Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Koch Brothers Recruit State’s Latinos

But efforts by their shadowy Libre Initiative may be undercut by Trump.

By - Jul 14th, 2016 11:38 am
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Daniel Garza speaking with at the Libre Initiative's The Libre Forum at the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Daniel Garza speaking with at the Libre Initiative’s The Libre Forum at the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Back in February 2014, a man named Daniel Garza did an Op Ed for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel calling Obamacare a disaster for the Hispanic community. Garza’s entire column seemed filled with concern for Hispanics, and the column identified him only as executive director of the Libre Initiative.

Few if any readers would have known the Libre Initiative is a Koch Brothers-funded group and Garza is a longtime Republican who served in two different positions with the administration of George W. Bush.

As for the idea that Obamacare is bad for Hispanics, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found the Affordable Care Act has decreased the uninsured rate for working-age Latinos from 36 to 23 percent, and from 35 to 17 percent among all Latinos in states that chose to expand Medicaid. Probably no ethnic group in the nation has benefitted more from Obamacare.

This sort of messaging has led critics to blast the Libre Initiative as a fake grass roots group that works to get Latinos to vote against their own interests. Anthony Gutierrez, a campaign spokesman for then-Congressman Pete Gallego, offered this description of the group to Progressive Magazine in October 2014: “The Libre Initiative has no interest in actually solving problems. It exists to play dirty politics and lie to the Latino community.”

Libre has been around since 2011, and the non-profit, 501(c)4 group now has branches in 10 states, including Wisconsin, which began operations last fall. The group has at least 70 staff in those 10 states and is quite well-funded. “Freedom Partners, an umbrella organization for Koch network donors, has provided the group with $15.8 million in funding, according to federal tax records,” the New York Times reported.

The group also claims to have gotten money from “hundreds” to “a thousand” other donors, but is not legally required to disclose its donors and has never done so. A group that watchdogs conservative groups found that between August 2011 and June 2013 Libre took in $7,105,000 from two Koch-run outfits: Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce and the now-defunct TC4 Trust and reported total income of just $7,117,128, “suggesting that it is almost entirely funded through the Koch Brothers.”

Many of Libre’s top staffers have Republican connections. “The group’s national strategic director is Jose Mallea, formerly the campaign manager for GOP Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Its policy director, Jorge Lima, was once an adviser to former Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño, who tried to mimic Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s attack on the territory’s unions. And the group’s chief of staff, Andeliz Castillo, led outreach to Hispanic media for the Republican National Committee in 2008,” Progressive reported.

And the group’s national spokesperson is Rachel Campos-Duffy, the TV personality who is married to Wisconsin Republican congressman Sean Duffy. An Associated Press story called the Libre Initiative “a shadow GOP — one with a gentle emphasis on social services and assimilation over a central party often seen as hostile to immigrants and minorities.”

Libre’s staff and volunteers offer all kinds of freebies to Latinos to win their support. At a recent forum in Milwaukee, “Attendees were offered free sunglasses, lip balm, wristbands, notepads and pens all branded with the Libre logo, and treated to an Italian dinner,” as a Journal Sentinel story reported.

Libre has offered Latinos tax preparation help, wellness checkups, scholarships and food giveaways, as well as help preparing for a driver’s test, as the Washington Post reported. It has offered free flu shots, given away Thanksgiving turkeys, provided free English lessons and held seminars on how to start a business, the Times reported.

In Texas, Libre distributed tortillas, watermelons and frozen pizzas — along with bilingual Libre pamphlets, the AP reported. It handed out candy-packed Easter baskets at a San Antonio elementary school; tucked into each basket was a pamphlet in English and Spanish noting that the national debt is approaching $17 trillion.

Libre describes itself as a group advancing “liberty, freedom and prosperity.” Its “Share the Dream” program was touted in an ad featuring Campos-Dufy which calls for individual initiative.  With heart-tugging music playing and a picture of the sun shining on the Washington Monument, Campos-Duffy tells her family’s personal story, then adds: “I’m worried that government programs that are supposed to help Hispanics are actually doing harm. . . . A sense of entitlement and dependency on government is starting to take over.”

