Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Donors Send Millions to Defend Arizona Law

Thank you Mr. Mellon and the more than 42000 others who have sent donations to help Arizona defend itself against the federal government!

Arizona has attracted more than $3.6 million of donations to help defend its law to crack down on illegal immigration, with one whopping contribution—and thousands of smaller ones—from out of state.

Timothy Mellon, an heir to a Pittsburgh steel and banking dynasty, has donated $1.5 million to a legal-defense fund established by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, according to the governor's office.

Mr. Mellon, who is identified on a donor list as a Wyoming resident, is among more than 42,000 people who have contributed to the border state's legal battle for the right to enforce the law, which Arizona's legislature passed earlier this year.

The law makes illegal immigration a state crime and requires police to check the immigration status of anyone they stop if they suspect they are in the state unlawfully.

Mr. Mellon's contribution is an anomaly. Through Sept. 9, the latest date for which information is available, most of the donations have been small, many between $20 and $100. Sympathizers from all 50 states and the District of Columbia have contributed to the fund. Most of the individual online contributions have come from Arizona, followed by California, Texas, Florida and New York.

Since Ms. Brewer signed Arizona Senate Bill 1070 in April, her popularity has soared, bolstering the Republican's chances in next Tuesday's gubernatorial election. Polls show her with a lead of more than 10 percentage points over state Attorney General Terry Goddard.

The law sparked a national debate and propelled illegal immigration to the forefront of the midterm election campaign. Candidates in more than 25 states have said they would draft similar laws if they were elected, according to ImmigrationWorks USA, a pro-business group that favors changing immigration policy.

Arizona is widely regarded as a testing ground for tackling illegal immigration. SB1070 could culminate in a U.S. Supreme Court clash over state versus federal power that backers of the measure hope will establish a new legal precedent that delegates more authority over immigration to the states.

In May, amid lawsuits from individuals and civil-rights groups, Ms. Brewer signed an executive order creating the Border Security and Illegal Immigration Defense Fund to raise money from private citizens to help pay the state's legal costs.

The state is represented by Snell & Wilmer, a big Phoenix law firm that is charging $225 to $450 an hour. Ms. Brewer tapped outside counsel after Mr. Goddard, her Democratic rival in the gubernatorial election, expressed reservations about defending the law against the suits, according to the governor's spokesman.

A spokesman for Mr. Goddard said he stepped aside after the Arizona legislature enacted a statute that deprived him of the authority to defend SB1070 in court and gave the governor the authority to hire outside counsel.

In early July, the Obama administration filed suit over the statute, saying the state had "crossed a constitutional line" and was interfering with federal authority over immigration. Most out-of-state donations began flowing to Arizona after that suit was filed.

On July 29, a federal judge temporarily stopped key provisions of the law from taking effect, saying it was unlikely Arizona would prevail in challenges to provisions such as requiring police to question and detain suspected illegal immigrants during routine stops. Arizona appealed the decision, setting in motion what is likely to be a protracted legal battle with Washington.

About 220 attorneys have taken part in the suits so far, and there have been more than 1,000 legal filings, the governor's spokesman said. The state has paid more than $441,000 in legal fees, according to invoices from Snell & Wilmer reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Those expenditures are for only two months and are likely to increase quickly.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will consider the Obama administration's suit beginning Monday.

"Gov. Brewer has stated that she is prepared to take this case to the U.S. Supreme Court," said Paul Senseman, the governor's deputy chief of staff.

If the case were to reach the high court, attorneys fees could soar to $10 million, according to Robert Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies, a nonpartisan research group in Los Angeles.

Mr. Mellon was unavailable for comment. "We believe the donation speaks for itself," said Robert Culliford, general counsel for Pan Am Systems Inc., a private shipping and freight concern of which Mr. Mellon is chairman.

Mr. Mellon has donated money to several GOP candidates during the current election cycle, including U.S. Senate hopefuls Carly Fiorina in California and Marco Rubio in Florida and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, according to OpenSecrets.org, which tracks political contributions.

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