Fisher Industries is a privately held construction company based in Dickinson, North Dakota, founded by Gene Fisher in 1952 and led in turn by sons David Fisher, Micheal Fisher, and Tommy Fisher.[1][2] It is the parent company of Fisher Sand and Gravel, Arizona Drilling and Blasting, Southwest Asphalt, Southwest Asphalt Paving, Fisher Grading and Excavating, Fisher Ready Mix, and General Steel and Supply Co.[3]

Links with Donald Trump edit

President Donald Trump lobbied for the company to receive contracts on the US-Mexico Trump wall, to the Department of Homeland Security, to Todd T. Semonite of the Army Corps of Engineers, and promoted the company in an interview on Fox News with Sean Hannity.[4] Jared Kushner has also endorsed the company, as well as freshman North Dakota senator Kevin Cramer, to whose campaign the Fisher family contributed $50,000.[5][6]

Tommy Fisher has appeared on local and conservative TV and radio and is a donor to several charities and the Republican Party.[6][7] Senator Cramer suggested Fisher's Fox News appearances are what attracted Trump to the company. Tommy Fisher has spent $145,000 on lobbyists to discuss the border wall with lawmakers.[8]

Legal issues edit

The High Plains Reader has documented environmental violations and tax evasion by the company, including 169 citations and paying $1 million in air quality violation fines in Maricopa County, Arizona over the past 10 years.[9] By May 2019, the company had racked up 1,300 air-quality violations and a $500,000 fine in 2013 for breaking an earlier air quality agreement.[10] From 2002 to 2020, Fisher Sand & Gravel companies paid $697,000 in fines to the Environmental Protection Agency.[5] In 2009, Micheal Fisher, then-owner of Fisher, pled guilty to nine counts of felony tax fraud,[11][12][13] being sentenced to 37 months in prison and over $300,000 in restitution. Amiel Schaff, FSG's former chief financial officer, and Clyde Frank, FSG's former comptroller, also pled guilty to one count each of conspiracy to defraud the United States in 2009. The 2009 Department of Justice settlement required FSG to pay a total of $1.16 million in restitution, penalties and fines, implement measures to prevent future fraud at the company, and cooperate with the IRS in audits of its tax returns.[14] Another former head of the company, David William Fisher, pled guilty in 2005 to possession of child pornography of a 10 year old child and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Although in exchange for his guilty plea, the charges of sexual exploitation of minors was dropped.[15][9] He was released on April 30, 2010.[16]

A three-mile section of border wall constructed by Fisher Industries was found by the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) to be in violation of the 1970 Boundary Treaty between the United States and Mexico, due to the wall potentially moving the centerline of the Rio Grande and thus the international border between the two countries. The IBWC in federal court asked Fisher Industries to address concerns with the Rio Grande centerline, flood damage, debris accumulation, and erosion due to the wall. The land the wall was built on was not subdivided before construction, and caused a $20 million increase in the taxable value of the farmland, increasing the tax bill by 7,500 percent. Fisher Industries had entered into a lease-purchase agreement strip of land the wall is built on, but did not complete the purchase in over a year, making it unclear who will pay the tax bill.[17] The IBWC completed its hydrology model in March 2020 and found one point where the wall was deflecting too much water, but that the wall's impacts overall were minor. ProPublica and The Texas Tribune provided photos of the wall to engineers and hydrologists, who said the wall was starting to suffer from runoff erosion and is at risk of falling into the river unless repairs are made.[18] The next hearing is scheduled for March 3, 2021.

