In Iowa, PAC Money Talks Very Softly While Sensible Immigration Speaks LOUDLY

iowa-43756_960_720Iowa is just one state, and Iowa does not necessary represent the whole nation. But Iowa also is not Mars. The views and the mood of Iowa voters on a lot of issues, including immigration, are not sui generis.

By now, everyone knows that Ted Cruz and Donald Trump walked away with 52 percent of the votes in Monday’s caucuses. And, of course, Cruz and Trump both made protection of the public interest in immigration policy a central theme of their campaigns. These views seem to have spoken much louder to voters in Iowa than the millions of PAC dollars supporting candidates who represent the immigration views of corporate America.

Without question, the champion of Super PAC spending was Jeb Bush, who has long supported amnesty for illegal aliens (though he does not use that word). PACs supporting his candidacy spent $14 million in Iowa. The return on investment: $2,673 spent for each of the 5,238 Iowa Republican voters who caucused for Bush.

Coming in second in PAC spending was Marco Rubio. PACs backing the Florida senator poured $8.8 million in support of his candidacy. Rubio finished a respectable third with 43,165 votes, or about 23 percent. Rubio was both a sponsor and the front man for the 2013 Gang of Eight amnesty bill. While Rubio has tried to distance himself from that bill, his positions on immigration and amnesty remained murky right up to caucus night. At $8.8 million in Super PAC spending, each Rubio vote came with a $203 price tag (a bargain compared to his fellow Floridian).

The two candidates who were most vocal in opposing amnesty, supporting immigration enforcement, and even reducing overall immigration were Cruz and Trump.

Cruz, the Iowa winner, was the beneficiary of $4 million in Super PAC spending. (Super PACs supporting other candidates spent $2.1 million opposing him.) His first place haul of 51,666 votes, 28 percent, works out to $77 per vote — $38 per vote if the Super PAC money spent against him is subtracted.

Trump, whose views on immigration have dominated the campaign news, finished in second place with 45,427 votes, or 24 percent. But, in terms of Super Pac-dollar-per-vote, he blew everyone else out of the water (or, perhaps more appropriately, the corn field). Super PACs supporting him spent a paltry $110,000 in Iowa, or about $2.42 per voter who caucused for him. He was also the biggest target for opposition Super PAC spending. Super PACs trying to defeat him spent $3.2 million in Iowa. Subtract the $110,000 spent supporting him and Trump’s cost-per-vote netted out at minus $68.24!

Is there a message here? We’ll find out as the circus moves on to New Hampshire and then heads south. In the meantime, the evidence suggests that the corporate backed Super PACs (on both the Republican and Democratic sides) are going to have a much harder time buying nominees in 2016.

About Author


Ira joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 1986 with experience as a journalist, professor of journalism, special assistant to Gov. Richard Lamm (Colorado), and press secretary of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. His columns have appeared in National Review, LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and more. He is an experienced TV and radio commentator.


  1. avatar

    Why am I not surprised that the king of Super PAC spending was Jeb Bush. Thankfully people have wised up this time around and Daddy Bush and his cronies won’t be able to make Jeb President the way they made the incompetent idiot George W President. A lot of our soldiers will be alive ten years from now because Jeb won’t be getting anywhere near the White House no matter how much money Daddy Bush’s cronies lavish on his campaign.

      • avatar

        Do you really think George W ever would have become President without Daddy Bush and his cronies pulling the strings from behind the scene?

  2. avatar

    Randy Paul is a doctor – a regular businessman – not an attorney. He is well-educated, intelligent, pragmatic, and proposes some common sense solution. He opposes amnesty strongly. He has stable family life. He’s my man.

    • avatar

      There are things I like and dislike about him. One thing I really like is he says we need to stop being world policeman. Strong defense yes, but we can’t solve everyone’s problems.

  3. avatar

    Rubio is not to be trusted. He’s changed his mind too many times on illegals and amnesty. During his Senate run in 2010 he was adamantly against amnesty because he said it encourages more illegal behavior. Quite true. But once in the Senate he betrayed the voters who sent him there. He supported the 2013 amnesty and voted against the amendments to that bill that would have made amnesty contingent on a secure border. Instead it only made promises to have a study on a secure border and that study had five years to be completed.

    Now he’s still for amnesty but insists that enforcement must come first, which was not his position in 2013. Of course, the Senate and House have GOP majorities and could pass border security and e-verify bills at any time, but they won’t. Even if vetoed it would be worth taking a stand. Don’t like Trump? Ok. but when the establishment Republicans won’t do what they promised in 2014, which was vote for us and we will enforce the law, then people are willing to trust Trump. Who are the ones that didn’t follow up on their promises?

    • avatar

      Professional Politicians

      Are skilled at lying, they’re “silver tongued devils”. Give me a regular businessman, engineer or a doctor over an attorney any day.

      • avatar

        Rubio’s Credentials:

        “…Rubio is a Cuban American from Miami. He is a graduate of the University of Florida and the University of Miami School of Law. …”

        Its pretty much true, attorneys control politics in America….along with the open border ones’ corruption and fraud. Let’s get other professions in politics that don’t just scream for litigation bills’ costs, instead of simply enforcing the current law!

        Open Border Attorneys are generally self-serving in my humble opinion.

        • avatar

          Did anyone else see the exposé video accusing Rubio of being gay, starting back in his college days at U/Miami? Had some interesting pix of him online. Now he’s running as a conservative??? It appeared in my email on 2/4/16.