arrival. Others shared more heartwarming stories such as a rifle platoon leader who met an Army nurse in Vietnam and the two eventually married – they have now been married 51 years. It was truly remarkable to listen to South Dakota veterans share stories from a time that is often still difficult to discuss aloud. After many decades, I was honored to look these veterans in the eye and thank them for their service on behalf of a grateful nation.

Finally, nothing says summer in South Dakota quite like a fair. Over the last few weeks, I visited with folks at Dakotafest, Central States Fair, Turner County Fair, Brown County Fair, Sioux Empire Fair, and the South Dakota State Fair. I also had the opportunity to volunteer at the ticket booth, greeting folks as they walked in. It was great to share a few laughs, meet new South Dakotans, and enjoy the beautiful summer weather while eating delicious fair food.

August shaped up to be a rather busy month, but I am feeling rejuvenated from time spent away from the hustle and bustle of Washington D.C. I look forward to heading back to Congress and working on the important issues facing our nation.


Congressman Dusty Johnson coming out against proposed IRS regs to report any transaction over $600

From Facebook, Congressman Dusty Johnson is coming out against proposed IRS regs to report any transaction over $600.

Considering how long it took them to process my taxes this year, I don’t think they can handle the load of adding every transaction over $600. Nevermind it’s a massive intrusion of privacy.

Congressman Dusty Johnson’s Weekly Column: Remembering 9/11 as a Congressional Staffer

Guest Column: Remembering 9/11 as a Congressional Staffer
By Danica Allmer, Rapid City Constituent Service Representative for Congressman Dusty Johnson
September 10, 2021

Tuesday, September 11, 2001. It was like every other day working for then-Congressman John Thune on Capitol Hill. I was a staff assistant at the time and our office, the Longworth House Office Building, was located adjacent to the Capitol. 

A few minutes past nine the phone rang – it was our Chief of Staff – he was in South Dakota and the first thing he said was “turn on the TV and get me John.” I could tell right away something was not right. I rushed to the Congressman’s office and turned on the TV – the first tower had been hit. As the staff gathered around the TV, like the rest of the world, we thought it was a pilot that lost his way or had a heart attack mid-air – an accident. Then the second plane hit – this was no coincidence. 

There was no game plan for a situation like this. Most of us didn’t have cell phones, and there was no social media. We all assembled in the Congressman’s office and determined we should hunker down at the office. But soon enough, one of the legislative aides came rushing in. Her husband had called her frantically. While waiting at the mechanic he saw a plane hit the Pentagon. “You guys need to evacuate,” he said. At this point it had not made the news that a third plane had hit the Pentagon. Immediately, reality hit home that Washington was under attack and there could be more planes. 

We decided as an office we were going to go take shelter at our Deputy Chief of Staff’s home as he lived only a couple blocks from the Capitol. All 9 of us, including Congressman Thune and his wife went outside. We’d only walked a block when we heard a sonic boom – looking to the sky someone yelled “Don’t worry, it is one of ours!” I remember feeling immediate relief knowing our airmen had the skies covered. 

The rest of the day was surreal. We hunkered down in one apartment watching the coverage and providing updates to John. He held an impromptu press call with reporters back in the state to let them know what was going on. In the middle of this crisis, he’d found a Bible and was reading it in between getting updates and fielding calls. I was proud to work for a man who in a time of tragedy turned to Jesus for strength. 

Phone lines were jammed most of the day – it wasn’t easy to get ahold of family to let them know we were ok. I lived near the Pentagon and took the metro to work – with all public transportation shut down, my coworker graciously drove me home.

Work changed after this, all of Washington drastically changed. The first day back at the office there were concrete barricades everywhere, you could not get within a block of the House office buildings. Police were standing on the corners with weapons. It was a ghost town. 

White House tours stopped, Capitol tours stopped, and the way we did business significantly changed. The more information we learned in the days following made us realize how lucky we were – I can never fully express my gratitude for those who sacrificed themselves taking down flight 93 into the Pennsylvania countryside. Experts say it was likely heading towards the Capitol. My day would have been quite different if those brave souls didn’t take on the terrorists. 

For a city that is normally divided, Washington was united. Members of Congress spontaneously sung God Bless America on the Capitol steps just hours after the attacks, prayer services were offered and encouraged for any congressional staffers to attend, American flags popped up on homes all over the country. We were Americans. We were united. We thanked God. 


Congressman Dusty Johnson’s Weekly Column: Tragedy in Afghanistan

Tragedy in Afghanistan
By Rep. Dusty Johnson
September 3, 2021

The events that unfolded in Afghanistan over the last few weeks have been a tragedy.

