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One Man’s Border War: Billionaire Son, Howard Buffet, and His Crusade at the Border

Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Howard Buffett listens to opening remarks from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the 2016 Agricultural Outlook Forum on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016 in Crystal City, VA. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.
Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Howard Buffett listens to opening remarks from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the 2016 Agricultural Outlook Forum on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016 in Crystal City, VA. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

Howard Buffet, the son of billionaire Warren Buffet, has turned securing the U.S.-Mexico border into a personal crusade, spending millions to arm and transform the region.

The 64-year old billionaire and philanthropist Howard Buffet, son of Warren Buffett, the third wealthiest man in the world, owns a ranch in Cochise County, Arizona, just 300 yards from the Mexico border. For Buffet, the location is a convenient spot for his zealous commitment to stemming the flow of undocumented workers and drugs across the U.S.’ southern border. Buffet’s multi-million dollar investment in defending the border was revealed in a January report by the Pheonix New Times which reviewed thousands of pages of public records requests.

Buffet’s Border War

According to the report, the heir apparent of Berkshire Hathaway has built close ties with law enforcement agencies in the county as he seeks to gain support to control border crossings. Part of Buffett’s strategy in securing the border has involved arming of private volunteer groups. He has also employed law enforcement personnel and bankrolled them to stop crossing the porous border illegally.

Buffet has close ties with the Cochise County Sheriff’s office. He’s given gifts and grants totaling millions of dollars to the sheriff’s office to gain support for his protracted border war.

The Phoenix New Times report estimated that Buffett may have spent as much as $30 million on the county’s sheriff’s office and similar groups engaged in border security. Much of that financing has gone toward jump-starting an investigative unit for human and drug smuggling channels across the border. Some of the funds have also gone towards financing the renovation of one jail facility as well as towards purchasing law enforcement weapons, particularly for border surveillance, helicopters and training facilities.

It is said that Buffett has also financed the expansion of the county’s law enforcement communication infrastructure. Some of the support used for surveillance and communication has been installed on Buffett’s property.

Financial records obtained by the Phoenix New Times also indicated that the Buffett Foundation donated nearly $50,000 for a privately funded operation within the Sheriff’s Office for the use of canines in the detection of smuggling activities.

The sole financier of all the acquisitions and investments is the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, which receives between $150 million to $180 million from Warren Buffett himself annually – the foundation’s only contributor.

The massive investment has accorded Howard Buffett huge respect and a place within Illinois as well where his foundation is headquartered. In 2014, Buffet was accorded the title of Civilian Undersheriff of Macon County, Illinois as appreciation for his $4.5 million worth of donations and gifts to the county sheriff’s office.

In 2017 Buffett served out the remaining term of an Illinois County sheriff after the sudden midterm departure of Macon County Sheriff Thomas Schneider. His appointment resulted in millions of dollars’ worth of gifts to the county sheriff’s office that consequently led to the creation of Buffett-funded law enforcement training centers.

In support of Buffett’s efforts in border patrol and security in Arizona, the Cochise County Attorney’s office granted special dispensation for Buffet and his team to outfit law enforcement lights and sirens on their vehicles.

Buffett’s Mission Oaks Ranch

In 2016 Buffett, through what is believed to be his company, Iroquois LLC, purchased adjourning parcels and buildings to his land believed to be worth $5 million across the Mexico border. The new ranch would come to be known as Mission Oaks, occupying 2,000 acres of land.

Not much is known about the ranch, other than that it is at the epicenter of the ongoing border war and patrol. Buffett has opted to keep everything about the property from the public view. Signs erected along the roads warn off hunters as well as trespassers while proclaiming it is a wildlife conservancy.

In April 2018 a book titled Our 50-State Border Crisis by Buffett indicated the ranch is merely a home to wildlife. However, it also shares insights into how smugglers and immigrants had infiltrated the ranch.

U.S. Senate Scrutiny of Buffett’s Actions

The massive investments have militarized the Cochise County sheriff’s office aligning it perfectly with Buffett’s border enforcement agenda. However, he has come under scrutiny, especially from legislators. In 2015 Buffett appeared before the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where he had to defend his massive investment on border security.

“The Border Patrol will accept no private money and no private support. That limits some of their ability to increase force multipliers. So, we are trying to go around that, to be honest with you, work through the sheriff’s department, and make them the CCSO [Cochise County Sheriff’s Office] assets and have the Border Patrol work with us,” Mr. Buffett in a statement.

Buffett has always insisted that his activities and investment on the border is because of his resolve to ensure the rule of law. Others accuse Howard Buffet of being a vigilante and said the only thing that sets him aside from others is his extreme wealth.

Buffett’s Border Security Expansion Drive

Amid the scrutiny, Buffet has continued to expand his border security operations into Texas, another state affected by illegal crossing across the Mexican border. According to the Phoenix New Times report, his company Iroquois LLC purchased more than 240 acres of farmland along the Rio Grande River as part of the border security effort.

The Howard G. Buffett Foundation also donated $35,000 to Brooks County funds to enhance border security through equipment purchases. The county is one of the busiest corridors for undocumented crossing and smuggling of illegal drugs.

Buffett border security efforts have also seen him engage in chemical defoliation in what has come to be billed as grassland restoration. The project involved the use of helicopters to spray a thousand acres of trees and shrubs with herbicidal poison. The program aims to clear thousands of acres of trees and shrubs as a way of improving visibility across the border for surveillance purposes.

“This will change the face of how the border looks for these ranchers,” Buffett said. “For one thing, they are concerned about their safety, which is, of course, one issue. The other is that they want to reclaim their lands. So, this is a water and grassland conservation project, and it is also a border security project in one,” said Mr. Buffett.

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