Meanwhile Libre supports many measures that hurt Latinos. Besides the anti-Obamacare stance, the group supports Voter ID laws that make it harder for Hispanics to vote, opposes raising the minimum wage (60 percent of Latinos earn less than $15 per hour ) and opposes Obama’s proposal to offer two free years of community college (23 percent of Latino students go hungry while trying to support themselves through community college).

Cristóbal Alex, president of the Latino Victory Fund, a group that works to elect Latinos, told the Post that LIBRE “talks about immigration in a positive way” but “is really doing work on behalf of the Koch brothers, who put huge money behind candidates against immigration reform.”

Christine Neumann-Ortiz, head of the activist group Voces de la Frontera, told WUWM-FM that “There’s one word to describe Libre and that word is malinche. In Spanish, that means a traitor to your people.”

Libre poured money into House races to help defeat two Hispanic lawmakers in 2014 — Gallego of Texas and Joe Garcia of Florida, both Democrats — because they supported Obamacare. Since the group’s inception, Libre volunteers have made 4.7 million phone calls and knocked on 160,000 doors to build their support among Latinos, the Times reported.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s virulent comments about Latinos have made it harder for Libre. “I am unaware of any Republican Hispanic leaders who are excited to have Trump as the nominee,” Mario H. Lopez, president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, told the Huffington Post. “Many are refusing outright to support him in any capacity.”

Garza has said Libre will focus in 2016 on down-ticket races: “We’re going to be involved in the Senate races, some of the important 50-50 congressional races, [and] mobilizing thousands of Latinos in those campaigns,” he told HuffPost.

In the 2016 election cycle, one of it leaders told the Journal Sentinel, Libre hopes its staff and volunteers make three million phone calls and knock on one million doors.

Meantime, representatives of Libre will be submitting op eds to publications that help promote the group as advancing the interests of Hispanics. Besides the Journal Sentinel, the many other publications running these op eds include the San Antonio Express, the Las Vegas Review Journal, the Daily Caller and the Press of Atlantic City. Not one informed their readers the group was funded by the Koch Brothers.

23 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Koch Brothers Recruit State’s Latinos”

  1. Vincent Hanna says:

    I would love to know what Rachel Campos-Duffy or someone else from the Libre Initiative thinks about Sean Duffy’s recent comment that he is not offended by nor would he condemn anything offensive Donald Trump has said because Trump is merely expressing what elected officials like him can’t say. That of course includes comments about Mexicans and illegal immigrants.

  2. Penrod says:

    Republicans accepting money from Republicans! The Horror! The Immorality!

    “offered Latinos tax preparation help, wellness checkups, scholarships and food giveaways, as well as help preparing for a driver’s test…free flu shots, given away Thanksgiving turkeys, provided free English lessons and held seminars on how to start a business”

    What sheer, unmitigated scum. And at their own expense, no less, instead of dunning the Noble Taxpayer for the same services, as any respectable Democrat would do.

    I am ever so pleased that George Soros would never stoop to supporting Democrats.

    Thinking of Good Ol’ George: How about a story about his refusal to fund groups espousing his beliefs?

  3. Jason says:

    Bruce you throw out this quote from JAMA which has admitted it is pro Obamacare on how Hispanics benefit. One, do these numbers include hispanics that lost their original health benefits because of Obamacare. Many Hispanic were thrown off plans they liked. Two, are we now including Hispanics without documentation, or illegals because Americans were told they could not receive the benefit and King Obama gave it to them any way. Three, millions of Americans have dropped the benefit since 2014 because they cannot afford it were these dissatisfied Hispanics counted in JAMA’s numbers.

  4. Jason…. it’s possible that JAMA is pro Obamacare for a reason.

    A good reason, they care about quality health care for all people.

  5. Vincent Hanna says:

    King Obama? It’s unfortunate that some people use language like that but at least others know they can be ignored and not taken seriously.

