The Libre Initiative
The Libre Initiative is a conservative non-profit 501(c)(4) organization targeting Latino voters. According to the group's website, "LIBRE's mission is to increase economic freedom and prosperity by promoting free enterprise, responsibility and a more constitutionally limited government." The group has received several million dollars in funding from organizations linked to the Koch brothers. The Libre Initiative was launched by the group's current executive director Daniel Garza, a former White House staffer under George W. Bush.
The Koch brothers -- David and Charles -- are the right-wing billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries. As two of the richest people in the world, they are key funders of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on the Kochs include: Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, American Encore, and Freedom Partners.
- 1 2016 Election Campaign and Expansion
- 2 2014 Election Campaign
- 3 Ties to the Koch Brothers
- 4 Positions
- 5 Criticism
- 6 Personnel
- 7 Funding
- 8 Contact Information
- 9 Resources and References
2016 Election Campaign and Expansion
The Associated Press reported on January 26, 2015 that "the political machine backed by billionaires Charles and David Koch on Monday told its allies that spending across its conservative network would approach $1 billion ahead of 2016's elections." It explained that this funding is planned to come through Freedom Partners, "the central hub for the Koch-backed network that includes groups like the activist-recruiting Americans for Prosperity, the millennial-targeting Generation Opportunity and the Hispanic-wooing Libre Initiative."
Libre Initiative Goes to Bat for Sen. Marco Rubio
In early September of 2016, the Libre Initiative released a TV ad campaign in English and Spanish in support of Sen. Marco Rubio's reelection in Florida. The $700,000 purchase is the first time the Libre Initiative has clearly come out in support of a candidate. As Theodore Schleifer reports for CNN, "All Koch network nonprofits -- unlike their super PACs -- have to be careful in order to maintain their tax-exempt status and shield their donor identities. Some groups have been reluctant to test the legal boundaries, yet the Libre Initiative appears more willing than ever to engage in direct politics."
2014 Election Campaign
Ramping Up Outreach to Latino Voters
Libre Initiative Executive Director Daniel Garza told the media that he expected the Republican Party to increase outreach to Latinos during the 2014 election cycle. According to Politico, the "Koch-backed" LIBRE Initiative planned to hire field directors in Colorado and Texas for the 2014 midterm elections, as well as a coalitions coordinator and a "West Coast youth projects manager."
Garza has reportedly been called on to advise Republicans on outreach to Latino communities as a result of his work leading the Libre Initiative.
Along with advertising and policy campaigning, the Libre Initiative has pledged to engage in social service outreach to its target audience of Latino communities. For example, Executive Director Daniel Garza stated that the Libre Initiative would offer a free GED course in 2014.
Daniel Garza and other Libre staff regularly publish op-ed pieces in outlets across the country, including Fox News Latino, NBC Latino, the Press of Atlantic City, the San Antonio Express, the Las Vegas Journal Review, and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Ads Attack Supporters of Health Care Reform
The Libre Initiative spent $1.4 million in early 2014 on Spanish- and English-language ads attacking four House Democrats in Arizona, Florida, and Texas for their support of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Starting January 16, 2014, the group spent half a million dollars for two weeks of television ads attacking Texas Democrat Rep. Pete Gallego for supporting the ACA. Libre spent another $700,000 on ads against Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) and Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ) in April 2014. Along with Rep. Joe Garcia (D-FL), also the target of Libre's attack ads, Gallego, Kirkpatrick, and Barber all represent districts with large Latino populations.
According to People for the American Way, "[i]n June 2014, the group acted as a GOP attack dog when it went after Florida Rep. Joe Garcia for sardonically remarking that “communism works.” Although it was clear from the context of the remark that Garcia meant the absolute opposite, conservatives desperately tried to use it against him."
As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, the Libre Initiative is not required to disclose its funding sources or complete detailed reports of its campaign spending. Full reports of 2014 election year spending may not be available until 2015.
Ties to the Koch Brothers
According to IRS documents filed by Freedom Partners and the TC4 Trust, the Libre Initiative appears to have received at least $3.8 million in grant funding from those two organizations between July 2011 and October 2012, including $693,000 from the TC4 Trust and $3,112,000 from Freedom Partners. These donations were received by TDNA, LLC, which according to the Libre Initiative's IRS filing is controlled by the Libre Initiative Trust.
Daniel Garza was listed as a Koch Palm Springs Seminar attendee in February 2014.
