Ex-AK Gov. Sarah Palin (R) raised more than $1.2M for SarahPAC during the last quarter, “giving $93,500 to conservative candidates and causes ahead of the looming midterm elections in which she’s played a major role.”
The financial disclosure, filed 10/12 by her SarahPAC, shows Palin spent a total of about $1M during that time. Much of it — more than $255K — “went to consultants in areas including coalitions, media, international affairs and finance.”
Palin, who has said repeatedly that her immediate focus is on the midterm elections and on helping elect candidates she considers “commonsense conservatives,” gave money to 15 candidates, including NH SEN nominee Kelly Ayotte (R).
Her fundraising “exceeds that from the previous reporting period, which covered April through June.” Then, Palin reported raising about $866K and giving at least $87,500 to candidates.
For the latest reporting period, SarahPAC Treas. Tim Crawford said SarahPAC received an average of $50 from more than 21K contributors. He said he “wouldn’t read anything into the spending on consulting” — Palin’s last report showed her spending more than $210K on consulting. He said he was writing additional checks to candidates “right now. … There’s more coming.”
Palin’s report shows she ended the period 9/30 with nearly $1.3M CoH. Crawford said “it’s up to Palin how much of that she plans to tap before the election.” Crawford: “It’s there for what she wants” (Bohrer, AP, 10/12).
In addition to her contributions to individual candidates, SarahPAC also contributed to the IA GOP, “an early hint of her possible ambitions” as a WH ‘12 candidate.
Whether Palin will run for WH ‘12 is unclear. Some of her potential challengers, including ex-MA Gov. Mitt Romney (R), “have a head start on her in terms of fund-raising.”
Romney “created a sophisticated network” of federal and state PACs to support his bid. And Romney “proved his fund-raising prowess at the time, raising millions at several one-day events.”
Palin’s PAC is limited to $5K contributions, “making it harder to take in huge sums of cash at one time” (Shear, New York Times, 10/12).
With the prospects for a major congressional overhaul of the immigration system looking increasingly unlikely, tech companies are seeking incremental changes that would make it easier for skilled foreigners to stay in the United States permanently.
Tech firms have long argued that they cannot find enough skilled U.S. workers with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to meet their needs, noting that more than half of those who receive advanced STEM degrees from U.S. schools are foreigners.
A decade ago, the focus was on increasing the availability of H-1B visas, which companies can use to bring to the U.S. foreign workers with skills they can’t find among American applicants. While tech companies had some success in the early part of the decade in raising the cap on such visas to 65,000 a year, the recession has slowed demand for the visas.
In recent years, tech companies have been more focused on making the case that the government should allow talented foreign students with advanced science and technology degrees from U.S. universities to stay permanently, saying they are likely to be the job creators of tomorrow.
“This isn’t about a shortage. It’s about creating jobs and creating economic growth,” House Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee ranking member Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., whose district includes part of Silicon Valley, said in an interview last week. She noted that half of Silicon Valley startups have immigrant founders. The most famous include Google co-founder Sergey Brin, a Russia native, and Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang, who was born in Taiwan.
Lofgren and many in the industry argue that foreigners from some countries, particularly China and India, face intolerable waits of as long as a decade for green cards that allow permanent residency. Lofgren said tech companies have told her that if they can’t hire the people they need here, they will move some projects to other countries.
“Most of the companies I’ve spoken with in TechNet would prefer to open facilities in the U.S.,” TechNet President and CEO Rey Ramsey said in an interview on Monday.
Efforts to revamp the green-card system for skilled foreigners have been linked to comprehensive immigration reform, which has so far gained little traction. Given that, supporters are pushing Congress to act separately on the issue of skilled immigrants.
Lofgren introduced legislation in June that would allow companies to seek green cards for foreign graduates of U.S. universities with at least a master’s degree in science, technology, engineering, or math. It would also reform several employment visa programs. She introduced another bill this month that would lift the per-country limits on green cards, a move aimed at addressing the backlog of applicants from China and India in particular. House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, introduced a similar bill last month that would lift the per-country green card caps. The panel was scheduled to take up their bill last week but postponed action on it.
Chaffetz said he wants to fix legal immigration before he would consider a proposal to make more green cards available for foreign graduates.
“I think we were inaccurate when we assume that everybody wants to have citizenship,” he told National Journal last week. “Maybe they want to stay and work for a few years” using employment visas.
Rochester Institute of Technology public policy professor Ron Hira worries about abuse by less-reputable schools — particularly when it comes to master’s programs. “I think it’s the wrong approach to have a blanket exemption,” Hira said. “What it will do is induce diploma mills.”
At a hearing earlier this month, Smith said he shared concerns that schools might try to game such a system, but he expressed hope in finding a middle ground. “The choice between sending all graduates home and automatically issuing visas to students are not the only options available,” he said.
Lofgren’s proposal aims to counter that worry by limiting the number of schools from which foreign students could graduate and be eligible for a green card.
“There should be standards in place,” said Lynn Shotwell, executive director of the American Council on International Personnel, adding that her group would be open to suggestions that students must retain a certain grade-point average or graduate from certain schools. Her group is active in a coalition known as Compete America, which favors efforts to make it easier for U.S. companies to retain foreign talent in the United States. The coalition includes many tech groups and companies such as Google, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, and TechNet.
Ramsey acknowledged the difficulty of moving any legislation through Congress that would make it easier for foreigners to get jobs in the U.S. at a time when so many Americans are unemployed. “I think it complicates the sell,” he said. He added that his group has tried to mitigate such concerns by also focusing on helping more Americans obtain the skills U.S. companies are seeking.
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