Cooking the Books on Immigration Lobbying

By Jerry Kammer on March 22, 2010

Charles H. Kuck (pronounced "cook"), the immediate past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, clearly knows a lot about immigration law. But if the comments he made recently on his radio program, Immigration Hour, are any indication, he has a few gaps in his knowledge of immigration lobbying in Washington. Here are some excerpts:

"People that support immigration reform are basically poor. Basically. They don't have money. They're not the insurance companies who can throw a million dollars and rent a lobbyist. And I will tell you today that there are probably two people that are paid lobbyists that lobby on immigration. Because the reality is many of these groups can't afford a lobbyist. And that's probably why we don't have immigration reform is that there aren't lobbyists on this issue. In fact, the paid, the big money lobbyists are the ones that hate immigrants. FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, and CIS, the Center for Immigration Studies. They actually have paid lobbyists that go after immigrants and push anti-immigration legislation and give large chunks of money to the anti, to the anti-immigration legislators."

Well, not exactly. First of all, the Center for Immigration Studies does not lobby, nor does it donate money to political campaigns or hold fundraisers.

More generally, the lobbying disclosure records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics show that since 1998, there have been 656 clients -- trade groups, unions, business associations, corporations, civil rights groups, public interest groups, etc. -- that have engaged lobbyists to work on immigration. The overwhelming majority of them are lobbying to expand immigration. Specifically, according to "Immigration Lobbying: A Window Into the World of Special Interests," published last year by FAIR based on the official House and Senate lobbyist records, "Only 2 percent of these organizations [lobbying on immigration] are known to have promoted positions in favor of enforcement of existing immigration laws, limiting the influx of foreign guest workers, and reducing overall levels of immigration."

I can't speak for FAIR, but a check of the FEC's database of campaign contributors shows less than a thousand dollars donated by anyone who lists FAIR as his or her employer. However, I have compiled figures that show that NumbersUSA spent about $1.5 million on lobbying in the three-year period of 2007-2009. That amounts to cigar money for some of the big boys on Mr. Kuck's side of the argument that I list below. Many of whom also spend heavily to engage the services of immigration lawyers.

As for Mr. Kuck's hateful allegation about hate, the report on the SPLC we published last week says all I need to say on that topic at this point.

It would require an extensive effort to tally the expenditures on immigration. But it is safe to say that since 1998, tens of millions of dollars have been spent on immigration lobbying. And it is clear that the vast majority of those dollars have been spent by those who want expansive immigration policies.

Here are just a few of the big spenders: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Microsoft Corp, Western Growers Association,American Farm Bureau, American Meat Institute, National Immigration Forum, National Association of Home Builders, National Association of Manufacturers, National Chicken Council, Service Employees International Union, National Council of La Raza, United Farm Workers, Tides Advocacy Fund, Oracle Corp, Dairy Farmers of America, American Hotel & Lodging Assn., Smithfield Foods, American Nursery & Landscape Assn.

Mr. Kuck said on his program that he'll be in Washington today himself, lobbying on behalf of his version of immigration reform.