Groups founded last year by three billionaires to push for immigration reform are silent as this fall's congressional elections near, leaving pro-reform Senate candidates to fend for themselves against heavy attacks by Republicans and conservative groups.
The organizations — bankrolled by Facebook Inc. founder Mark Zuckerberg, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Citigroup Inc. executive Carlos Gutierrez — have so far purchased no airtime for ads backing immigration reform this fall, Politico reported.
"The problem at the border and the president’s rhetoric on executive action have totally poisoned the well," Charlie Spies told Politico. He helped organize Gutierrez's group, Republicans for Immigration Reform. "I don’t think anybody believes anything can happen this year."
The group has had difficulty raising reaching large GOP donors, Politico reported. A Cuban immigrant, Gutierrez served as commerce secretary under President George W. Bush.
The apparent inactivity by the billionaire groups comes as President Barack Obama nears executive action on dealing with the plight of the more than 63,000 illegal immigrant minors who have been apprehended at the U.S. border since Oct. 1.
More than 90,000 are expected to be taken into custody by the end of next month and among the steps Obama could take include granting work authorization to as many as 6 million illegals.
Bloomberg's group, Partnership for a New American Economy, has no plans for major ad buys on immigration reform while though Zuckerberg’s FWD.us could enter the fray later this fall, according to Politico.
"Since we started, we have stood by our champions and used paid media as a way to tell the stories that highlight why we need immigration reform," Joe Green, FWD.us president, told Politico. "As we have in the past, we will continue in the future to use a variety of tactics including ads to back up our champions and persuade lawmakers to finally fix our broken immigration system."
The groups were very active in last year's run-up to comprehensive immigration reform being passed by the Senate last year, Politico reported.
Another group was the conservative pro-reform American Action Network, founded by Republicans Fred Malek and Norm Coleman.
Malek served Presidents Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush, while Coleman is a former U.S. senator from Minnesota.
That group, too, has been silent on immigration reform as the fall elections near, according to Politico.
"During the heat of the debate, AAN was incredibly engaged in trying to pass immigration reform, from air cover on TV to a ground game in districts to releasing polling, policy studies and more," Dan Conston, the group's communications director, told Politico.
In August of last year, the network spent $1 million on activities that included five ad buys and grass-roots outreach in 20 districts, Conston said. The group also released polls showing how immigration reform could pass the House.
The network did "everything they could to support immigration reform but it simply doesn’t appear realistic this year," a source close to the group told Politico. "They’re not about to attack or pressure House leaders, but rather be there to support it if a real chance for immigration reform re-emerges."
Meanwhile, the Partnership for a New American Economy is being more selective in its approach — placing ads that highlight the roles of immigrants in the technology and agricultural sectors, Politico reported.
The spots are featured at Washington Dulles International and Ronald Reagan National airports in the Washington region.
Digital ads sponsored by the group are running in movie theaters, state fairs and rodeos in 16 congressional districts.
"Our strategy is not attacking opponents," Jeremy Robbins, the Bloomberg group's executive director, told Politico. "We will become over the next couple of years targeted on specific races."
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