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“Keeping America American”: The Koch Brothers Have An Immigration Problem

Every year, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the political group backed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, gathers thousands of conservative activists to share strategies for building a popular movement to advance their small-government, low-tax philosophy. This year’s Defending the American Dream Summit, held in Columbus, Ohio, on Aug. 21-22, attracted about 3,600 people to compare notes for weakening labor unions and stopping Medicaid expansion. Yet everyone on the floor seemed to be talking about the one topic left off the agenda: immigration.

That may be a problem for the Kochs and their network of like-minded donors, who’ve invested heavily in broadening their appeal beyond the traditional conservative base of older, white voters—and, specifically, in appealing to minorities, immigrants, and young people. In Columbus, activists got training on how to reach Snapchat-happy millennials and knock on doors in black neighborhoods to spread the gospel of the free market. They heard a former farm laborer, the son of Mexican immigrants, describe a Koch-backed program in Las Vegas that helped Latinos pass their driver’s tests and get licenses. The crowd dutifully took notes and applauded politely.

When it was time to file into the bleachers to see presidential candidates speak, talk of outreach faded away. The crowd went wild for Texas Senator Ted Cruz, whose plan for guarding the Mexican frontier includes 90,000 repurposed IRS employees, and for Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana governor, who promised to build a wall on the nation’s southern border within six months. “Immigration without assimilation is invasion!” proclaimed Jindal, the son of Indian immigrants.

The message struck a chord with summit-goers as they filed into a nearby bar for an AFP-sponsored “Buckeye bash.” “Send ’em back,” said David Dandrea, an 82-year-old former school custodian from Altoona, Pa., referring to undocumented immigrants. “A lot of them are coming over and getting on welfare. They overload the hospitals. A woman who’s eight months pregnant comes over the border to have her kid.” Fellow conservatives in bright red and highlighter-yellow AFP T-shirts wandered past. John Mellencamp’s “Hurts So Good” blared from the speakers.

Donald Trump, who’s dominated media coverage of the presidential race and made a crackdown on “the illegals” the centerpiece of his campaign, was never far from people’s minds in Columbus. Praise for Trump, who wasn’t invited to speak, was virtually unanimous, even from those who said they were backing other candidates. “He’s like the last little bit of salt you put in the stew to bring out the flavor,” said Rita Singer, a retired fabric store saleswoman from Moncks Corner, S.C. “He says what everyone else is thinking.”

Tim Phillips, the president of AFP, cautioned against reading too much into the Trump buzz. “It’s partly impacted by the breathless 24/7 coverage,” he says across the street from the Greater Columbus Convention Center, where the event was held. “If the summit were in two more months, and it’s 24/7 coverage of the Iran nuclear deal, you would find people bringing that up more.” Phillips pointed out that the activists the Koch network cultivates care about all kinds of issues, from abortion to gun control, but AFP, he said, remains solely focused on shrinking government and taxes. “We still have good friends who care passionately about these issues,” he says. “It shows a healthy, vibrant movement to have those discussions.”

The Kochs’ wealth comes from Koch Industries, the Wichita industrial behemoth they run. Their net worth is estimated at about $49 billion each. They’ve bankrolled libertarian causes for decades, although in recent years they’ve forged bonds with nontraditional allies. They gave $25 million to the United Negro College Fund and are working with the Obama administration to reduce the ranks of nonviolent drug offenders in the nation’s prisons. Yet they’ve also come to rival the Republican Party as an organizing body of the American right, securing pledges from other wealthy donors to spend as much as $889 million this year and next pushing their agenda.

Their strategy for recruiting Latinos hinges on Daniel Garza, a son of migrant fruit pickers who runs the Libre Initiative, funded by Koch-affiliated groups including the nonprofit Freedom Partners. Seated before more than 500 AFP members in Columbus, he described going door-to-door in Latino neighborhoods to make the case against Obamacare. When someone asked if Trump is threatening conservatives’ chances with Latinos, Garza said conservatives need to be respectful and appreciate the crucial role that immigrants play in the U.S. economy. He called Trump’s proposal to deny citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants “not realistic.”

Dorothy Osborne, a stay-at-home mom from Tennessee, disagreed. “Yes it is!” she called out as Garza spoke. In the hallway outside, Osborne said she agrees with much of Garza’s message. “We have to go and talk to these people,” she said. “We want them to love freedom.” But she said she doesn’t think an immigration crackdown would alienate Latinos who live here legally. “It’s economics, it’s crime, it’s the drain on our resources. And it’s keeping America American,” she said. “If our country becomes more like Venezuela, that’s not helping anyone.”