Projects edit

Galena Creek Bridge edit

In 2011, Fisher Sand & Gravel completed the Galena Creek Bridge in Washoe County, Nevada after work on it had been stopped by a previous contractor for being "too dangerous" due to high winds.[5]

San Diego wall prototype and government contracts edit

In April 2019 Fisher Industries sued the Army Corps for using an inconsistent contract acceptance policy in two wall contracts.[7][4] The Corps agreed and sided with Fisher. They had previously built a concrete-based prototype of the border wall in 2017. The concrete wall was late, over budget, and more expensive than a steel wall, and Fisher's later steel design did not meet the Army Corps requirements.[4]

New Mexico private wall construction edit

The company built sections of a border wall on private property in Sunland Park, New Mexico owned by the American Eagle Brick Company. Sunland Park is adjacent to El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Some of the construction money was raised by We Build The Wall, which began as a GoFundMe campaign by Internet fundraiser Brian Kolfage.[6] Despite construction having been started, building permits for the wall had not been approved by Sunland Park whose mayor issued a cease and desist letter to Fisher.[19][20] Construction resumed on May 30, 2019, after research on zoning showed the structure was within code.[21]

Proposed Arizona demonstration project edit

Trump advisor and former Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, visited Coolidge, Arizona with disabled United States Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage and other border wall proponents to observe Fisher's demonstration of how it would build a border fence. Fisher maintained it could erect 218 miles of the barrier for $3.3 billion and be able to complete it in 13 months. Spin cameras positioned atop the fence would use facial recognition technology. Fiber optic cables buried in the ground could detect and differentiate between human activity, vehicles, tunneling, and animals as distant as 40 feet away. The Arizona barrier would be constructed with 42 miles near Yuma and 91 miles near Tucson, Arizona, plus 69 miles near El Paso, Texas, and 15 more miles near El Centro, California. It would reportedly cost $12.5 million per mile. Louisiana Republican U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy said he traveled with the group of politicians over the 2019 Easter recess to Coolidge, which is 120 miles north of the Mexico border, because he felt that not enough barrier and border enhancements had been erected since Donald Trump became president 27 months previously.[22] Cramer was there to promote Fisher, which demonstrated its ability by constructing a 56-foot fence in Coolidge, located 120 miles north of the Mexican border.[23] However, Arizona's freshman U.S. Senator, Republican Martha McSally said that a barrier will not resolve the border crisis.[24]

Border infrastructure along Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge edit

On December 2, 2019, Fisher Sand and Gravel Company was awarded nearly $400 million by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct border infrastructure alongside the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge.[25] The estimated 31 miles of new barrier would cost $12.9 million per mile.[26] The Department of Defense's inspector general launched an audit of the contract two weeks later.[8]

Southern Arizona border wall project edit

On May 6, 2020, the US Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $1.28 billion contract to Fisher Sand and Gravel to build 42 miles of border wall near Nogales, Arizona, at a cost of $30.4 million per mile.[8][5]

