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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem speaks to attendees at the North Carolina GOP convention on June 5 in Greenville, North Carolina. Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits / Getty Images

A Tennessee billionaire and high-dollar Republican donor is funding the deployment of South Dakota National Guard troops to the U.S. Mexico border.

Driving the news: South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who's gaining attention as a possible 2024 presidential contender, made a splash on Tuesday with an announcement that she was deploying an unspecified number of National Guard troops to the border in Texas. A news release said the deployment "will be paid for by a private donation."

  • Noem spokesperson Ian Fury told Axios the funds are coming from a foundation run by Willis Johnson, founder of automotive salvage and auction company Copart.
  • Fury did not specify the size of the donation, which he said "was made directly to the state of South Dakota." Fury said that, "Governor Noem welcomes any such donations to help alleviate the cost to South Dakota taxpayers."
  • Johnson's connection was reported first by Insider.

Neither Johnson nor his charitable group, Willis and Reba Johnson's Foundation, could immediately be reached for comment.

  • The foundation had net assets of nearly $29 million at the end of 2018, the most recent filing period for which annual tax records are publicly available.

Between the lines: The Oklahoma-born Johnson is estimated to be worth $2.2 billion, per Forbes.

  • He's used that fortune to bankroll a number of high-profile political campaigns, including former President Trump's 2020 reelection campaign.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
Sep 10, 2021 - Politics & Policy

America's civil war of 2021

Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Top Republicans are calling for a public uprising to protest President Biden's broad vaccine mandates, eight months after more than 500 people stormed the U.S. Capitol to try to overturn the election.

Why it matters: It has been decades since America has witnessed such blatant and sustained calls for mass civil disobedience against the U.S. government.

Updated 30 mins ago - Science

Huge wildfire reaches edge of Sequoia National Park

A plume of smoke and flames rise into the air as the fire burns towards Moro Rock during the KNP Complex fire in the Sequoia National Park near Three Rivers, California, on Saturday. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Firefighters in Sequoia National Park were working into the night after two wildfires merged to reach the Giant Forest Saturday.

Why it matters: This forest contains over 2,000 giant sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree — the world's largest tree by volume. Park officials wrapped the redwoods in foil last week as the Paradise and Colony Fires, now known as the KNP Complex Fire, neared. Protection efforts appeared to be working overnight.

1 hour ago - World

Hong Kong holds first "patriots only" elections

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam during a news conference last Monday. Photo: Lui Siu Wai/Xinhua via Getty Images

Hong Kong's elections to choose the city's Election Committee members opened to a select group of voters on Sunday, under a new "patriots only" system imposed by China's government.

Why it matters: All candidates running to be members of the electoral college have been "vetted" by Beijing, per Reuters. They will go on to choose the Asian financial hub's next leader, approved by China's government, and some of its legislature.