Will Lindsey Graham (R-SC) continue his support of immigration reform? Or will he reverse himself on that as he did on climate change legislation? His opposition to the nominations of Chuck Hagel and John Brennan, which he reiterated today, may offer a few clues. Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake of the Washington Post comment:
While there’s no doubt that Graham does genuinely believe that the administration has not been forthcoming regarding what actually happened in Benghazi, there’s also more going here that better explains — and contextualizes — his approach to the Hagel and Brennan confirmations.
Remember that Graham is up for reelection in 2014 and has been, for the better part of his first term, someone whom conservatives have viewed skeptically — particularly regarding his support for comprehensive immigration reform (Lindsey Graham-nesty!) and his comments on climate change.
He changed his tune on climate change years ago, however. Senator Graham, who has long had a close relationship with the coal sector, switched sides in 2010 to oppose a climate change bill he helped write that would have capped carbon emissions, recanting:
“I think they’ve oversold this stuff, quite frankly. I think they’ve been alarmist and the science is in question,” Graham told reporters. “The whole movement has taken a giant step backward.”
And speaking of energy industries, he’s quite cozy with nuclear companies too, as Josh Israel reported last May:
A Graham spokesman reiterated Graham’s longstanding support for the nuclear industry — noting that he’s been called “the #1 pro-nuclear member” of the Senate — but did not address the industry’s campaign contributions. “Senator Graham has long pushed for a renaissance in nuclear energy. We are ecstatic that the NRC go-ahead was finally secured,” Graham’s communications director told ThinkProgress. SCANA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ties between these donations and the Senator’s efforts on the company’s behalf.
Indeed, SCANA, a Cayce, South Carolina, public utility holding company, is Graham’s largest contributor, giving just under $170,000; EnergySolutions, a nuclear waste disposal company with a site in Barnwell County, ranks fourth. Other major donors invested in energy production and distribution include the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (tenth); Atlanta-based, coal-burning providers of electricity Southern Company (11th); telecom and energy corporation IDT (12th); Carolinas energy producers Duke Energy (17th); and mining, construction and energy firm Washington Group International (20th).
Several of the top contributors to the Judiciary Committee member are South Carolina law firms; the legal sector has given him nearly three million bucks over his career, making them his single largest source of funding. His second largest individual donor is Columbia’s law and lobbying firm Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, while Spartanburg litigators Harrison, White, Smith & Coggins comes in 15th and trial lawyers’ lobby the American Association for Justice 18th. Other local donors are Spartanburg plastics/textile corporation Milliken & Company (fifth) and Columbia shopping center developers Edens & Avant (14th).
Further significant contributors to Graham include health insurance giant Blue Cross Blue Shield (third); engineering and construction firm Fluor Corporation (sixth); mega-media conglomerate Time Warner (seventh); telecom corporation BellSouth (eighth), which services South Carolina among other states; firearms advocates the National Rifle Association (ninth); defense contractors Lockheed Martin (13th); the sixth-largest firm in the US, multinational General Electric (16th); and telecom behemoth AT&T (19th).
More open immigration laws are popular with many business leaders, who see new immigrants as lower-wage employees and prefer hiring them legally. Stricter laws are generally favored by Graham’s voters, however, who see new workers as competitors for jobs. As the Republican primary in South Carolina approaches, it will be interesting to watch his position on immigration reform evolve.