SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – A new report from a national ethics organization reveals more cost details from Gov. Kristi Noem’s decision to send the South Dakota National Guard to the Texas border with a private donor helping fund the deployment.
The story, published by CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington), links three new records received through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
In June 2021, Noem announced she’d send South Dakota National Guard troops to Texas to help “secure our border.” It was also announced the deployment would be funded from a $1 million private donation. Tennessee billionaire and major Republican donor Willis Johnson told KELOLAND News he reached out to Noem and offered his money to pay for sending the troops to the border.
South Dakota National Guard Adjutant General Jeff Marlette told state lawmakers in August the total trip cost about $1.4 million.
The documents from the CREW story break down the $1.4 million into an expense summary showing $669,447.41 for salary and benefits, $192,567 for soldier mileage, $44,310.28 for fleet vehicles, $318,406 for lodging, $8,568 for flights, $69,343 for SDNG equipment, $131,900 for equipment transport costs and $17,157.10 for administrative expenses.
“South Dakota National Guard troops were deployed to the state for 70 days—meaning that the state spent more than $20,000 a day to support a public relations stunt,” CREW author Lauren White wrote in the story.
CREW describes itself as an organization “using bold legal actions and in-depth investigations, CREW targets government officials who sacrifice the common good to special interests and personal gain.”
Noem’s spokesman Ian Fury responded to the story on Twitter, saying “If only the Biden Administration were securing the border, Republican governors wouldn’t have to step up and do it for them.”
Marlette also told lawmakers President Biden’s administration didn’t ask for the help and said the South Dakota National Guard isn’t for sale.
In December 2021, Congress passed a defense bill with provisions to bar National Guard troops from being deployed with the use of private funding.