It was devastating to hear the news that thirteen servicemembers were killed – the deadliest day in Afghanistan in over a decade – outside the airport gates in Kabul while assisting Americans and Afghan allies urgently trying to flee the country.

It was heartbreaking to watch desperate Afghans clinging to C-17s and fearful mothers passing their infants off to our servicemembers in a last-ditch effort to save them from a life under the Taliban.

It was disappointing to witness the United States’ decades-long counterterrorism and nation-building efforts in Afghanistan fall to the Taliban in mere days.

Most Americans agree that we could not stay in Afghanistan forever – a military withdrawal from Afghanistan was inevitable.

But how we left was disastrous.

The Biden Administration engaged in a lack of planning and series of poor decisions. Every official responsible for this failure must be held accountable.

Last week, I sent a letter to President Biden pressing him on his plans to evacuate Americans out of Afghanistan following the arbitrary August 31st deadline, to ensure remaining U.S. military equipment is reclaimed from the Taliban, and to assist Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders and other at-risk Afghans left behind.

As this catastrophe unfolded, there were however a few glimmers of hope in humanity. Our troops stepped up. In Afghanistan, U.S. special operations veterans carried out daring missions to save Afghan allies. Back home, my office worked around the clock to help South Dakotans who knew Americans and allies on the ground urgently request to evacuate with the State Department and Defense Department. We are actively assisting over 100 individuals and were successful in evacuating 20 individuals who were either lawful permanent residents, SIV applicants, or at-risk Afghan allies.

Despite the failure of our withdrawal from Afghanistan, U.S. involvement in the region led to the death of Osama Bin Laden, greatly diminished Al-Qaeda and prevented additional terrorist attacks on home soil, paved way for the advancement of rights for Afghan women and girls, and saved countless Afghan lives from the terror of the Taliban regime.

To our U.S. servicemembers who answered the call of duty in Afghanistan over the last twenty years, your service was not in vain and our country will never forget your service to our nation. My prayers are with our Afghanistan veterans and Gold Star families.

Congressman Dusty Johnson’s Weekly Column: A Ballooning Deficit

A Ballooning Deficit
By Rep. Dusty Johnson
August 27, 2021

This week, the House was called back for a special session. However, it was not to vote on legislation related to the heart-wrenching humanitarian and military crisis unfolding in Afghanistan. Instead, Speaker Pelosi called us back to vote on a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint.

To give you some context, the federal budget Congress passed for fiscal year 2021, which included all discretionary and defense spending, was $1.4 trillion. This blueprint is the highest sustained spending level in American history.

While there are some proposals I can get behind, such as lowering prescription drug costs, there are too many programs that significantly increase the size of our government. Among other things, this proposal expands Obamacare and Medicare, funds two years of tuition-free community college and universal pre-k, and develops a Civilian Climate Corp.

While some of these proposals sound enticing, the financial consequences are damaging. I believe in giving every American an opportunity to succeed, but I cannot agree to burdening our current taxpayers with paying more of their share and burdening our future generations by adding to our national debt. This much spending will spur inflation and drive-up prices, something that millions of Americans are already confronting.

Over the last decade, our national debt has more than doubled and we are now approaching $29 trillion. This package would add an additional $17 trillion to our national debt over the next ten years, bringing us to a total of $47 trillion. This is inexcusable.

In our personal lives, there are serious consequences if we are not responsible with our money. Yet, when it comes to the federal government, it seems this same logic is not applied. Let me be clear, it’s not just the Democrats who spend, both parties are guilty of adding to our ballooning deficit. We cannot keep spending ourselves into oblivion and racking up debt—the balloon will eventually burst.

I’m willing to take the hard votes. I’m willing to fight for comprehensive reform to our dysfunctional budget process. I’m willing to support a balanced budget amendment like the one enshrined in South Dakota’s state constitution. Most importantly, I am willing to say no to a $3.5 trillion budget.

Dusty Johnson campaign releases polling data showing strength in state

The Dusty Johnson for Congress campaign released a poll this evening showing that no matter who might be “exploring” a challenge to Dusty in the Congressional race, he’s definitely starting the campaign from a position of strength:

Dusty, however, has a plus 33% net favorability among all voters. This is the highest among South Dakota elected officials. Even more impressive, Dusty’s net favorability is plus 57% among South Dakota Republicans (69% favorable, 12% unfavorable). This is the highest among South Dakota elected officials, as well.

Check out the entire polling memorandum for yourself:

Dusty Johnson – August Polling Results by Pat Powers on Scribd

Congressman Dusty Johnson’s Weekly Column: Back to School

Back to School
By Rep. Dusty Johnson
August 20, 2021

Summer is coming to an end and students across South Dakota are heading back to school. I was home to see my three boys off to start the 2021-2022 school year this week.

