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Business shuns Tancredo

Immigration foes instead fill campaign coffers

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Big Business, it seems, is running away from Congressman Tom Tancredo.

And Tancredo doesn't care.

As the fourth-term Republican representative has become a national figurehead in an increasingly vocal anti-immigration movement, an army of individuals from across the country is pouring cash into his campaign chest -- making up for dwindling contributions from business interests, who, according to Tancredo, "are not served by my attempt to restrict the flow of cheap labor."

Most of these individual donors don't live in his congressional district, which covers the southern Denver metro area. Many don't live in Colorado, for that matter.

"Ninety-nine percent are giving on the basis of the immigration issue," Tancredo tells the Independent.

According to the Web site opensecrets.org, which tracks political donations, Tancredo has raised $370,000 from individuals for his campaign during this election cycle, compared with a mere $10,000 from political action committees representing business and other special interests.

The share of individual contributions -- 96 percent -- is, by far, the highest among Colorado's congressional delegation.

Meanwhile, roughly half of Tancredo's individual donors live outside Colorado. A large number are from California, ground zero in the immigration debate.

It's a big shift from five years ago, when Tancredo ran his first re-election campaign as an obscure freshman representative. Back then, he raised 39 percent of his money from political action committees, and 84 percent of his money came from inside Colorado.

Since then, Tancredo's advocacy for sealing the U.S.-Mexican border and cracking down on undocumented workers has scared off business supporters. But it has made him a national celebrity among immigration critics, some of whom now sport "Tancredo for President" bumper stickers on their cars.

"We recognized we're going to get less money from business interests," Tancredo says. The solution, he says, is to "get more from the people who care about this issue, and they are all over the country. So you start prospecting all over the country."

Among these new donors are some prominent and controversial anti-immigration activists such as Roger Barnett, a vigilante who boasts of having rounded up thousands of illegal immigrants on his Arizona ranch, and Barbara Coe, director of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform.

Barnett has been quoted in High Country News as calling Mexicans "animals." Coe frequently refers to them as "savages," according to numerous reports.

Tancredo says he rejects racist statements and doesn't want to fight the immigration issue based on race. However, he doesn't control what his contributors say or do, he says. "If they want to send me money, that's their business."

-- Terje Langeland

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