Koch network's organization accused of exploiting Latinos

Koch network's organization accused of exploiting Latinos
© Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce

A liberal group on Friday charged the conservative Libre Initiative with promoting the interests of billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch "at the expense of Latinos and their families."

The left-leaning Latino Victory Project, which describes itself as a nonpartisan political group that "builds power in the Latino community," provided The Hill with a report to be released Friday slamming LIBRE.

"The Kochs' transparent ploy to deceive Latinos with Libre is shameful," said Eddie Vale, Vice President of American Bridge 21st Century. "They're organizing Latinos against their own self-interests for the benefit of the billionaires' agenda."

The 45-page report, titled "¿Cómo se dice 'Koch Front Group?' Answer: LIBRE Initiative," enumerates accusations against Libre on everything from social and economic issues to political affiliations.

Daniel Garza, executive director of Libre, said, "Criticism by groups with a partisan agenda has unfortunately become a common, unproductive tactic. Instead of welcoming debate on the merit of their policy ideas, these operatives would rather censor opposing views, distort our stances on the issues and seek conformity through coercion and character assassination."

Through media quotes, the report claims events hosted by Libre are used to garner eventgoers' personal information and given to i360, a Koch-owned data company that links voter information and consumer behavior data.

The Latino Victory Project claims that low-income Latinos are lured to Libre events with gifts such as turkeys, flu shots and backpacks in exchange for their personal data.

Pili Tobar, communications director of Latino Victory Project, said, “They're giving away free turkeys and offering English classes — and that's nice — but it's not going to convince Latino voters to change their votes for politicians who want to line the pockets of Charles and David Koch while undercutting Latino families across America."

The report further claims that "despite its nonpartisan façade, Libre served as the Republican Party’s Latino outreach arm." That claim echoes accusations against the Latino Victory Project from as far back as 2014, when the Republican National Committee's then-Hispanic Communications Director Izzy Santa accused the group of ties to the Democratic Party.

“They have to be honest if they are a bipartisan group or a Democrat front group. People don’t like wannabes,” Santa said.

Ideologically, the two groups are at opposite ends of the spectrum. The report claims Libre furthers Republican goals, quoting Garza:

"What we want is to advance free-market policies, that's our goal, so we use an election as an opportunity to drive those issues. If that aligns with a Republican, than [sic] so be it."

Libre's website describes the organization as "dedicated to informing the U.S. Hispanic community about the benefits of a constitutionally limited government, property rights, rule of law, sound money supply and free enterprise."

Tobar says the Latino Victory Project supports candidates regardless of political affiliation, provided they support policies the group says are beneficial to Latinos, "immigration reform with a path to citizenship, support of DACA and DAPA, pro-environment policies, access to higher education, and a higher minimum wage."

Garza claims that attacks on Libre are based on contempt for free market policies, "an approach that only serves to increase the tax and regulatory burden on an already struggling Latino community," and added that Libre seeks to "promote prosperity in the Hispanic community through bipartisan immigration reform, fiscal discipline, and improved schools, as well as through events we sponsor to help Latinos learn English, become U.S. citizens, start small businesses, and find a better education for their kids."

The Kochs have combined fortunes of more than $80 billion and fund many conservative and libertarian political groups. In August, an investigation by Bloomberg News reported the Koch political structure was actively seeking out minority voters, with Garza as the central player in its Hispanic strategy.

“We know the Koch brothers are no friends of the Latino community. Our families won't be fooled by Libre Initiative's tactics,” Tobar said.