Top GOP donor is ready to cut off the cash flow over the party’s immigration policy inaction

Former Exelon chairman John Rowe says he'll withhold funds from Republicans who don't sign DACA petition.

Former Excelon Chairman and CEO John Rowe
Former Excelon Chairman and CEO John Rowe, in 2009. CREDIT: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Former Exelon Chairman and CEO John Rowe has given a lot of money to Republicans over the years — nearly $1 million, according to PoliticalMoneyLine records — including the legal maximum $33,400 to the House GOP’s campaign arm in the 2016 campaign cycle. But perhaps not for much longer.

Rowe, a strong supporter of immigration reform, says he is growing frustrated with his party’s refusal to take action on the issue.

According to a Politico interview published on Wednesday, the Chicago-based co-chair of the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition wants more Republicans to sign onto a discharge petition that would bypass House leadership and allow floor votes on a few different proposals to protect hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“Every member of the Illinois delegation knows this is one of the most important issues facing them and it determines how much money I’m giving them,” Rowe told the publication. This is the home state of Abraham Lincoln. We’re betraying our entire heritage if we don’t get this done.”


President Trump tried to end DACA last fall, and the House of Representatives has thus far avoided taking up the issue. More recently, some Republicans have attempted to block the discharge petition from gaining more support.

As of the end of the day Tuesday, 20 House Republicans (and 183 of the 193 House Democrats) had signed the petition. If 218 members sign, the votes could happen.

Rowe said he will slow and in some cases stop his donations to Republican legislators who refuse to sign. He recounted telling one Republican congressman recently, “There’s a whole bunch of Republicans like me who simply aren’t going to keep giving money if you don’t get an immigration bill done.”

Rowe is not the only major Republican donor who has had it with his party’s inaction on bipartisan priorities. Al Hoffman, a Florida real estate developer who co-chaired George W. Bush’s presidential campaign and served as a Republican National Committee finance chair, said in February that he will no longer support candidates who back groups that oppose an assault weapons ban. And even the Koch Brothers-backed LIBRE Initiative sent out mailers last week in support of a handful of Democrats and Republicans who are supporting DACA action.


Several previous recipients of Rowe donations are among the 215 Republicans who have not yet signed the discharge petition. If they don’t sign soon, they may find themselves discharged from his contribution plans.