A Tennessee businessman with a penchant for collecting cars is helping Jan Brewer elect Republicans to Congress, here and elsewhere.
The governor raised $350,763 for her federal political action committee in the three months ending Sept. 30 according to reports made public Tuesday.
And $100,000 of that came from Willis Johnson, chairman of the board of Copart, a nationwide chain of auto auction houses. Actually, the figure is really $110,000 when you add on another $10,000 that came from the company itself.
The governor told Capitol Media Services she met Johnson — she calls him by his first name — when she was in Tennessee earlier this year raising money for Marsha Blackburn, a Republican running for reelection to Congress.
“He reached out to me, actually,” she said.
Johnson is no stranger toArizona. Or at least, his company is not. It has operations in bothPhoenixandTucson.
“And we’re grateful for that,” Brewer said.
But the governor said Johnson is not expecting any special favors from her in exchange for his largesse.
“He has never asked me for a thing,” she said. “And he hasn’t asked me for a thing since he donated,” calling him “a true American that cares about his country.”
A message to Copart asking to speak with Johnson was not returned.
In a 2007 question-and-answer article in San Francisco Business Times, Johnson said he had about 60 cars, with his favorite being a 1955 Chevy.
The company’s web site sayd Johnson founded Copart in 1982 with a single salvage yard inCalifornia. He took the company public in 1994.
“He’s aVietnamveteran that came back from the war, started a business that became very, very successful, and he built it,” the governor said.
“And that’s whatAmericais to most people,” the governor continued. “And that’s why he believes in me.”
All totaled, Brewer has collected nearly $587,000 this year for herPAC.
Jan PAC spent more than $23,000 last week to produce and send a mailing to voters in the newly created 9th Congressional District urging them not to support the Democratic contender and instead vote for Republican Vernon Parker. Files at the Federal Election Commission show this is the first such expenditure in the year Brewer has had her committee.
The mailer includes a photo of Sinema, first elected to the Legislature in 2004, with President Obama and lists some votes she took as a lawmaker on immigration issues. That is in line with Brewer’s repeated statements that the Obama administration won’t secure the border and has suedArizonawhen it sought to enact its own restrictions.
Asked if she planned to spend money going after Ann Kirkpatrick and other Democrats in competitive congressional districts, the governor just smiled.
Rod McLeod, Sinema's campaign manager, said Brewer's efforts will have little effect. He said other outside PACs already have spent $1.5 million to produce commercials and other campaign materials attacking Sinema.
Anyway, McLeod said that the voting precincts that make up the new congressional district, stretching fromTempethrough parts ofScottsdaleto northPhoenix, actually supported Obama four years ago -- and did not support Brewer in her 2010 race.
None of that, however, kept McLeod from trying to turn Brewer's move into more cash for Sinema: Late Monday, Sinema's campaign web site mentioned what it called the governor's "sleazy attack'' -- and then used that to solicit $50 and $100 donations to the race.
McLeod also said the governor's opposition to his candidate should shock no one. PAC spokesman Paul Senseman said Brewer's decision to put her resources into an anti-Sinema campaign piece should be no surprise as well.
"Sinema stood up to the governor's priorities,'' he said, such as when Brewer sought to cut funding for Kids Care, a program that largely uses federal dollars to provide health insurance for the children of the working poor.
"This kind of attack is what we would expect,'' he said.
He also called some of the explanation of votes misleading. For example, he said Sinema's vote against sending National Guard troops to the border was because of the question of whether state taxpayers would be on the hook, not because she is against border security.
Other contributions to Brewer’s PAC include $25,000 from a separate PAC operated by Magellan Health Services. Since 2007, Magellan has a state contract as the regional behavioral health authority for Maricopa and parts of Pinal counties. Last budget year the company was paid $769.4 million by the state.
Senseman said there's nothing wrong with Brewer taking such a donation.
"The governor hasn't accepted any funds that she thinks are inappropriately contributed,'' he said.
Company spokesman David Carter said there is nothing unusual in the donation or the amount.
He said Magellan "contributes on a bipartisan basis in areas where Magellan has strategic interests and in states where our employees live and work.'' And Carter said about 10 percent of the company's employees are inArizona.
Carter also said that Brewer also is known for her "advocacy on behalf of those with mental illness.''