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Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Rocky Mountain News: Tancredo in woodshed

Rocky Mountain News: Columnists

Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., might edge close to the line, but he swears he doesn't cross it.

Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, summoned the Colorado Republican to a meeting recently to check out rumors that Tancredo was committing high political crimes, namely siding with challengers to GOP incumbents in Congress.


Tancredo maintained that he wasn't. But it's very easy to see how DeLay might have been confused.

Earlier this year Tancredo founded the Team America PAC, which is devoted to tightening U.S. immigration policies. It was very active in Tuesday's Utah GOP primary election, supporting state Rep. Matt Throckmorton's challenge to incumbent Rep. Chris Cannon, who's deemed soft on illegal aliens.

According to The Hill, a congressional newspaper, the PAC also intends to back a challenge to Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., by state House Majority Whip Randy Graf.

Tancredo maintains he has already severed ties with the PAC, which is now run by Angela "Bay" Buchanan, sister of commentator and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan. He says he has no control over candidates it backs or attacks.

But the Web site still solicits money for its causes in Tancredo's name with appeals like "Help Tom Tancredo Put Americans First," "Support Jobs for for Americans First, Join Tom Tancredo's Team" and "Don't Get Mad, Get Even. Help Tom Tancredo now."

What Tancredo frequently does, according to aide Carlos Espinoza, is attend immigration reform rallies across the nation. And of course he's not shy about his pleas for reform. Local candidates who support reform may also show up, but Tancredo doesn't actually endorse them over GOP incumbents, Espinoza said. "He's never crossed the line."

Tancredo's behavior is reminiscent of those "education" PACs who manage to avoid federal or state reporting laws by never uttering or printing the magic phrases "Vote for Jones" or "Vote Against Brown," but make it clear which candidate is the Good Guy and which one is the Villain.

DeLay's message to Tancredo was a reminder that representatives who break the 11th Commandment by speaking ill of fellow Republicans don't get good committee assignments.

Not that Tancredo needed reminding. Having once advocated term limits, and having crossed the president as well as House leadership with his immigration stands, he's doomed to boring, low-wattage committees for the foreseeable future.

"It was a pretty short discussion, and they both came out chums," Espinoza told The Hill.

Tancredo remained unapologetic about the PAC and its activities Tuesday. He said it should get involved in any race it deems relevant and he has no intention of asking that his name be removed as founder.

"Make no mistake," he added. "I will continue to use every means at my disposal to reform the immigration process in this country . . . I've been threatened with political retribution before. It has not deterred me in the past, and it will not in the future."

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