Lawmaker supports giving tax dollars to alleged hate leader

Posted: Updated:
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- An Arizona lawmaker and candidate for governor wants to invest millions of tax dollars on border security equipment developed by an alleged hate group leader.

Sen. Al Melvin said Wednesday the state should pay for the hardware now offered by Glenn Spencer, the controversial leader of the American Border Patrol.

"I believe he's a patriot and he's trying to help the United States secure the border," Melvin said about Spencer, whose group routinely patrols the Arizona-Mexico border.

But civil rights organizations across the country don't share the same view.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, for example, described Spencer as, "one of the harder line anti-immigrant ideologues now operating."

The Anti-Defamation League wrote on its website that "in addition to spouting anti-Hispanic rhetoric, Spencer has attended white supremacist events hosted by American Renaissance and the Council of Conservative."

Despite these characterizations and accusations, Melvin says he wants to move forward with installing Spencer's electronic sensors along the Mexican border.

"We could do his technology at about $50,000 to $100,000 dollars a mile using inmate labor at 50 cents an hour," said Melvin, a Republican running for governor this year.

By Melvin's estimates, it would cost taxpayers $18.5 million at the very least to install Spencer's border securing equipment. That total does not include the cost of prison labor.

Spencer says the equipment is manufactured by one of his companies, Border Technology, Inc., which he claims is independent from his border patrol group.

Spencer also claimed during a phone conversation with 3TV that his products would secure the border within two years.

He flatly denies being the leader of a hate group and says he's preparing to take the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center to court. Over the years, Spencer claims to have worked well with people of all colors and ethnic backgrounds.

There was talk of Spencer at the Capitol after Melvin unexpectedly lavished praised on Spencer's border organization.

During a legislative hearing Tuesday afternoon, Melvin spoke about the need to secure the border when he said, "The American Border Patrol, I would encourage people to look at that website."