Rob Maness

Tea Party Senate Candidates Court Favor Of Extreme Anti-Immigrant Group ALIPAC

Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC) may be the fringe operation of a lone anti-immigrant extremist, but hasn’t stopped two Tea Party-backed US Senate candidates from filling out the group’s unhinged candidate survey and seeking its endorsement.

ALIPAC’s president (and sole employee) William Gheen announced today that his group is endorsing Matt Bevin in his bid to unseat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky and Rob Maness, one of several Republicans running to take on Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu in Louisiana.

Both candidates won the “honor” by filling out Gheen’s one-question candidate survey, which asks candidates to choose between “Support[ing] Americans and legal immigrants by support the adequate enforcement of America's existing border and immigration laws as the US Constitution requires” and “Supporting illegal aliens and their supporters by supporting changing existing laws to accommodate millions of illegal immigrants through 'immigration reform' amnesty.”

Current members of Congress who have sought ALIPAC’s endorsement in previous years by filling out Gheen’s survey include Mo Brooks, Dennis Ross, Austin Scott, Walter Jones, Patrick McHenry, Tom Marino, Lou Barletta, Joe Wilson, Diane Black, Marsha Blackburn, Kenny Marchant and Morgan Griffith.

The attention GOP candidates are giving ALIPAC is especially alarming considering that the group is basically the work of one anti-immigrant extremist that always seems one small donation short of total collapse.

Every three months, like clockwork, Gheen sends out a series of increasingly desperate emails begging his supporters for cash, berating them for insufficient commitment to the cause, and threatening to shut down his operation if he doesn’t get a certain amount of money by a certain time.

And then, every quarter, he manages to raise just enough to keep on going, appearing in conservative media to push his unabashedly racist anti-immigrant message, warning that an immigrant “invasion” will undermine the ability of “ traditional Americans” to rule the country, something that he thinks may need to be stopped by “ illegal and violent” means and an anti-Obama coup.

But despite Gheen’s boast that his group “put the brakes on Boehner’s immigration reform push” and his assumption that members of Congress cower in fear of losing his endorsement and being put on his “traitors” list, his organization appears to be running on fumes.

ALIPAC is organized as a political action committee, but according to records on OpenSecrets.org, the group hasn’t contributed to a federal candidate or made an independent expenditure since 2010, when it contributed $2,000 to former congressman J.D. Hayworth’s primary challenge to Sen. John McCain in Arizona, spent another $3,248 in independent expenditures in the race. That year, Gheen’s group also gave small contributions to Tea Party candidates including Sharron Angle in Nevada and Joe Walsh in Illinois. ALIPAC’s spending on behalf of Hayworth’s losing campaign was its most serious election effort since Gheen founded the group in 2004.

In the 2012 election cycle and so far in the current election cycle,most of the organization’s funds have gone toward Gheen’s salary; the rest have been administrative and fundraising expenses, with a few thousand dollars spent on “web ads.”

Gheen’s reports to the FEC give us an idea of who is base is: Among ALIPAC’s largest donors is Elizabeth Van Staaveren, cofounder of Oregonians for Immigration Reform, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as a “ nativist extremist group”; and a handful of anti-immigrant activists who lurk in onlinecomment sections.

Gheen regularly exaggerates ALIPAC’s reach and impact. For instance, despite claiming that his Facebook page reaches 195,000 people and that his “effort to circulate social media pictures of Boehner and Obama together” made all the difference in the immigration debate, the picture in question was shared a whopping 14 times on Facebook.

This is all on top of the fact that Gheen doesn’t exactly come across as a serious policy thinker. He keeps a Pinterest page where he postsracist, homophobic and just plain bizarre images and he started a Facebook page called “Mark zuckerberg sucks.” Gheen’s most recent project was the launch of a weird anti-immigrant “encyclopedia.”

Despite the fact that his organization struggles every quarter to stay open, as well as the fact that he hasn’t been active in a federal election for four years, Gheen is still taken seriously in conservative media, congressional candidates court his endorsement, and his talking points sometimes appear in the mouths of politicians (here’s a video of Gheen and Rep. Steve King agreeing about the supposed threat of violence from undocumented immigrants).

It says a lot that Gheen, who inhabits the fringe of a fringe movement, still manages to garner frequent media appearances and even has congressional candidates seeking his endorsement.

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