by Kaylee Greenlee
A Tennessee Republican billionaire offered South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem funding to send National Guard troops to Texas to help manage the border crisis, the Associated Press reported Thursday.
Willis Johnson, 74, who earned his fortune by creating an international junkyard empire, offered Noem $1 million to deploy the South Dakota National Guard to the southern border, according to the AP. Noem accepted the donation despite Johnson living in Tennessee, earning skepticism from experts who said the donation could set a precedent for wealthy individuals to essentially activate the U.S. military for political reasons.
“I didn’t know it would build into a bonfire,” Johnson told the AP. “It’s getting out there a lot more than I thought.”
South Dakota is deploying up to 50 @SD_Guard troops to help support Texas in their efforts to secure the border.
I know there have been some questions about this effort. WATCH HERE for more information: pic.twitter.com/BHiAHPc5nw
— Governor Kristi Noem (@govkristinoem) June 30, 2021
“We don’t need this donation and whether it’s legal or not, it’s a terrible idea because it looks like our guardsmen are being used as political pawns,” Democratic South Dakota state Sen. Reynold Nesiba said, the AP reported.
The donation was made from Johnson’s private foundation and legally accepted into South Dakota’s emergency fund, Noem’s spokesperson Ian Fry said, according to the AP. Fry added the guardsmen would have been deployed regardless of Johnson’s donation.
“I know there’s been some questions about the private donation that is paying for this deployment. On several occasions, our state has partnered with private citizens on projects that are important for South Dakota,” Noem said, video shows. “This deployment is vital for the security of our state and our nation.”
South Dakota state law says the emergency fund can be accessed “to meet special emergency requirements of the Division of Emergency Management,” and that donations should be used accordingly, the AP reported.
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Kaylee Greenlee is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.