The LIBRE Initiative, a Koch-backed group that does outreach to Hispanics, has become the target of fear and loathing by Democrats who are concerned about the impact it may have on electoral politics.
According to BuzzFeed,
the group has been providing community services to Latinos in need, building relationships, and espousing conservative principles that may pay dividends at the polls.
It has been operating since 2011 in a number of states including Nevada, Florida, Colorado, Texas, and Arizona with $10 million from Charles and David Koch.
Democrats suggest that the group is misleading Hispanics on a range of issues and at the same time they are concerned that they may be losing ground to conservatives.
"The biggest problem of the [Democratic] party is finding the LIBRA alternative — it doesn't exist, someone doing what they do," said one Democratic official.
"They're doing all of this constant messaging, we're not doing the constant messaging, we have a vacuum, and they fill it in the opposite way," Democratic strategist Jose Parra, told BuzzFeed.
The group says it is nonpartisan but that it has a right-leaning ideology, BuzzFeed said. Its employees, totaling 50 in seven states, include a number of former Republican staffers and operatives. It is expected to expand in the coming months with an additional 20 staff members and into North Carolina and Wisconsin.
LIBRE executive director Daniel Garza told BuzzFeed that the community services that it provides vary depending on the region in which it is operating. In Texas, for example, the focus may be on education and assistance at the border, while services in Florida include tax preparation and school choice events.
"We don't look at whether someone is documented or not," Garza told BuzzFeed. "that's why we're active in supporting immigration reform."
Democrats also accuse the organization of hypocrisy.
"You can't talk about why executive action is bad and then turn back around and help them with the immigration process. You can't say you're helping Latinos and then be silent," Lucy Flores, a Nevada Democrat who ran for lieutenant governor in 2014, told BuzzFeed.
LIBRE's biggest operation is in Florida where it holds one or two events in Orlando and four a week in South Florida where it also sponsors radio shows espousing conservative principles.
Democrats take issue with it because they say its media work doesn't reveal to Latinos that there is a political bias.
"Very few people in the Latino community don't kowtow to a liberal creed, that's the resistance," Garza told BuzzFeed. "Our use of media is critical in that and there's much more where that came from."
"If they continue to get Koch money they will be successful," a GOP operative told BuzzFeed. "They're unstoppable at branding conservative policies without saying the word 'Republican.'"
Meanwhile, a small group of Democrats are insisting that the national party needs to be more aware of the impact LIBRE may be having, BuzzFeed said.
But in a statement to BuzzFeed, the Democratic National Committee said they've known for some time that "the Koch brothers were using their secret dark money to fund this group."
"We intend to fight aggressively for the Hispanic vote, but we also believe that Hispanic voters will see through these types of cynical efforts to deceive them, because on issue after issue Democrats are fighting for them and Republicans just aren't."
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