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Access Washington: Immigration and Money in 2008 Politics

New America Media, News Report, Wendy Sefsaf Posted: Jul 12, 2008

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Editors Note: NAMs Access Washington Weekly Immigration Update is a column summarizing key developments in the immigration debate. This column is produced by New America Medias Washington, D.C. office and is available in Spanish, Chinese and Korean.

WASHINGTON -- A wide variety of pro- and anti-immigrant groups are inserting their influence in this years election cyclesome through traditional activities like marches and voter registration efforts, while others are taking what some might consider a more effective approach: injecting cash directly into political campaigns.

The We Are America Alliance, an immigrant rights group, is taking the "good old-fashioned" approach of planning a march during the Democratic National Convention in Denver. The group says they expect anywhere from 5,000 to 50,000 people at the march on Aug. 26. They hope to garner attention for their cause. However, after the massive marches and rallies that attended the debate over comprehensive immigration reform last year, some might wonder if marches are indeed the most effective tactic.

Anti-immigrant groups have been putting their money where their ideals are for some time. They are attempting and arguably succeeding in directly influencing Congressional elections and legislation through the use of Political Action Committees (PACs).

According to the Federal Election Campaign Act, PACs are political committees that receive contributions or make expenditures in excess of $1,000 for the purpose of influencing a federal election. Contributions by individuals to federal PACs are limited to $5,000 per year. PACs are not charities and giving money to them carries no tax benefits.

One of the most active anti-immigration PACs is Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC). This North Carolina-based PAC has announced the launch of a campaign to "throw out all incumbents this fall unless that candidate is against comprehensive immigration reform/amnesty/guest worker." According to Federal Election Commission reports, ALIPAC has raised $164,000 so far this year and some of their past funds were spent not on candidates alone, but according to filings, on a "phone bankwhere calls were made into targeted states asking people to call Washington to oppose the amnesty bill."

Another group, Americans Against Illegal Immigration PAC (AAIIPAC), based out of California, has raised nearly $700,000 this year. Their executive director, Allen Brandstater, is a veteran of more than 150 political campaigns, including four of amnesty advocate Ronald Reagan's. His organizations goal is to support candidates who are "defending the borders of the United States of America, enforcing existing laws to stop illegal aliens from occupying our nation, building an effective barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border," and who agree to "no government aid, welfare or benefits to illegal aliens (with one exception: emergency medical necessity)."

Also, the Minutemen Project has a PAC, which in 2008 filed a report with the FEC that it has raised just over a million dollars. This PAC has supported candidates like Tom Tancredo in the past, and their Web page lists the specific candidates who will benefit from existing funds, including Sam Graves, a candidate for Congress from Missouri; incumbent Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia; David Reichert from Washington state; Jon Porter of Nevada; Steve Chabot of Ohio; Chris Shays of Connecticut; Vern Buchanan of Florida; Robin Hayes of North Carolina; Tom Feeney of Florida; Randy Kuhl of New York; and Tim Walberg of Michigan.

On the other side of the issue, Immigrants' List, a pro-immigration reform PAC, is also currently working to influence Congressional races. According to their Web site, "Immigrants' List is the first political action committee of its kindImmigrants' List will support candidates regardless of political party, who will work for meaningful immigration reform and oppose those who use immigration as a political tool to divide the American people."

According to Josh Gray, Executive Director of Immigrant's List, "we want to spend over $100,000 this election cycle." When asked how exactly the money will be spent, he said, "we try to find where we think our money will have the most impact." The funds normally go directly to candidates who share the PACs view on immigration issues, such as their stated goals of "relief to families separated by unfair immigration laws, restoration of due process, judicial review and habeas corpus, earned legalization for qualified unauthorized workers and visa numbers that limit outsourcing and keep America competitive."

Another pro-immigration PAC called ImmigrationPAC chaired by Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez, has raised $5,000 so far in the 2007-2008 election cycle.

However, Immigrants' List and ImmigrationPAC are far outnumbered by the anti-immigrant PACs and they are being out-fundraised by a margin of 20 to 1.

In 2008, will a million people taking to the streets be as effective as a million dollars in your PAC? We'll see come November.

Related Articles:

Access Washington Column

Immigration Matters Column

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