 

By: Zachary Mider, Bloomberg Politics, August 27, 2015

August 31, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Immigration, Koch Brothers | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“GOP Gives Up On ‘Dump Trump'”: Republicans Have Started To Accept That Cleveland Will Be The Donald Show Debate

Republican grief over Donald Trump’s all but assured presence on the debate stage next month seems to be entering it’s final stage: acceptance.

Whether it’s the winery-owning mega donor, or the Koch-backed Hispanic outreach group or the former head of the American Conservative Union, there is a distaste for the abrasive reality television star and businessman.

But although there was preliminary chatter about finding a way to marginalize Trump or keep him off the debate stage in Cleveland, Ohio, the unhappiness with his recent insulting comments about Hispanics has yielded to mere condemnation and an unhappy acquiescence to his presence in the race.

“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” Trump said recently.

John Jordan, the multi-millionaire winery owner and the third-largest donor to super PACs in the country in 2013, had originally contemplated gathering signatures to keep Trump off the debate stage.

“Someone in the party ought to start some sort of petition saying, ‘If Trump’s going to be on the stage, I’m not going to be on there with him,’” Jordan told the Associated Press last week. “I’m toying with the idea of it.”

But several days later, Jordan was thinking differently. He told The Daily Beast that he would not be putting together a petition effort.

“I’m content right to let the process play out, that is for the party and the candidates to figure out,” Jordan said. “I have one concern, and one concern only, and that is next November. I want to make sure that the nominee has the possible chance to win.”

Al Cardenas, the former chairman of the American Conservative Union and Florida’s first Hispanic GOP state chairman, said he hoped the primary process would naturally weed out Trump’s candidacy, rather than a top-down effort to push Trump out.

“[A]s distasteful as his comments have been to me, we should let the process play out. Hopefully, it’s the rejection by the voters, not a group of party leaders, that should determine his fate as a presidential candidate,” Cardenas said. “I respect the feelings of a number of our colleagues who feel differently—and strongly—about this and argue that his continuation in the race is detrimental to our party and to our brand. And they may be right, but the end does not justify the means in this case.”

“It’s a mild form of censorship to say that because we disagree with his tone or comments about the immigrant community, [he] should leave the race,” added Daniel Garza of the Koch-backed Libre Initiative, which seeks to appeal to Hispanic voters. “You allow him to mouth off… He has the right to speak, and we have the right to disagree with him… Calls to have him leave the race are ludicrous.”

Alfonso Aguilar, the head of the conservative American Principles Project’s Latino Partnership, views Trump’s “insulting and baseless” comments as creating pressure on other presidential candidates to step up their Hispanic outreach.

“Instead of seeing him as a problem, I see it as an opportunity—but one that requires strong leadership,” he told the Beast. “He’s a lunatic, but we’ve had other lunatics run for president. The problem is not that he’s on stage—it’s if you don’t respond and rebuke him.”

“He has shaken up the primary in a way that might not be welcome. But now that you have it, if you’re smart and astute, maybe you can use it in your favor,” agreed Garza. “Obviously you have to draw the contrast. If Donald Trump is showing how not to do Latino outreach, you show the way to do it effective.”

As for the Republican National Committee, it wants no part in any effort to sideline Trump. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus had called Trump to preach civility after the businessman’s controversial comments—then got mired into a he-said, he-said with The Donald over the contents of the call.

Asked about whether Republicans or big-dollar donors were making an effort to keep Trump off the debate stage, an RNC official merely said that, per Federal Election Commission guidelines, the networks and debate sponsors were responsible for setting up the guidelines for the presidential debates.
Meanwhile, a small plurality of Republican voters are favoring Trump. In a USA Today/Suffolk University poll released this week, Trump leads the field with 17%. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush is close behind him with 14%.

Two polls out last week showed him leading the field of Republican 2016 candidates, receiving 15 percent in an Economist/YouGov poll and 16 percent in a PPP poll.

Aguilar, who was in Arizona to counter-message an event Trump was having with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, said the key to convincing Republican primary voters to steer clear of Trump was to point out the businessman’s prior positions like Trump’s praise of Bill Clinton and his donation to the Clinton Foundation.

“Before he was friends with Hillary, now he’s friends with Joe Arpaio,” he said. “Are you really sure he’s conservative?”

 

By: Tim Mak, The Daily Beast, July 15, 2015

July 18, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Republicans | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

   

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