William Gheen, the chief cook and bottle washer of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC), is an extremist activist who warns of a violent revolution if immigration reform passes and thinks immigration reform amounts to “national rape” because it would take the country away from “traditional Americans.” Despite his place on the right-wing fringe, through sheer force of will and frequent press releases, Gheen has managed to position himself as a national leader in the anti-immigrant movement and frequently gets press coverage for his extremist views.
The latest example of this is a Los Angeles Times story today about a state effort to make it easier for undocumented immigrants to obtain professional licenses. As an example of the “outcry of opposition from national conservative groups,” the Times quotes none other than William Gheen:
The proposal, predictably, has divided Republican lawmakers in California and sparked an outcry of opposition from national conservative groups that want tougher enforcement of existing laws against illegal immigration.
“It’s insane,” said William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee. “By granting licenses to illegal immigrants you both aid and abet illegal immigration, which is a violation of federal law, and you are sending a message to the rest of planet Earth that says, ‘Come on!'”
Gheen said his PAC, with 50,000 members, endorses candidates who share the organization’s views on immigration.
We have no way of corroborating Gheen’s claim that his group has 50,000 members, but we can be fairly sure that his endorsements don’t carry nearly as much weight as he claims. After all, as we reported last month, Gheen’s PAC hasn’t actually contributed to a federal candidate in four years.
ALIPAC is organized as a political action committee, but according to records on OpenSecrets.org, the group hasn’t contributed to a federal candidate or made an independent expenditure since 2010, when it contributed $2,000 to former congressman J.D. Hayworth’s primary challenge to Sen. John McCain in Arizona, spent another $3,248 in independent expenditures in the race. That year, Gheen’s group also gave small contributions to Tea Party candidates including Sharron Angle in Nevada and Joe Walsh in Illinois. ALIPAC’s spending on behalf of Hayworth’s losing campaign was its most serious election effort since Gheen founded the group in 2004.
In the 2012 election cycle and so far in the current election cycle,most of the organization’s funds have gone toward Gheen’s salary; the rest have been administrative and fundraising expenses, with a few thousand dollars spent on “web ads.”
Gheen’s reports to the FEC give us an idea of who is base is: Among ALIPAC’s largest donors is Elizabeth Van Staaveren, cofounder of Oregonians for Immigration Reform, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as a “ nativist extremist group”; and a handful of anti-immigrant activists who lurk in onlinecomment sections.
Gheen regularly exaggerates ALIPAC’s reach and impact. For instance, despite claiming that his Facebook page reaches 195,000 people and that his “effort to circulate social media pictures of Boehner and Obama together” made all the difference in the immigration debate, the picture in question was shared a whopping 14 times on Facebook.
This is all on top of the fact that Gheen doesn’t exactly come across as a serious policy thinker. He keeps a Pinterest page where he postsracist, homophobic and just plain bizarre images and he started a Facebook page called “Mark zuckerberg sucks.” Gheen’s most recent project was the launch of a weird anti-immigrant “encyclopedia.”
Gheen’s ability to gain press coverage even while running a one-man fringe group is perhaps a sign of the fumes that the anti-immigrant movement is running on. Is there any other national movement in which a figure like Gheen could position himself as a key spokesman?