Involvement with We Build the Wall organization edit

In late 2018, Kobach had joined with other right-wing political operatives, including billionaire Erik Prince, Trump adviser and former Breitbart editor Steve Bannon, Breitbart manager Brandon Darby, former Milwaukee County, Wisconsin Sheriff David Clarke, former Congressman Tom Tancredo and Kolfage to form an organization to raise funds facilitating construction of a barrier.[27][28] Kolfage had raised tens of millions of donated dollars and asserted the organization would raise such private funds to construct hundreds of miles of their proposed border wall on private lands in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. As its prime organizer, in December 2018, Kolfage launched what he represented as an attempt to raise $1 billion via GoFundMe for the wall's construction, but changed the structure of the organization to become a 501(c)4, that allows it to make unlimited political contributions.[29][30][31] Kolfage stated that the target figure was achievable, adding "This won't be easy, but it's our duty as citizens".[32][27][31] In June 2019, Tommy Fisher took part in We Build the Wall's three-day "Wall-A-Thon" fundraiser, which raised $25 million by mid-2020. The organization had difficulty giving the money to the US government, and instead formed a nonprofit organization to spend the money.[5] On August 20, 2020, a federal grand jury indictment was unsealed against Bannon, Kolfage and two others, charging them with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering.[33][34][35] Federal prosecutors of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York allege that Bannon, Kolfage, and the two other defendants used funds received from the We Build the Wall fundraising campaign, marketed to support the building of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, in a way which was "inconsistent" with how they were advertised for use to the public.[36][37]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "Ladbury Funeral Service - Dickinson, ND 58601". Archived from the original on December 24, 2020. Retrieved 2020-08-25.
  2. ^ "Gene Fisher". PQ Hall of Fame. 2018-11-28. Archived from the original on December 24, 2020. Retrieved 2020-08-25.
  3. ^ "Fisher Industries". Retrieved 2022-12-13.
  4. ^ a b c Anna Giaritelli (7 May 2019). "Construction company sues Army Corps, calls border fence bid process 'highly flawed'". Washington Examiner. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e Jankowicz, Mia (October 25, 2020). "How a midsize construction firm used political influence, litigation, and media stunts — and secured $2 billion in Trump border-wall contracts". Business Insider. Archived from the original on November 2, 2020. Retrieved December 24, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c Miroff, Nick; Dawsey, Josh (May 23, 2019). "He always brings them up: Trump tries to steer border wall deal to North Dakota firm". Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 20, 2020. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  7. ^ a b Anna Giaritelli (9 May 2019). "Army Corps rescinds border wall contract, admits it 'improperly excluded' companies from bidding". Washington Examiner. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  8. ^ a b c Prendergast, Curt (May 20, 2020). "$1.28 billion wall project on Arizona border goes to firm favored by Trump". Archived from the original on November 26, 2020. Retrieved December 24, 2020.
  9. ^ a b C.S. Hagen (January 31, 2018). "The dark side of Trump's wall". High Plains Reader. Archived from the original on November 2, 2020. Retrieved 29 May 2019. And the Dickinson-based company has a long history of criminal tax evasion, pollution citations, environmental fines, litigiousness, heavy campaign contributions, and one previous CEO, David Fischer, with a conviction for child pornography.
  10. ^ Alvarez, Priscilla; Foran, Clare; Browne, Ryan (May 31, 2019). "Company touted by Trump to build the wall has history of fines, violations". CNN. Archived from the original on August 18, 2020. Retrieved December 23, 2020.
  11. ^ "United States v. Fisher, 669 F. Supp. 2d 1013 –". Archived from the original on August 20, 2019. Retrieved 2020-08-25.
  12. ^ "Former Dickinson businessman sentenced for tax fraud". Grand Forks Herald. December 16, 2009. Archived from the original on May 29, 2019. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  13. ^ "Former Fisher Sand & Gravel exec pleads guilty to tax fraud". The Billings Gazette. The Associated Press. Archived from the original on November 20, 2020. Retrieved 2020-08-25.
  14. ^ "North Dakota Executive Sentenced to Prison for Tax Fraud". United States Department of Justice. December 14, 2009. Archived from the original on November 11, 2020. Retrieved December 23, 2020. According to court documents and testimony, Micheal Fisher caused FSG employees to pay for personal expenses such as construction expenses and furnishings for his personal residence and a recreation building, construction expenses for improvements to Tiger Discount, a gas station owned and controlled by Fisher, as well as household and utility bills, vacations, credit card bills and legal expenses for him and other Fisher family members. The agreement requires FSG to pay a total of $1.16 million in restitution, penalties and fines, implement measures to prevent future fraud at the company and cooperate with the IRS in audits of its tax returns.
  15. ^ "Ex-Dickinson businessman sentenced for child porn". Bismarck Tribune. Archived from the original on November 18, 2020. Retrieved 2020-08-25.
