Senior GOP aides of a super PAC linked to Speaker John Boehner are lobbying House Republicans to pass the Senate “Gang of Eight” immigration bill, legislation that Boehner has said he will not bring to the House floor.
The lobbying effort is coming under the umbrella of the American Action Network, a nonprofit 501(c)(4) “action tank” led by former senator Norm Coleman, which is touting the “major positive economic impact” of the Senate bill in e-mails sent to individual House Republican offices.
AAN is housed in the same office as the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC associated with Boehner, and the two organizations share senior aides, including Brian O. Walsh, the president of both organizations, and Dan Conston, the spokesman for both.
Boehner spoke at a fundraiser for CLN earlier this summer and also headlined the organization’s inaugural event. The group’s website has posted links to numerous news stories that refer to the group as “Boehner’s” super PAC.
The AAN’s e-mail, sent to GOP offices, touts the number of jobs the group estimates the Senate bill would create for the congressional district and state of that office. The group also released an embeddable “widget” that allows users to find out how many jobs the Senate bill would create in the district of their representative.
Conston, the spokesman for both AAN and CLN, said the analysis, based on the Senate bill, is “simply about broadly showing the local economic benefits of reforming a broken visa system — a problem House Republicans want fixed.”
“If similar studies are produced showing the economic benefit of House legislation, you can be sure we’ll produce a similar product,” he added.
Still, AAN’s efforts to tout the Senate bill ruffled feathers on the Hill where some aides were not pleased to feel pressure from Boehner’s super PAC to pass legislation that Boehner and the rest of GOP leadership has dismissed as dead on arrival in the House.
“The Speaker has been clear that the Senate bill will not be considered by the House, and that we will insist on fixing our broken immigration system through a step-by-step approach that starts with securing our borders and enforcing our laws,” Cory Fritz, a Boehner spokesman, said when contacted about the AAN’s push for the Senate bill.
The American Action Forum, a third organization housed at the office where AAN and CLN both reside, 555 13th Street NW, Suite 510 West, is a 501(c)(3) think tank led by noted GOP budget guru Douglas Holtz-Eakin.
Conston noted AAN has supported the House’s step-by-step approach on immigration in the past. For example, a press release announcing an effort to push the House GOP to embrace immigration reform broadly launched at the outset of the August recess said, “We support the House’s effort to deal with immigration reform in a methodical step-by-step conservative way.” Conston also said AAN has supported immigration reform since before CLN was brought into existence in October 2011.
During consideration of the Senate bill in the upper chamber, senior GOP aides aligned with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, and others helped push the bill across the finish line, the Huffington Post reported in June.