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Border fence fund gets PR help

A U.S. Border Patrol agent walks in front of the border fence in Nogales, Ariz. in June 2008. (AP Photo Ross D. Franklin, File)

The anemic fundraising for Sen. Steve Smith’s build-your-own-border-fence campaign is getting some help from a professional public relations firm.

Rose+Moser+Allyn Public and Online Relations is promoting Build America’s Fence, which PR consultant Jason Rose describes as an “advocacy arm” for Smith’s fundraising efforts.

Rose said his firm will receive an undetermined percentage of the money it raises as payment, and the rest will be deposited with Build the Border Fence, the official state-managed fund that is collecting money to use for privately funded fencing along the Arizona-Mexico border.

“Hopefully the organization is going to be very successful raising awareness. If it’s not, then a noble effort would’ve been undertaken. If it is successful, it will increase the interest in and the donations for Sen. Smith’s efforts,” Rose said. “We’re going to go out there and raise awareness and help Sen. Smith’s objectives, and hope Sen. Smith is successful, and if it’s not, give the issue every effort to succeed.”

Rose said his firm hasn’t been paid by the committee and won’t be until it starts bringing in money for the border fence. Smith, he said, will not be paid for his work with the fund. He said Smith and Build America’s Fence, a non-profit organization, don’t have a target number for how much money it hopes to raise.

“The goal here is enrichment for the state treasury, not enrichment for consultants and anyone involved in the effort,” Rose said.

But even if the fundraising effort is lucrative for Rose’s firm, it may not translate into much actual fencing. Estimates vary on how much money a mile of double steel fencing costs, but projections range from $1.5 million to $2.8 million per mile. Smith has said the fence he’s planning will cost less because the state can use inmate labor, which would reduce labor costs significantly.

Rose said Build America’s Fence was started in part to counter criticisms that Smith and the Joint Border Security Advisory Committee, which is responsible for the construction and maintenance of the fence, hasn’t raised much money. According to the Treasurer’s Office, the fund has raised about $271,000. The committee had previously set a target of $50 million.

But fundraising for the fence, which started off with a bang, has been in steady decline. After raking in $213,000 in August, fundraising dropped to about $29,000 in September, $3,000 in October and nearly $14,000 in November. Contributions spiked to $77,000 in December, but dwindled to a paltry $740 in January.

Smith, R-Maricopa, whose SB1406 last year created the border fence fund, did not return a message seeking comment. Smith is co-director of Build America’s Fence.

Smith will hold a press conference today in front of the Legislature to raise awareness for his campaign and to call on Republican presidential candidates, who will convene in Mesa the following day for a debate, to endorse his border fence campaign.

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