Originally published by Politico
An influential, multi-millionaire GOP donor is threatening to choke off campaign resources to Republican congressmen who haven’t engaged in the latest immigration battle in Congress.
Former Exelon chairman John Rowe, a prominent Chicago business leader who’s donated to dozens of GOP House and Senate members, first told POLITICO in an interview he is tightening the spigot — and in some cases, completely turning off the flow — of money to Republican lawmakers who refuse to sign onto a discharge petition that would force a vote on legislation related to so-called “Dreamers.“
“Every member of the Illinois delegation knows this is one of the most important issues facing them and it determines how much money I’m giving them,” said Rowe, who heads a pro-immigrant business group in Illinois. “This is the home state of Abraham Lincoln. We’re betraying our entire heritage if we don’t get this done.”
Rowe has directly contributed more than $500,000 to campaigns over the last three years alone, predominantly to Republicans, and raised tens of thousands more. But as co-chair of the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition, he is attempting to pressure Republicans — particularly from his home state — to come up with a resolution on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gave protections to hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
So far, 20 House Republicans have signed onto a Democratic effort to force a vote on related Dreamer legislation — none from Illinois, despite the fact that the state has the fourth-largest DACA population. House Speaker Paul Ryan has privately asked his members not to back the effort.
Rowe’s actions come amid a broader effort by moderates who are trying to force a House vote on the issue. Other businessmen from the immigration group — including David Bender, the group’s co-chair and a GOP county chairman, and veteran Republican donor William Kunkler — are making similar pledges.
“In truth, we may not be a huge number of people, but in terms of being reliable, active donors, we’re people who give every year to candidates,” Rowe said.
While attending a recent fundraiser for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, Rowe said he was direct with the Louisiana congressman: “There’s a whole bunch of Republicans like me who simply aren’t going to keep giving money if you don’t get an immigration bill done.”
Rowe also said he refused to return a fundraising call from Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, an immigration hard-liner.
At the same time, Rowe is attempting to reward GOP congressmen who have signed onto the House effort to take up DACA legislation. Last week, Rowe helped raise $50,000 for Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo, one of the party’s most vulnerable incumbents, at a Chicago fundraiser.
“He’s my kind of Republican — moderate on social issues and very much pro-immigrant,” Rowe said of Curbelo. “He wants a Republican Party that doesn’t look all old, white and male.”
Rowe also donated $2,700 to Rep. Fred Upton after the Michigan Republican committed to forcing a DACA vote.
Rowe is especially critical of Rep. Peter Roskam, who is locked in a competitive race -- and represents a suburban Chicago district that has the largest DACA population of any Illinois member, according to the Illinois Business Immigration Commission.
“I have been actively engaged with the community and various stakeholders and I will make a decision on the right course based on what’s in the best interest of these DREAMers and our nation’s border security,” Roskam said in a statement. “My hope is that Congress will reach a bipartisan agreement to protect children from deportation who were brought to the United States without documentation.”
Former Illinois House GOP Minority Leader Tom Cross, who is also calling for a DACA resolution, said hitting lawmakers in their pockets may be the best way to get their attention.
“John is a significant donor and has been heavily involved in the Republican Party both in the state and nationally,” Cross said. “There are all kinds of ways to impact members of Congress and the General Assembly. I’m not a donor. I was a recipient as a legislative leader and it can be impactful.”