Willis Johnson doesn’t live in the state but says he backs Gov. Kristi Noem, a potential presidential candidate who has called migration a “national security crisis.”
A wealthy Republican donor says he is funding up to 50 South Dakota National Guard troops whom Gov. Kristi Noem is sending to the U.S.-Mexico border.
“I’m trying to help out the governor and help America,” said Willis Johnson, the billionaire founder and chairman of a global company called Copart Inc., which auctions used, wholesale and wrecked cars.
Johnson does not wield any direct power over the National Guard as far as I know, but the availability of funds may make it politically easier or more expedient for South Dakota governor Noem to execute and support the troop movement, and it certainly elevates them visibly and politically, potentially a boost for Noem in their current position and in any "potential" presidential run in the future.
Question: Can this infusion of private money into the state's budget to fund a specific, highly visible movement of South Dakota National Guard troops and associated supplies and equipment be considered a campaign donation to the extent that it might need to be reported and treated as such? Does it violate any other state or federal law, regulation or statute because of the connection between troop movements and some rich person's pocketbook?
Note that in the United States the National Guard has been used several times to defend assets against United States citizens and has occasionally shot and killed some of them, so it's interesting to see a rich private citizen having any hand in their activities, or at least trying to.
Addendum: the state at the receiving end (South Dakota does not border Mexico) appears to be Texas which has received help from other states.
update: From Politico 07/10/2021 Why Are Republican Governors Sending National Guard to the Border?:
A state lawmaker says it’s legal, but security experts have called the moved unethical and dangerous. “You certainly don’t want our national security priorities up to the highest bidder,” Mandy Smithberger of the Project on Government Oversight told the Washington Post.