Deseret Morning News graphic

Just days before his Republican primary election, U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon is seeing more than $134,000 flowing into his war chest, much of it from organizations known to favor cheap immigrant labor.

The pro-immigration groups have given Cannon, R-Utah, at least $58,200 in the past 12 days alone, a review of federal campaign reports shows.

That includes at least $30,000 from agricultural interests — such as the California Farm Bureau and the Dairy Farmers of America. Additional money is coming from businesses known for hiring inexpensive labor —including Wal-Mart and the National Roofing Contractors Association.

Illegal immigration has been the top topic in the race, with GOP challenger John Jacob saying a "perfect storm" is building in his candidacy and he believes he has a real shot at unseating the five-term congressman. Jacob says Cannon is out of step with how 3rd District Republicans stand on illegal immigration.

Apparently some Washington, D.C., politicos see the same storm clouds as Cannon, who has never been one of the bigger fund-raisers. Tens of thousands of dollars have been pouring late into his campaign, fueling TV and radio ads before Tuesday's primary.

The money is welcome, said Nathan Rathbun, Cannon's campaign manager, and some of it is flowing in because the national debate on immigration reform has shone a spotlight on the Cannon/Jacob race.

A Deseret Morning News review of the 48-hour notice contributions — filings coming into a campaign since the June 15 pre-primary report — shows Cannon has raised $134,750 in the past 12 days. That's 20 percent of all of his money raised since his 2004 re-election.

"Yes, these PACs have figured out where Chris stands" on illegal immigration, Jacob said Tuesday. Jacob and anti-illegal immigration groups say Cannon supports guest-worker programs and amnesty — a charge that Cannon denies.

"These contributions make it very clear that Cannon supports cheap, often illegal, immigrant labor," Jacob said. "But he's trying to tell the voter that he's tough on illegal immigration. The PACs are saying, 'We know where you are, and here's your money.' "

Some of the PACs have given to Cannon previously, Rathbun said, adding that the campaign held a Washington, D.C., fund-raiser attended by some groups "that support reasonable immigration reform."

The National Roofing Contractors Association gave $5,000 to Cannon on June 15 at that fund-raiser, organized by the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition, said Craig Brightup, NRCA vice president of government relations.

"We support a rational, reasonable, comprehensive approach to immigration reform," Brightup said. The NRCA supports a reasonable guest-worker program that lets illegal immigrants "have a pathway to come above ground" in the country, Brightup said, adding that Cannon has "been attacked with demagoguery" on the illegal immigration issue.

Rathbun said some recent donors are giving because they oppose "the tactics of Team America," an anti-illegal immigration PAC that is running radio ads against Cannon in Utah. "But some of these PACs I've never heard of," he said.

Jacob, a millionaire who has basically self-funded his campaign, said he may or may not run TV ads over the next several days. His radio ads have been running for several weeks. "I don't have the $50,000 coming in from these PACs," he said.

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