When fundraising for The Libre Initiative in 2011, the group's CEO Daniel Garza told iWatch News that he had approached "representatives of the Koch family." Garza did not confirm that the organization received funds from the Koch brothers' network, but "[t]wo GOP operatives familiar with the initiative say Garza told them he has already secured commitments for about $1 million -- including funds from Koch family interests," as reported by the Center for Public Integrity. The New York Times reported that in 2013, the Koch network was expected to expand financing for the Libre Initiative.
Despite being officially non-partisan, the Libre Initiative holds conservative positions that are largely in line with the Republican Party, including support for tax cuts, ending the Affordable Care Act, and expanding charter schools. The Associated Press has said that the Libre Initiative is in effect "a shadow GOP — one with a gentle emphasis on social services and assimilation over a central party often seen as hostile to immigrants and minorities."
"Pro-Market" Immigration Reform
The Libre Initiative "Estamos Contigo" ("We are with you") campaign calls for free market reforms to US immigration law. Garza has stated that Libre spent almost $1 million in 2012 advocating for its vision of immigration reform. According to its website, the Libre Initiative supports immigration reform with "a streamlined, market-based and employment-driven policy." Its "Statement of Principles" calls for unlimited worker visas, including for foreign-born STEM workers, as well as for children of undocumented immigrants to have access to college educations.
People for the American Way writes that while in "2013, Garza endorsed the Senate “Gang of Eight” proposal for immigration reform, which included a path to citizenship," other statements were more ambiguous about his support for citizenship. At a 2013 CPAC panel on immigration, Garza stated that he did not think an immigration reform bill should include a path to citizenship, as it would not be "politically viable." The Washington Post reported Garza as saying that "[w]hat illegal immigrants really want above all is 'permanencia — the certainty that you won't be deported tomorrow,' said Garza. 'At least let's get legality, get the authority to work and to provide for our children. I think that's where the compromise is going to be.'"
In the 2014 election cycle, the Libre Initiative attacked several Democrats who had supported the "Gang of Eight" bill, including Kay Hagan and Pete Gallego, helping the Republican candidates in those races, including "Andy Tobin of Arizona, not only opposed comprehensive reform, but he also voted for Arizona’s draconian anti-immigrant bill S.B. 1070 and hyped unfounded fears that Central American children fleeing to the southern border could be carrying Ebola."
According to People for the American Way, "Libre has tried to play both sides of the debate by giving political cover to anti-reform Republicans, but not going so far as to alienate Latino voters." Some examples collected by People for the American Way include:
- "When thousands of Central American children fleeing to the U.S. southern border became a full-blown crisis this past summer, Garza echoed the unsubstantiated right-wing talking point that the DACA order was responsible. Then, when the House GOP voted to roll back DACA, Garza accused “both sides” of “playing politics” and said that while he disagreed with the DACA order, it couldn’t “be undone without affecting hundreds of thousands of lives.”
- "In May 2014, Libre issued a press release touting House Speaker John Boehner’s vague remarks about his desire to take up immigration reform, although Boehner had prevented the Gang of Eight bill from getting a vote in the House. Libre also echoed the House GOP’s line that Republicans won’t take on immigration reform because the president has “made it difficult to build trust between Congress and the White House.”
- "At the same time, Garza has been trying to sell the issue of immigration reform to Tea Party Republicans. In a speech to an Arizona Tea Party group captured by Yahoo News, Garza made the case for reform but also told the audience that they could start with changing their “tone” in talking about immigration.
- "“I respectfully submit that we can make real progress advancing our shared values in this community, but we have to be sure that we can talk about an emotional subject like immigration without turning back prospective support,” he said.
- "Campos-Duffy has made the same appeal in her speeches to conservative groups, telling a Minnesota audience in October 2013 that when it comes to Latinos, Republicans have a “tonal problem,” especially in how they talk about immigration. “Some of the harsher voices within this party have been able to sort of hijack [the immigration debate], in a way, and I think present a face that doesn’t really I think reflect the way so many of us feel about immigrants, about Hispanics,” she said.
- "But even in denouncing the GOP’s inflammatory anti-immigrant rhetoric, Garza has walked a narrow line. Garza has bemoaned the GOP’s tendency toward anti-immigrant rhetoric and flat-out condemned Rep. Don Young’s use of an anti-Latino slur in March 2013, calling it “distasteful” and “insulting.”
- "At the same time, he has bristled at Democratic characterizations of Republicans as too anti-immigrant. “This notion from the liberal side, or this picture that they’ve painted that conservatives do not care about minorities is defamation of the worst kind. It’s almost evil,” he said at the CPAC panel.
- "Libre has collaborated with the far-right Media Research Center to accuse Spanish-language media of having a liberal bias."
