The Latino community is poised to decide this year’s election, and interest groups from across the political spectrum are already vying for our votes. We hope that this focus on the Latino vote will result in a significant increase in the number of Latinos elected to office, and ultimately to increased political power. Others see the potential in the growth of the Latino vote and are making investments towards disparate ends.
Unfortunately, because of the flood of money into politics, groups like the Koch brother’s LIBRE Initiative can spend millions of dollars to gain the trust and support of the Latino community through community festivals and events while simultaneously funding campaigns and supporting candidates who work in opposition to their interests.
On the other hand, candidates who strongly advocate for Latinos and support legislation that positively impact our community are frequently outspent. For example, Amanda Renteria was outspent by nearly a million dollars vying for a congressional seat and Lucy Flores was outspent nearly three-to-one in her race for Nevada lieutenant governor. Spending at the federal level is already exorbitant. In an overview of campaign finances during the 2011 and 2012 election cycles, The National Institute on Money in State Politics found that general election winners raised $811 million, each averaging $123,150.
As an organization working to elect candidates that reflect American values, the Latino Victory Fund understands that resources are needed, and that politics isn’t inexpensive. But the explosion in money into politics means that the voices of voters are being drowned out, and the best candidates aren’t able to get a fair shot.
We play by the rules that exist. But it is time for the rules to change so that the voters are the ones electing candidates, instead of mega-donors like the Koch brothers.
That is why we need, more than ever, for President Obama to issue an executive order requiring disclosure of these donations so the public knows exactly who they’re dealing with, and provide a more level and transparent playing field. We cannot afford to wait any longer for Congress to act, because this Congress simply won’t do it. The president campaigned on this issue and has repeatedly made reference to getting dark money, which “pulls us into the gutter” out of politics, as recent as his 2015 State of the Union address.
Would Latinos continue to turn out in large numbers to the LIBRE Initiative’s “community festivals” if they knew the massive role the Koch brothers played in trying to overturn the Affordable Care Act, which has helped over 4 million Latinos gain access to affordable healthcare? Would members of our community regard the “good deeds” being done by these organizations so highly if it were disclosed just how much money the Koch brothers give to candidates like Steve King in Iowa, who refers to Latinos as “people that come from the other planet?”
When Congress failed to act on immigration, Obama did the right thing and issued executive orders that lifted families out of the shadows. We hope that he will show the same courage to act and use the power to level the playing field for voters and issue an executive order that discloses political contributions for government contractors. With Congress failing to pass the DISCLOSE Act, only the president can bring dark money donors to light.
Alex is the president of the Latino Victory Project and the Latino Victory Foundation, an ambitious effort to build Latino political power so that the faces and voices of Latinos are reflected at every level of government and in the policies that drive our country forward.