Arizona is on its way to financing its first segment of border fence.
In the first 17 hours since a website went online, the account to build a barrier got 884 donations totaling $39,085 according to Mike Philipsen, spokesman for Senate Republicans.
Philipsen said that included "plenty'' of the $5 minimum donations that could be made using a credit card, with "dozens'' in the range of $250 to $500. He also reported there was at least one contribution of $1,000.
That still leaves a long way to go before anything can be built: Estimates of the cost of constructing the kind of pedestrian-proof fence envisioned by Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, can run upwards of $7 million a mile, depending on conditions. And even Smith conceded the price tag could approach $3 million a mile.
Smith insisted, though, there are ways to save money, including the use of inmate labor and getting suppliers to either donate materials or at least sell them to the state at cost.
Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed the legislation authorizing the border fence fund, said Wednesday she hopes the effort is successful.
But the governor stopped short of urging people to actually send money. And she acknowledged that her focus is raising money for her own pet need: helping the state pay the legal bills in its defense of last year's immigration law, using the occasion to promote that instead.
"Let it be understood that the legal defense fund -- keepazsafe.com -- was up there and out there before,'' she said.
One unanswered question is whether those who donate will be able to write off the amount as a charitable deduction.
Smith produced a statement from state Comptroller Clark Patridge declaring that, under the Internal Revenue Code, contributions made to a state is a charity "if such gift is made for exclusively public purposes.'' And Patridge said Arizona law defines contributions the same as federal rules.
But he stopped short of actually telling donors they can take the deduction.
"Although it is not the function of the state to give legal or tax advice, a donation made to the state of Arizona to support a public purpose may qualify as a deduction in determining the donor's federal and Arizona taxable income,'' Partridge wrote. "Donors should consult with their legal and/or tax advisers for guidance.''
Smith said Arizona needs to build its own fence because only about 306 miles of Arizona's 388-mile international border is fenced. And much of it, he said, is inadequate to stop people from simply walking around or cutting through it.