wwjd? (what would john do?)

A topic in the news today is that former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin may have soon have a new job. Naturally, the South Dakota Republican Party could barely wait until the ink was dry on today’s newspaper to respond. Just found this in my e-mail:

PIERRE – State Republican Party Chairman Tim Rave responded to the news that former Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin is in job talks with a high profile Washington, DC lobbying/law firm according to several media reports today.

“Former Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin put Washington ahead of South Dakota when she supported the failed stimulus and the rest of the Nancy Pelosi agenda in Congress. It only makes sense that she now cash out helping Washington special interests with a new job at a lobbying firm,” said Chairman Rave.

“This new job is the latest example of how former Congresswoman Herseth Sandlin has become a creature of Washington. She should drop all pretense of making a home here or having a political future here,” said Rave.

Ever wonder what John Thune did after he decided to not seek re-election to the U.S. House and instead tried to unseat Sen. Tim Johnson? Thune lost that election, and a guy has to do something to pay the bills. I found this information, with footnotes, on the internet:

Controversies associated with John Thune

Railroad lobbyist ties


John Thune worked as a lobbyist for a small railroad company in Utah prior to his service in the US Senate. Roughly a year after getting elected, Senator Thune worked to create legislation that would allow the company to obtain large loans from the U.S. government. The purpose of the loan was to fund the costs of creating a rail system to move coal from Wyoming throughout the nation. Although the legislation was written, the company was not successful in securing the loans.

Senator Thune’s background

John Thune worked as a legislative assistant for U.S. Senator James Abdnor, and under President Reagan, he worked at the Small Business Administration. Thune was appointed Railroad Director of South Dakota by Governor George S. Mickelson and served from 1991–1993. Between 1993 and 1996, he worked as a member of the South Dakota Municipal League.

John Thune was elected to the US House for South Dakota’s at large district in the 1996 elections. One of his campaign promises was to term limit himself to three terms, or six years. Mr. Thune stuck to this promise and did not seek re-election in 2002. However, he did run for the U.S. Senate and lost to incumbent Tim Johnson.

After losing to Senator Johnson, Mr. Thune started a lobbying firm. His one-man company, the Thune Group, which he operated out of his Sioux Falls home, had clients which included a boneless-beef manufacturer, a company that builds ethanol plants and a major hospital in Sioux Falls. He was also affiliated with a Washington-based law firm, Arent Fox, representing a recycling facility and the National Milk Producers Federation. Another company he lobbied for was the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad (DM&E). In 2003 and 2004, Mr. Thune earned $220,000 from DM&E Railroad. In 2004, Mr. Thune was elected to the US Senate in South Dakota.

DM&E Railroad plan

In what was touted as “thelargest construction project in South Dakota’s history,” DM&E was proposing to rebuild and rehabilitate 1,300 miles of track. The purpose of the project was to install new tracks to Wyoming’s Powder River Basin and fix its existing track so it could haul coal and other products across South Dakota and southern Minnesota. The project was the nation’s largest proposed railroad expansion in more than a century at a price tag of roughly $6 Billion dollars. DM&E claimed that the project would have brought several thousand construction jobs to the affected states and will add about 2,000 permanent DM&E jobs to a railroad that employed about 350.

Loan provision in Bill

In his first year in the Senate, Senator Thune wrote language into a $286 Billion transportation bill expanding the pot of federal loan money for small railroads, enabling his former client (DM&E) to apply for $2.5 billion in government financing for its project. The money was to be loaned from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to help cover the initial costs of the program. The bill passed with the language intact in the summer of 2005 and President Bush signed the bill into law in August.

DM&E fails to secure loan

In March of 2007, it was reported that the FRA had rejected DM&E’s request for a $2.3 Billion dollar loan for the project. The FRA claimed it was due to DM&E being leveraged too far to take on the loan. Senator Thune believed that the rejection of the loan was a result of lobbying efforts from the BNSF Railway and the Union Pacific, two companies that already haul coal from Wyoming.

Kevin Schieffer, DM&E’s chief executive officer, agreed:

I would have to credit the UP with being straight up on this thing. I don’t think they are rooting for us on the sidelines, but by the same token, they said what they would do and did what they said. As a matter of fact, they have gone out of their way to make it clear they do not want to be viewed as anti-competitive. …

I certainly saw the (BNSF) coming in every office (at the FRA) I was six times over with twice the people. They were all over the place. …

They have been working long and hard on it both in Washington, D.C., and with customers.

[1] Website: New York Times Article: Lobbyist Turns Senator but Twists Same Arms Author: SHERYL GAY STOLBERG Accessed on: 05/05/2010

[2] Website: WCCO Article: Sen. Thune: Railroad Competitors Stopped DM&E Loan Author: AP Accessed on: 05/05/2010

[3] Website: South Dakota Politics Article: Thune secures “largest construction project in South Dakota’s history” Author: Quentin Riggins Accessed on: 05/05/2010


1 Response to “wwjd? (what would john do?)”

  1. 1 Right Again
    February 23, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    The Daschle legacy appears to have been overlooked. Senator Daschle not only is a lobbiest,
    but abandoned his SD roots and married one while in office. It seems that his only tie to
    SD now may be his inept accountant.

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