Know who wants Republicans to pass immigration reform? Major Republican donors.

June 28, 2013

The Republican party faces a dilemma. The Senate -- with the help of 14 Republicans -- passed an immigration reform plan on Thursday. The Republican-controlled House has pledged not to even take that proposal up, opting instead for the possibility of their own plan later this summer or sometime this fall.

One voice lost in this battle over what the right, next move is on immigration for the party?  The major donors of the party who serve as the bundlers of presidential campaigns and the funders of super PACs. And, those big check-writers have a very clear preference: They want a deal done.


$$$$. AFP/Getty Images

"Thoughtful people in the donor community fully recognize that our Republican Party is seen by many as intolerant, and that we will never again win a national election unless we embrace policies more appealing to the large, growing, and influential group of Hispanics in our country," said Fred Malek, a major GOP donor and fundraiser for the party.

Malek's sentiment was expressed repeatedly in conversations we had over the past 48 hours with both big GOP givers and those who run in the world of those sorts of donors.

The prime reason for the support for immigration reform among well-heeled givers? Political pragmatism.

"It's not just about appealing to Hispanic voters, though that's important," said Steven Law, president and CEO of American Crossroads, the largest conservative super PAC in 2010 and 2012. "There's a concern among major donors that the party is starting to seem out of touch in an increasingly diverse and dynamic America."

(Sidenote: Pragmatism is a defining trait of the really big givers within the GOP, a fact that differentiates them from major Democratic donors who are, by and large, motivated by ideology not realpolitik.)

The question is what effect -- if any -- the opinion of these major donors can or will have on Republicans in Congress.  The entire Republican Senate leadership voted against the "Gang of 8" plan but, as one well-connected GOP operative noted, none of them spoke out aggressively against the bill -- choosing instead to simply vote "no." House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has been adamant that he will only bring up immigration legislation that has the support of the majority of his Republican conference and it's hard to imagine any bill with a "pathway to citizenship" gaining that sort of support.

It's hard to imagine these donors withholding their contributions -- and bundling abilities -- from 2016 GOP candidates who voted against immigration. But, for those people who automatically assume Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) loses if no immigration legislation becomes law, that may not be the whole story. Rubio could well emerge as a favorite of these major donors for trying to move the party forward -- and more toward the ideological center.

Fixbits: 

Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) will retire at the end of his term.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) apologized to Rubio.

National Security Agency Diretor Gen. Keith Alexander provided new details about the extent to which government surveillance efforts helped foil terror plots.

President Obama nominated renewable energy proponent Ron Binz to head the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Americans narrowly support a 20-week abortion ban, according to National Journal/Congressional Connection poll.

Civil charges were filed against former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine over the collapse of MF Global.

Brian Nick, a campaign spokesman for North Carolina now-Gov. Pat McCrory (R), is returning to the firm Strategic Perception.

Must-reads: 

"Senegal president ‘reunites’ Obama with man allegedly described in ‘Dreams from My Father’" -- David Nakamura, Washington Post

"Immigration Bill’s Passage Belies Senate’s Enduring Dysfunction" -- Niels Lesniewski, Roll Call

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Sean Sullivan · June 27, 2013