South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem financed the operation with money from a billionaire GOP donor.
South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem defended her recent decision to deploy a group of National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border using money from a billionaire Republican donor, describing the deployment as "vital" to her state's security.
On Tuesday it was announced that Noem was dispatching troops from the guard after auto scrap billionaire Willis Johnson made a contribution to underwrite the costs of the deployment.
Johnson has been a frequent donor to the Republican Party over the years and gave over $550,000 to support the unsuccessful reelection campaign of former President Donald Trump.
"I know there's been some questions about the private donation that is paying for this deployment," Noem said in a video posted to her official YouTube account. "On several occasions, our state has partnered with private citizens on projects that are important for South Dakota."
"This deployment is vital for the security of our state and our nation," she added.
Historically, guard deployments have been paid for with government dollars and under the orders of state government, not private donors.
Experts have criticized the unusual arrangement.
"You certainly don’t want our national security priorities up to the highest bidder," Mandy Smithberger from the Project on Government Oversight told the Washington Post.
Katherine L. Kuzminski from Center for A New American Security similarly told the paper, "This puts a marker on individual soldiers as mercenaries they may not be comfortable with."
In the video, Noem also compared the politically charged deployment to members of the guard being deployed in other national security situations.
"They've been deployed over and over again to the most dangerous parts of the world and these men and women are eager to protect this country once again," said Noem.
Republicans have been attacking President Joe Biden as he has undone many of the harsh anti-immigrant policies from the Trump administration.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, both Republicans, have announced efforts to purportedly secure the border, which is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security.
Noem and DeSantis have frequently been discussed as possible Republican presidential candidates in 2024, as has Abbott to a lesser extent, and Republican voters have frequently cited immigration and border security among the issues they care most about.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.