Owner of border wall construction firm gave to McSally, other AZ Republicans in 2018

By: - December 13, 2019 12:12 pm

Martha McSally speaks at a 2018 primary election night gathering on Aug. 28, 2018 in Tempe. Photo by Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

The Office of Inspector General for the Department of Defense will investigate a $400 million contract to construct a border wall in Arizona that was given to a North Dakota company that President Donald Trump advocated for, and whose owner gave Arizona Sen. Martha McSally’s 2018 campaign the maximum allowed under the law.

The OIG investigation was prompted by a letter from Rep. Dennie Thompson, D-Miss., who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee. Thompson noted that the company, North Dakota-based Fisher Sand & Gravel, had never been awarded a government construction contract, didn’t “meet the operational requirements of U.S. Customs and Border Protection” and may have been selected after “inappropriate influence” by the White House.

In 2018, the company’s CEO, Tommy Fisher, contributed $5,400 to McSally’s 2018 U.S. Senate campaign, the most legally allowed for the 2018 campaign cycle. McSally lost narrowly to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, but was appointed to the Senate by Gov. Doug Ducey to fill out the remainder of the term that the late John McCain was elected to serve.

Fisher also gave to other Arizona congressional Republicans in 2018, giving $4,200 to Rep. Debbie Lesko and $2,700 each to Andy Biggs and David Schweikert. 

Since becoming a senator, McSally has supported Trump’s efforts to build a border wall, a core promise of his 2016 campaign for president. In February 2019, she met with Fisher and North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer – who held up the confirmation of a White House official as he attempted to steer contracts to Fisher – to talk about border security.

A month later, Trump declared a border emergency and said the administration would divert money from Department of Defense projects to pay for building the border wall. McSally voted against a resolution to block the national emergency declaration.

About $30 million of the $3.6 billion diverted to fund wall construction came from planned repairs for the Ft. Huachuca Ground Transport Equipment Building in Arizona. In 2017, when money for the project was awarded, the Army said that the buildings don’t meet standards for vehicle testing and maintenance, exposing soldiers to “unsafe” facilities that “jeopardize personnel health, security and safety.” 

McSally in 2017 boasted about getting the funding for the Ft. Huachuca repairs, but this year downplayed the impact that using the money for border wall construction would have. 

In September, McSally voted against a measure to overturn the raid on military funding. The measure ultimately passed, but Trump vetoed it. In October, McSally voted against overriding the veto. 

The House Republicans from Arizona also voted against the March and September measures to block using the military money on border wall construction. 

McSally has also received campaign contributions in 2019 from the head of another construction company that has received a contract to build a border wall in Arizona. BFBC LLC, an affiliate of Barnard Construction from Bozeman, Montana, was given a $260 million contract to build two sections of wall near Yuma, according to The Arizona Republic.

Timothy Barnard, the chairman of Barnard Construction, wrote two checks to McSally’s 2020 Senate campaign in July totalling $3,750.

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Jim Small
Jim Small

Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications. He has also served as the editor and executive director of the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting.