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.
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.
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.”
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.