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IPFS News Link • South Dakota

GOP donor pays $1M to deploy South Dakota national guard

• By BRIAN SLODYSKO and STEPHEN GROVES

So, earlier this month the billionaire Republican donor, who amassed a fortune building an international junkyard empire, took the unusual step of calling South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a rising Republican star who has railed against illegal immigration and aligned herself firmly with former President Donald Trump.

He asked if she wanted to send National Guard troops from South Dakota to the U.S.-Mexico border — and offered up $1 million to help.

Noem said, "Yes."

Her acceptance of the donation from Johnson, who doesn't even live in Noem's state but rather in Tennessee, has drawn intense scrutiny. It landed in state coffers Tuesday and though it came from Johnson's private foundation and appears to be legal, experts say it sets a troubling precedent in which a wealthy patron is effectively commandeering U.S. military might to address private political motivations.

"I didn't know it would build into a bonfire," said Johnson, who answered his phone on the second ring and estimates he's talked to about 50 reporters since the news broke. "It's getting out there a lot more than I thought."

Whether the decision to accept his help will amount to smart politics or policy blunder for Noem is unclear. In the short term, at least, the decision has catapulted her into the headlines and generated even more attention for a possible presidential run in 2024.


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