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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

“New Report Details Kochs’ Plan To Target Latino Voters”: Just Another Flashy Way For The Koch Brothers To Try To Con Latinos

Late last month, news broke that the network of political organizations tied to Charles and David Koch was developing plans to spend nearly a billion dollars in the 2016 elections.

Given that unprecedented investment, it’s essential to understand precisely what the Kochs and their front groups are doing. Yesterday, People for the American Way released a new report exploring one of these groups: the Libre Initiative, which aims to win over Latino voters for Republicans.

With much of its funding coming from the Kochs, Libre has the resources it needs to try to run an aggressive campaign aimed at making inroads in the Latino community. As Politico reported recently, “Libre, which already has a presence in eight states, plans to expand to Wisconsin and North Carolina this year and increase its staff by about 30 percent ahead of 2016.”

The group’s millions go to promoting conservative causes to the Latino community and using deceptive ads to attack Democrats. Civil rights leader and People for the American Way board member Dolores Huerta described Libre best: “This is just another flashy way for the Koch brothers to try to con Latinos into supporting a party that’s run by anti-immigrant, anti-Latino, anti-environmental extremists. We won’t be fooled; the group has the wrong priorities on the issues that matter most to us.” Though the group is doing all it can to push GOP priorities like blocking an increase in the minimum wage and rallying against clean energy development, poll after poll has shown that the majority of Latinos and Libre aren’t on the same page when it comes to these and other issues.

If Libre stuck to debating the issues, that would be one thing. Libre’s real threat — both to Democrats and to the Latino community — is that it uses its considerable financial resources to say one thing and do another.

In typical Koch fashion, Libre has made vicious, often dishonest attacks against Democrats. It’s ironic, albeit unsurprising, that the Democrats Libre attacked in 2014 included some of the strongest Latino voices in Congress, like former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Texas). And based on Libre’s actions in the past, we can count on Libre to pay only lip service to supporting immigration reform. So far, the Libre playbook has gone like this: Claim to support immigration reform, applaud Speaker Boehner for making vague remarks somewhat supportive of immigration reform, and — here’s the kicker — run attack ads against Democrats who actually vote in favor of immigration reform.

Activists shouldn’t hold our breath hoping that the Kochs and other deep-pocketed conservatives will stop their lies. Instead, it’s up to us to push back. PFAW’s doing that by reaching out to Latino voters with a focus on the issues that matter and calling out Republicans when their promises just don’t match up with their votes.

Despite Libre’s deep coffers and its apparent desire to win over Latino voters to the GOP, that party’s offensive anti-immigrant rhetoric and actions continue. Just look at the current Congress, where Republicans are hijacking funding for the Department of Homeland Security to block the president’s executive actions on immigration even though, as Ted Hesson wrote at Fusion, “only a small minority of Americans think that’s the best way to approach the issue” in Congress.

As long as Republicans keep opposing policies that most Latinos and Americans as a whole support, it’s unlikely the Libre Initiative will have much success. But given the deep support and huge bank accounts of its two most important funders, the threat posed by Libre is one that we should all take seriously.

 

By: Michael B. Keegan, President, People For the American Way, The Blog, The Huffington Post, February 19, 2015

February 20, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, Koch Brothers, Latinos | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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