  16. ^ David William Fischer 08880-059, Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved June 5, 2019.
  17. ^ Arévalo, Dina (December 12, 2020). "Fate of private border wall unclear". The Monitor (Texas). Archived from the original on December 16, 2020. Retrieved December 24, 2020. Since the international boundary between the two nations is defined by the centerline of the river, all development within the floodplain of the Rio Grande must be approved by the IBWC and its Mexican counterpart, La Comisión Internacional de Límites y Agua (CILA). Development cannot cause a change in the course or flow of the river.
  18. ^ Schwartz, Jeremy; Trevizo, Perla (July 2, 2020). "He built a privately funded border wall. It's already at risk of falling down if not fixed". The Texas Tribune and ProPublica. Archived from the original on December 19, 2020. Retrieved December 25, 2020.
  19. ^ Aguilar, Julián (May 28, 2019). "Border wall on private land near El Paso lacks necessary permits, local officials say". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved 29 May 2019. "The city has not provided any permits, it has not approved of the construction that has gone up already," city spokesperson Peter Ibardo told The Texas Tribune on Tuesday. "They built the structure without authority or any building permits from the city."
  20. ^ Donica Phifer (28 May 2019). "New Mexico Mayor orders group building border wall on private land to stop construction". Retrieved 30 May 2019. The mayor of Sunland Park, New Mexico, has issued a cease-and-desist order to a private group that raised millions to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
  21. ^ Camacho, Marian; Hayes, Patrick (May 31, 2019). "Construction on private border wall continues". KOB. Archived from the original on August 11, 2019. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
  22. ^ Anna Giaritelli (April 16, 2019). "Kris Kobach and fellow border hawks join Army Corps in Arizona to see company's border fence proposal". Washington Examiner. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  23. ^ Eloise Ogden (April 19, 2019). "ND company demonstrates building border wall". Minot Daily News. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  24. ^ Anna Giaritelli (April 17, 2019). "Wall supporter Martha McSally says more barrier won't end border crisis". Washington Examiner. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  25. ^ "Contracts For Dec. 2, 2019". United States Department of Defense. December 2, 2019. Archived from the original on November 12, 2020. Retrieved December 24, 2020. Fisher Sand and Gravel Co., Dickinson, North Dakota, was awarded a $399,962,000 firm-fixed-price contract to design-build border infrastructure along the southern perimeter of the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in Yuma County, Arizona. Five bids were solicited with three bids received. Work will be performed in Yuma, Arizona, with an estimated completion date of Dec. 30, 2020. Fiscal 2018 military construction, defense-wide funds in the amount of $268,072,900 were obligated at the time of the award. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District, Portland, Oregon, is the contracting activity (W912PL-20-C-0004).
  26. ^ Miroff, Nick; Dawsey, Josh (December 3, 2019). "North Dakota company that Trump touted gets $400 million border wall contract". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 23, 2020. Retrieved December 24, 2020. In a statement, Cramer said the company plans to build 31 miles of new barrier.
  27. ^ a b Beau Hodai (March 30, 2019). "What Are Steve Bannon, Kris Kobach and Co. up to at the Arizona-Mexico Border?". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  28. ^ Sacks, Brianna (January 10, 2019). ""I Felt Dirty": Former Employees Of The Veteran Crowdfunding Trump's Wall Say He Pushed Fake News To Get Rich". Buzzfeed. Retrieved 2019-05-30.
  29. ^ Zadrozny, Brandy; Collins, Ben (January 11, 2019). "Behind the viral #GoFundTheWall fundraiser, a rising conservative star and a shadowy email harvesting operation". NBC News. Retrieved 2019-05-30.
  30. ^ Alfaro, Mariana (January 12, 2019). "Man behind 'Build the Wall' GoFundMe has reportedly made a potentially lucrative contact list thanks to a shadowy email-harvesting operation". Business Insider. Retrieved 2019-05-30.
  31. ^ a b Collins, Ben (December 20, 2018). "Founder of viral fundraiser for Trump's border wall has questionable news past". NBC News. Retrieved 2019-05-30.
  32. ^ "Trump supporters angry at his 'retreat' on border wall". BBC. 20 December 2018. Retrieved 2019-05-30.
  33. ^ Josh Gerstein (August 20, 2020). "Former Trump aide Bannon charged with swindling donors in private border wall effort". Politico. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  34. ^ Alan Feuer; William K. Rashbaum; Maggie Haberman (August 20, 2020). "Steve Bannon Is Charged With Fraud in 'We Build the Wall' Campaign". New York Times. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  35. ^ Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey & Rosalind S. Helderman, Steve Bannon charged with defrauding donors in private effort to raise money for Trump’s border wall, Washington Post, August 20, 2020. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  36. ^ "Former Trump adviser Bannon charged with fraud by federal prosecutors". Reuters. 20 August 2020. Retrieved 24 August 2020.
  37. ^ Russell Berman (August 20, 2020). "The United States Versus Steve Bannon". The Atlantic. Retrieved August 24, 2020.