While many schools in our state remained open during this past year, the same cannot be said about school districts across the country.

According to UNESCO, American schools were closed either fully or partially for 58 weeks. In comparison, Canadian schools were closed 51 weeks and schools in the United Kingdom 27 weeks.

How has over a year of school closures impacted students? Study after study is showing significant learning loss for students participating in distance learning. Additionally, truancy rates are up and attainment rates in core subjects like math and reading are down.

The impacts that loss of instruction time, student to teacher interaction, and peer collaboration will have on our kids cannot be minimized. While the effects of school closures on the mental, emotional, and social well-being of our children cannot be fully realized, even the CDC has published a survey suggesting that virtual instruction presents more risks to a student’s mental and emotional health than in-person learning.

These datapoints are not to downplay the effort and creativity of teachers and administrators alike in trying to make remote learning as engaging and effective as possible. But when we are dealing with something as transformative and significant as educating the next generation, we must stop and think about the impact a decision to keep schools closed will have on our youth in the short and long term.

Back in March 2021, a year after COVID-19 began, only half of American schoolchildren were in person partially or full. I am grateful for the school administrators and teachers who went above and beyond to ensure South Dakota schools were safely open to students last school year.

To date, Congress has authorized an unprecedented $190.5 billion to the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to state and local educational agencies to ensure that schools can reopen safely. Teacher health and student welfare do not have to be at odds.

I firmly believe that a good education opens doors and sets a child up for success. The data is clear that it is best for students to be in the classroom learning.

The Biden Administration has assured me it’s their top priority to keep schools open as our nation continues to deal with COVID-19 – it’s imperative they follow through on that promise. It’s time to reopen and keep open our schools.

Rep. Dusty Johnson Named Democracy Awards Winner

Rep. Dusty Johnson Named Democracy Awards Winner
Congressional Management Foundation Recognizes Rep. Johnson for Outstanding Achievement

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 16, 2021 – The Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) today announced that Rep. Dusty Johnson is a winner of a Democracy Award, CMF’s honor recognizing non-legislative achievement and performance in congressional offices. Rep. Johnson was selected for outstanding achievement for the category of Transparency and Accountability. The Transparency and Accountability category recognizes offices that provide clear and relevant information on their work and publicly acknowledge metrics for that performance.

“As a Democracy Award winner, Rep. Johnson’s office is clearly one of the best in Congress,” said Bradford Fitch, President and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation. “This designation demonstrates that Rep. Johnson has made a significant commitment to being the best public servant for his constituents in South Dakota. Rep. Johnson and his staff are to be congratulated for not only being a model for his colleagues in Congress, but for helping to restore trust and faith that our democratic institutions can work,” he said.

Eight House and Senate offices were honored as winners in four categories: Constituent Service; Innovation and Modernization; Transparency and Accountability; and “Life in Congress”-Workplace Environment. Representative and Senate personal offices nominated themselves using an online questionnaire for the four office categories. CMF followed up with offices as necessary to gather documentation and assess the office’s adherence to the established criteria. The winners were selected by a selection committee primarily comprised of former Members of Congress and congressional staff. The winners will be honored at a ceremony to be held in Washington, D.C. in the fall.

Details on the process and the history of the Democracy Awards can be found here: 

CMF included the following reasons for selecting Rep. Johnson for an award:

“Priding itself as the “most accessible House office in South Dakota,” Rep. Dusty Johnson’s (R-SD) office responds to every inquiry from constituents, typically holds two telephone town halls per month and more than a dozen in person per year, and takes polls during town halls on issues and after tough votes, ensuring the results are published to constituents. During the pandemic, the office developed “Drive-Thru Dusty Town Halls” as a safe alternative to meet with constituents during COVID-19. After advertising in local newspapers that Rep. Johnson was going to be hosting a socially distanced town hall, constituents would “drive-thru” and talk to him in a parking lot for as long as they needed. The office was able to reach dozens of constituents in a safe manner during the pandemic.” 

In addition to the eight offices selected for the 2021 awards, CMF this year is giving out a Special Democracy Award to the non-partisan floor staff of the US House and Senate for their courage and service to the Congress and the nation on January 6th. “These men and women were the stewards of democracy when we needed them most,” Fitch said. “Most Americans never even notice their work. And yet, on January 6, 2021 they played crucial roles well beyond what was expected of them, displaying professionalism, resolution, and patriotism to help maintain our system of government,” he said.

Founded in 1977, the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) is a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan nonprofit whose mission is to build trust and effectiveness in Congress. It advances its mission by enhancing the performance of the institution, legislators and their staffs through research-based education and training, and by strengthening the bridge and understanding between Congress and the People it serves.

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