  6. daniel golden says:

    Jason, objective research groups like The Commonwealth Fund.Org contradict all of your reactionary propaganda. The net result of the relatively modest health care reform that is the Affordable Care Act is exactly as projected: millions of uninsured citizens now have health insurance. In addition, by limiting administrative costs to 20 % of premium dollars (medicare operates on 4%) for private health care, the annual increase in premiums has slowed. As to being “thrown off plans”, by establishing minimum requirements for policies, it is true that “garbage policies” were eliminated. These plans had high deductibles, low limits, and numerous exclusions. In the insurance industries own words, they were garbage policies that were essentially worthless and a scam on their purchasers. Every objective analysis shows that millions of Americans are now covered by health insurance, and none of the lies that the Jason’s of the world propagate can change the actual facts.

  7. John Casper says:

    Jason, why do you hate capitalism?

    Why do you want to limit capital flows? That’s what happens if you limit the mobility of labor.

    “More Mexicans Leaving Than Coming to the U.S.:
    Net Loss of 140,000 from 2009 to 2014; Family Reunification Top Reason for Return”

    http://www.pewhispanic.org/2015/11/19/more-mexicans-leaving-than-coming-to-the-u-s/

  8. wisconsin conservative Digest says:

    Shadowy, they could not too shadowy if you guys found out about it.

  9. John Casper says:

    Penrod,

    Do you disagree with Congressman Duffy’s wife?

    “With heart-tugging music playing and a picture of the sun shining on the Washington Monument, Campos-Duffy tells her family’s personal story, then adds: “I’m worried that government programs that are supposed to help Hispanics are actually doing harm. . . . A sense of entitlement and dependency on government is starting to take over.”

    Is welfare from Republicans ok?

    Is the Libre Forum helping Latinos register to vote?

    Is the Libre Forum opposed to the job-killiing-government-regulations against marijuana? I’m not encouraging anyone to use it, unless they have a serious illness, but the prohibition against alcohol didn’t work either.

    WRT Soros, each Koch brother inherited a share in an oil company, worth more than a billion dollars. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Koch

    Soros started with nothing.

    Wall Street figured out in the 1930’s that as long as a debt is denominated in dollars, the U.S. government–any country that issues its own non-convertible currency–cannot default, except by choice. That’s why the elites soak up most of the federal welfare, “5 US banks each have more than $40 trillion in derivative exposure.”

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-09-25/5-us-banks-each-have-more-40-trillion-dollars-exposure-derivatives

    To put $200 trillion in perspective, annual U.S. GDP is around $17 trillion. Social Security’s Trust fund is around $2.3 trillion. We blew at least $6 trillion in the Middle East occupations. 

    Wall Street’s using the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) to “socialize” their derivative risk onto the taxpayers. Almost none of the $200 trillion “trickles down,” into the real economy. It’s mostly on interest rate swaps and credit derivative swaps, nothing goes into the real economy that makes stuff or into new technologies.  

    Republicans and Democrats love welfare when it’s for the elites.

  10. John Casper says:

    WIConDigest,

    Care to translate, “Shadowy, they could not too shadowy if you guys found out about it.”

  11. Jason Novak says:

    IN 2016 those latinos with out health insurance have to pay $695 per indivual to the IRS or $2085 per family. Though I am not sure how that works with the illegals. Due they simply get to go back to the shadows with out a penalty.

  12. John Casper says:

    Jason, from what Native American tribe are you?

  13. Jason says:

    What does this conversation have to do with Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts?

  14. Vincent Hanna says:

    Yes Mr. Xenophobia aka Jason they go right back to the shadows until they are ready to steal more jobs that white people won’t do.

  15. Bruce Thompson says:

    Jason,
    What is the source of your information about Hispanics losing insurance?
    According to Gallup Healthways surveys of 45,000 Americans, between the 4th quarter of 2013 (the last before the ACA kicked in) and the first quarter of this year, the proportion of adult Hispanics without health insurance dropped from 38.7% to 28.3%. This is still well above the rate for all adults (dropping from 17.1% to 11.0%), in part reflecting the fact that undocumented immigrants don’t qualify under the programs.

