Following South Dakota governor Kristi Noem’s decision to accept a “private donation” from billionaire GOP donor Willis Johnson, a Tennessee resident, to deploy up to 50 National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border, CREW requested all records relating to the deployment and donation.

Rather than comply with CREW’s lawful request, the South Dakota National Guard chose to deny and refuse to process CREW’s FOIA request, wrongfully asserting “the SDNG does not meet the definition of an agency under FOIA.” 

The agency is, of course, incorrect. As a federal unit, their records are covered by FOIA at all times, regardless of whether the requested records relate to federal or state functions. The SDNG’s refusal to comply with a lawful FOIA request is doubly concerning based on the circumstances of this case. Governor Noem’s decision to accept a $1 million donation from a private citizen of another state to finance military operations cannot be seen as anything but a dangerous precedent. 

This makes this request so important and the SDNG’s lack of transparency even more troubling. Americans have a right to know if private donors are subverting the democratic process to influence lawmakers decisions, particularly when it comes to matters of the military. As part of the suit, CREW is seeking the immediate processing of the FOIA request and disclosure of all non-exempt records.

Lawsuit Documents


Header photo by Gage Skidmore available under a Creative Commons license.

Read More in Lawsuits