Arizona border-wall fund: Few donations from politicians

by Alia Beard Rau - Feb. 1, 2012 11:06 AM
The Republic |

When it comes to securing the border, Arizona's politicians haven't been keen to put their money where their mouths are.

According to contribution records, only two current state legislators have donated to the state's Border Security Trust Fund. The money is earmarked for building a wall along the border with Mexico. Lawmakers who have sought donations for the fund have said that Arizona needs to build a secure wall along the border if the federal government continues to fail to do so.

As of Jan. 19, the fund had raised $191,815 online and $84,311.47 from mail-in donations. Arizonans contributed about 20 percent of the total amount donated. Most donors gave $5 to $100.

Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, who sponsored the legislation to start the fund, gave $10. Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson, who chairs the state's Joint Border Security Advisory Committee, gave $50. Recalled Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, who supported the legislation, gave $20.

The names of other state lawmakers and politicians who regularly criticize the federal government's efforts to secure the border are absent, including Gov. Jan Brewer, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Sen. John McCain.

Smith has gone on national cable news shows to beg Americans to donate.

"Donate to the country's security," Smith has said. "This is an American problem, not an Arizona problem."

But he said he has no plans to give additional money of his own to the fund. He said his $10 was really just given to test out the online donation system before taking it live. He said his contribution has been his time and support.

"The amount of hours I've put in certainly would compensate," he said.

There are more than 200 miles of Arizona border the committee would like to better secure with fencing. It has cost the federal government about $3 million a mile to build the type of fence committee members want.

But members have said they can do it much more cheaply using state inmate labor and getting free or discounted help from local businesses. Smith previously said that he would like to raise $50 million.

Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, chairwoman of the Senate Border Security, Federalism and States Sovereignty Committee, had not donated to the fund as of Jan. 19, according to records.

When asked about it, Allen said she thought she had written a check to the fund. She then donated $25.

Arizona border-wall fund: Few donations from politicians