Opposition to the Affordable Care Act
The Libre Initiative claims that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has increased the cost of healthcare. Its website specifically highlights Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and Texas as states where "the painful impact of Obamacare," the ACA, is being felt. All five states happen to be states with sizable Latino populations that are likely battlegrounds for key 2014 elections.
Libre Initiative staff, including Daniel Garza, have published op-ed pieces in newspapers across the country claiming that the ACA is particularly bad for Latinos. In the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on February 6, 2014, for example, Garza wrote that "Obamacare will simply be too expensive for many Hispanics" and suggested that its "expensive mandates and regulations" would reduce access to Hispanic doctors. He further claimed that the law will be disproportionately costly to Latino communities due to its "over-reliance on the young." Garza published a "nearly identical" column in the San Antonio Express News.
The Libre Initiative released a series of videos as part of the "Share the Dream" campaign in January 2014, around the same time as Libre's anti-Obamacare attack ads. The videos show "personal stories of Hispanic success in the United States." The campaign included digital and social media as well as broadcast ads, which were to be shown in television markets in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Miami, Florida; Phoenix, Arizona; Las Vegas, Nevada; and San Antonio, Texas.
Outreach to Religious Right
People for the American Way has reported on the Libre Initiative's efforts to connect with the Religious Right:
- "Libre is also making an effort to reach out to the Religious Right to encourage the movement to appeal more to Latino voters. Libre spokeswoman Rachel Campos-Duffy spoke at a prayer breakfast hosted by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition in 2013, where she criticized school breakfast programs for low-income students, saying that they infringed on family bonding. Later in the year, Campos-Duffy made an appearance at a women’s Religious Right event in Florida alongside activists like Star Parker, Anita Staver and Jan Morgan.
- "Libre has also hired former National Association of Evangelicals official John Méndez to direct its outreach to the pastors and faith groups. In an interview with the Pacific Justice Institute last year, Méndez said that he was working to push conservative economics to Latino pastors, stressing the frequent Religious Right claim that such principles are found in both the Constitution and the Bible.
Brave New Films Exposes LIBRE: "The Truth Behind the Koch-Funded 'LIBRE Initiative'"
Brave New Films released a documentary on October 18, 2016 detailing how the Koch brothers bankroll the LIBRE Initiative and use the group as a messaging vehicle to reach Latino voters.
Latinos Support the Affordable Care Act
The Libre Initiative's position on the ACA contradicts majority opinion among Latinos, who largely support the law. The El Paso Times reported:
- "Garza claims to be speaking in the interest of Hispanics, but in opposing Obamacare, he's flying in the face of Hispanic opinion, said Matt A. Barreto[,] a political scientist at the University of Washington. Barreto directs the Washington Poll and studies political participation by minorities. 'There's overwhelming support for a government role in health care among Hispanics -- it's probably the highest of any group,' Barreto said Friday. 'It's also the group with the greatest percentage of uninsured. They have the most to benefit from health care reform.'"
People for the American Way points out that "Hispanics make up a disproportionate number of the uninsured in the United States."
Libre Represents the Interests of the Rich
As reported by Reuters, "[t]he Arizona Democratic Party has blasted Libre as a "fake Latino advocacy organization," and other party officials say the group is doing the bidding of its wealthy donors, who are paying for a blitz of ads against Democrats in the midterm elections." The El Paso Times reported that Texas Democrats were similarly skeptical about whether Libre represented the interests of the Latino community:
- "The Democratic official who heads up Texas' Mexican American Legislative Caucus said that he applauds any group that wants to serve the Hispanic community, but Libre's Koch ties raise questions. 'It certainly is suspicious,' said state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio. 'The Koch brothers are certainly no fans of the Affordable Care Act. Quite frankly, that's unfortunate for Texas Latinos that the Koch-funded group holds itself out as wanting to work on behalf of Hispanics, but yet it opposes an issue where half of the uninsured are Hispanics. That doesn't serve the issue of wanting to help the Hispanic community.'"
The El Paso Times also asked political scientist Matt Barreto "if the Libre Initiative is a Hispanic twist on the tea party groups. 'I would say that it's definitely something to get people to vote against their own interests,' he said. 'I don't know if it's the same sort of rhetoric as the tea party -- the name calling and the divisiveness -- but they're definitely trying to get people to vote against their self-interests.'"
People for the American Way writes that the Libre Initiative's "activities have provoked some skepticism. After Sen. Reid pointed out Libre’s funding and goals, one Nevada activist told Politico, “A lot of us were already asking questions, because we’re all out there in the community, and when a new group shows up and has a lot of money and passes out triple-color T-shirts and throws a grand opening, people start questioning where that money came from.”"