  16. Jason says:

    If your a Hispanic father living in Greenfield and you are mandated to have Obamacare and you have an emergency. Do you really have coverage if your plan covers only city of Milwaukee emergency units or one specific private ambulance.

  17. John Casper says:

    Jason,

    This conversation has nothing to do with Sen. Warren.

    1. Why did you mention her?
    2. Are you Jason Novak?
    3. Do you live in Greenfield?
    4. Do you have Latino ancestors?
    5. Do you have an, “emergency?”
    6. Is English your first language?

    You appear to think that you have very detailed knowledge of Obamacare coverages.
    7. Where did you get it?

  18. Tom D says:

    Jason: undocumented people (Hispanic and others) are exempt from the ACA mandate and are therefore not required to pay the fines you cite in post 11.

    If you spent even 10 seconds googling this before you posted, you would know this!

  19. Jason says:

    Elizabeth Warren claimed she was america indian when she was not Cherokee but it helps with college placement. Her mommy told her she had hi cheek bones.

  20. Jason says:

    You lefties are n’t that gullible. Do you really think with the 10’s of billions being pushed to the states each year that not $1 dollar went to illegals. So yes they benefit from Obamacare

  21. John Casper says:

    8. Jason, since it’s not English, what is your first language?

    9. Why didn’t you respond to questions 2 – 7?

    10. Do you prefer to refer to yourself as, “illegal,” or, “undocumented?”

    You’re not a conservative. If you were, you’d know that, “(Federal) Taxes For Revenue Are Obsolete.”

    “…The necessity for a government to tax in order to maintain both its independence and its solvency is true for state and local governments, but it is not true for a national government. Two changes of the greatest consequence have occurred in the last twenty-five years which have substantially altered the position of the national state with respect to the financing of its current requirements.
    The first of these changes is the gaining of vast new experience in the management of central banks.
    The second change is the elimination, for domestic purposes, of the convertibility of the currency into gold…”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/warren-mosler/taxes-for-revenue-are-obs_b_542134.html

    That doesn’t mean federal taxes are obsolete, they aren’t.

    It means the federal government doesn’t need tax revenue to provision itself.

    Your pal President Obama is wrong. It’s not the federal budget that has to “balance.” It’s the three economic sectors: private (domestic), public, and foreign (trade).

    This is a branch of Economics known as Modern Monetary Theory. #MMT

    Since I assume your first language is Spanish, “La Modern Monetary Theory a debate (UPF, 23-10-2015): Es un orgullo y un placer presentaros, en colaboración con Students for Liberty Barcelona, el acto “La MMT a debate” donde contaremos con la participación de Jorge Amar, economista y presidente de APEEP, y de Juan Ramón Rallo, economista y director del Instituto Juan de Mariana. En este debate, los dos ponentes analizarán, reflexionarán y elogiando (o criticarán según el caso) los elementos teóricos y las aplicaciones prácticas de la MMT (Modern Monetary Theory).

    Es un orgull i un plaer presentar-vos, en col·laboració amb Students for Liberty Barcelona, l’acte “La MMT a debate” on comptarem amb la participació de Jorge Amar, economista i president de APEEP, i de Juan Ramón Rallo, economista i director del Instituto Juan de Mariana. En aquest debat, els dos ponents analitzaran, reflexionaran i elogiaran (o criticaran segons el cas) els elements teòrics i les aplicacions pràctiques de la MMT (Modern Monetary Theory).”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_upAX2f1ro

  22. Vincent Hanna says:

    Jason’s xenophobia is repellent. Trump would be proud.

  23. Tom D says:

    Jason (post 19): How do you know Elizabeth Warren is not part Cherokee??

    I believe I am also part Cherokee (my mother was told her grandmother was born on a reservation), but you’d never know it by looking at me. Cherokees intermarried with whites, so some Cherokees were partly white.

    Cherokees also owned African slaves with whom they had children, so there are also black Cherokees. Based on what my grandfather looked like (sort of a light-skinned black man), I surmise that my great-grandmother was one of those partly-black Cherokees, but I look quite white.

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