The head of the company that makes tear gas used on migrants at the Tijuana border is also a backer of Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) who donated money to Booker’s most recent campaign and served on the host committee for a Booker fundraiser, records show.
Warren Kanders is the head of Safariland, a defense supplies vendor that reportedly supplied at least some of the chemical agents used by Customs and Border Protection this weekend on migrants, including women and children. Safariland products were also linked to the police crackdown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 and to serious injuries sustained by water-rights activists at Standing Rock in 2016.
More recently, TYT reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had purchased a Safariland product called the “TranZport Hood” that covers detainees’ mouths and part of their faces.
The California and Florida-based company is owned by Kanders, who also serves as its CEO. Kanders has a significant history of political donations, having contributed large sums of money mostly to the Republican Party, but more recently to two high-profile Democrats--Booker and Hillary Clinton--according to FEC data reviewed by TYT.
In 2013, Kanders gave Booker $10,400. The contributions exceeded campaign-finance limits, and the campaign refunded $5,200. Kanders’ wife Allison also contributed to Cory Booker the same year — to the exclusion of any other candidates — doling out $10,400, half of which was also refunded.
The same year, Kanders and his wife both served as members of the host committee for a private fundraiser benefiting Booker’s campaign. The fundraiser was held July 2, 2013, and tickets cost between $1000 and $5000.
The following year, Kanders gave $5,000 to the Booker Senate Victory fund.
Booker has been an outspoken critic of the Trump administration’s treatment of migrants and asylum seekers, calling the recent use of chemical agents, “ugly, cruel & cowardly.”
Kanders also contributed $2,700 to Hillary Clinton in December, 2015, but was refunded the same amount later that month. The amount did not exceed campaign-finance limits at the time and the FEC records do not say whether the Clinton campaign rejected the donation or whether Kanders requested its return.
The donations to Clinton and Booker stand in stark contrast to the Kanders’ previous political donations.
In 2008 alone, Kanders gave $28,500 to the Republican National Committee, and $8,725 each to the Republican Campaign Committee of New Mexico, the Republican Party of Wisconsin, the Colorado Republican Campaign Committee, and the Republican Party of Minnesota. The same year, Kanders also gave $68,000 to the McCain Victory 2008 fund.
This August, Kanders gave $10,000 to the Colorado Republican Committee, but he has not made significant donations to national-level Republican candidates since 2008.
Kanders’ wife likewise gave significant contributions to Republicans in prior years, shelling out $27,400 to the RNC and $32,000 to the McCain Victory fund in 2008 and $10,000 to the Romney Victory fund in 2012.
The couple is socially active in New York and Aspen. The two are listed as “President’s Society” donors at the Aspen Institute, where Booker is a fellow. Several Aspen Institute members belonged to the Booker fundraiser host committee along with the Kanderses. Warren Kanders is also a vice chair of the Whitney, where his wife, Allison, has co-chaired the museum’s annual gala, where she has been photographed with celebrities such as Sting.