Everyone in politics knows that big GOP donors, many of whom are wealthy businessmen, are, broadly speaking, one of the key constituencies for a major amnesty bill. But aside from the money trail, their interactions with lawmakers, which often occur at intimate closed-door fundraisers, can be hard to track.
Enter Michael Simmonds, a restaurant entrepreneur in Omaha and a lifelong donor to Republican candidates in Nebraska.
Simmonds has launched a behind-the-scenes crusade to push the candidates he’s supporting to back what he describes as “complete amnesty.”
“I am applying a litmus test even it keeps me from supporting any candidate,” he wrote in an email to Nebraska Senate candidate Shane Osborne obtained by Breitbart News.
In the email, Simmonds lamented his support for Senator Deb Fischer, who has campaigned for a provision within an immigration reform bill to demand of illegal immigrants working knowledge of English. The email then contained some strong language on what sort of immigration reform Simmonds believes to be necessary:
“We must take the Ronald Reagan approach to dealing with the so-called illegal Hispanics who are here. Yes, that means granting them complete amnesty and protecting our borders. Pretty simple. Those who crossed our border illegally did so with the implied consent and open arms of our country. The American population at large are all co-conspirators in this so-called illegal action of the Hispanics. We need this population and they deserve respect.”
The email concludes with Simmonds telling Osborn himself, who is carbon copied on the email, that “if you’re like most Nebraska Republicans you will not have my support.”
Since Simmonds has donated to several Republican candidates and officeholders this cycle, his outspoken push for amnesty has prompted a whispering campaign about what those candidates might have agreed to in order to secure his support.
But the candidates involved, particularly Osborne’s rival, Ben Sasse, have what on the surface appears to be hawkish records on the issue.
Since the email was sent in July 2013, Simmonds has donated to numerous Republicans. Simmonds eventually donated to two of Osborn’s most prominent opponents, the Tea Party friendly Sasse and Omaha businessman Sid Dinsdale. He also donated to Congressman Lee Terry.
In an interview, Simmonds said he didn’t get any commitments from Sasse or Dinsdale on immigration in conjunction with his donations to them.
“I’m not a fan of Ben Sasse… I forgot I gave him a check,” Simmonds said. He did remember being impressed with the candidate, calling him “one of the brightest candidates I’ve ever met… very smart and he knows it.” His “personality” differences with the candidate ultimately “didn’t matter,” he added, because “he would make a great senator for our state.”
Of Dinsdale, Simmonds said that his “country boy” persona and relative inexperience in politics made him a fresh personality attractive to him.
Sasse’s website says the candidate would not “make a deal with President Obama” on the matter, and insists on securing the border. Dinsdale suggests that closing the border is the first step: “once the border is secure for both immigration and national security purposes, we can then move forward with reforms that address the system.” Terry’s stance is the closest to Simmonds’: “Once the borders are secure from illegal immigrants we must reform our current, archaic immigration laws. We must develop sensible, labor-based non-amnesty guest worker programs.”
Simmonds also refined his litmus test, saying he would support someone who does not have an outspoken anti-immigrant stance. Neither Sasse nor Dinsdale presented their positions in a way that “offended” Simmonds, and he agreed with both on other issues, he said.
He also conceded, “If you come out with my position, you cannot get elected in this state.”
But, Simmonds said, he’s not alone. “There are a lot of significant Republican donors taking the position that they will not support anti-immigration candidates,” he argued, citing a report from the Wall Street Journal that names a number of donors who are lobbying Republican leadership to become more lenient on immigration and refusing to donate money otherwise.
Sasse’s campaign responded to the situation with a statement to Breitbart News that their candidate’s position on illegal immigration was “crystal clear: The Federal Government’s primary responsibility is to protect Americans from enemies foreign and domestic.” The statement affirmed that “there should be no deals with President ‘You Can Keep Your Doctor’ Obama” and that “Ben will fight any and all attempts to cut a deal with this President and he will work to secure the border.”
Dinsdale communications director Michael Valentino said “Those that are here illegally should not be granted amnesty or given a place in the line ahead of those that came here legally.”