According to a January 2014 report by Yahoo News, "LIBRE's staff is comprised of veteran conservative Hispanic operatives, including National Strategic Director Jose Mallea, formerly the campaign manager for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio; Policy Director Jorge Lima, once an adviser to former Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno; and Chief of Staff Andeliz Castillo, who led outreach to Hispanic media for the Republican National Committee during the 2008 presidential election. The 35-member staff is spread out among eight states, with plans to expand to a dozen by year’s end. LIBRE has brought on Rachel Campos-Duffy, a writer and wife of Wisconsin Republican Rep. Sean Duffy, who both made their public debut in the 1990s as characters on MTV's 'The Real World.'"
The Libre Team
As of July 2016:
- Daniel Garza, Executive Director
- Andeliz Castillo, Chief Operating Officer & Chief of Staff
- Jorge Lima, Vice President of Operations and Policy
- Rachel Campos Duffy, National Spokesperson
- Carli Dimino, Policy Director
- Brian Faughnan, Communications Director
- Payton Alexander, Policy Analyst
- Valerio Martinelli, Policy Analyst
- Tomás Bethencourt, Data and Performance Coordinator
- Gabriel Villanueva, Operations Coordinator
- Joana Serpa, Data and Performance Metrics Director
- Edgar Licea, Data Administrator
- Mario Bovines, National Field Director
- Edith Jorge, Eastern Regional Manager
- Helena Ramirez, Eastern Coalitions Coordinator
- Armando Arana, Florida Coalitions Coordinator
- Eric Garza, Texas Coalitions Coordinator
- Rafael Bejar, Texas State Director
- Sandra Beovides, Virginia Field Director
- Jeandelize Burgos, Tampa Field Director
- Pablo Carvajal, North Carolina Field Director
- Matthew Edson Brown, Arizona Field Director
- Ezra Escudero, Ohio Field Director
- Raul Espinoza, Texas Policy Analyst
- Vanessa Faura, North Carolina Field Director
- Erin Fleck, North Florida Field Director
- Carlos Pereira, South Florida Field Director
- Gianfranco Puppio, South Florida Field Director
- Janisset Rivero, South Florida Field Director
- Fernando Gonzales, Arizona Field Director
- Cesar Grajales, Florida State Director
- David Velazquez, Deputy Florida State Director
- Jacqueline Llama, South Florida Field Director
- Juan M. Martinez, Orlando Field Director
- Alexander Miles, Tampa Bay Field Director
- Karla Sierra, Texas Field Director
- Eli Lara, South Texas Field Director
- Jorge Martinez, South Texas Field Director
- Juan Martinez, Nevada Field Director
- Ronald Najarro, Nevada Field Director
- Juan O'Leary, Virginia Field Director
- Isabel Ontiveros, Denver Field Director
- Soledad Cedro, Regional Press Secretary
- Steven Cruz, Digital Manager
- Diana Waller, Operations Manager
- Andrew Sanchez, Western Regional Manager
- Judy Pino, Branding and Production Advisor
- Sonia Francis, Office Administrator
- Cheyenne Taggart, Executive Assistant
- Ariel Gordon, Research Assistant
- Fletcher Holtzclaw, Marketing Assistant
- Korbin Kiplinger, Digital Activism Coordinator
- Lymari Robles, Operations Assistant
- Ivan Rubio, Florida Operations Assistant
- Stephan Savastano, Data Management Assistant
- Cristina Tunon, Communications Assistant
- Caitlyn Schneeweiss, Operations Coordinator
- Alex Trevino, Texas Press Secretary
- Jose Mallea - National Strategic Director
- John Méndez - Director of Faith Initiatives. Mendez is a former official with the National Association of Evangelicals.
- Michael L. Barrera - National Coalitions and Entrepreneurship Director
According to its 2011 and 2012 tax filings, nearly all of the Libre Initiative's revenue was funneled through TDNA, LLC, a disregarded entity controlled by Libre.
For the period July 1, 2013-June 30, 2014.
- Total Revenue: $9,509,936
- Total Expenses: $9,381,964
- Net Assets: $2,272,532
For the period July 1, 2012-June 30, 2013.
- Total Revenue: $4,970,938
- $4,960,000 of this revenue was reported as the income of TDNA, LLC.
- Total Expenses: $3,925,033
- Net Assets: $2,097,119
For the period July 6, 2011-June 30, 2012.
- Total Revenue: $2,146,190
- $2,145,000 of this revenue was reported as the income of TDNA, LLC.
- Total Expenses: $1,094,976
- Net Assets: $1,051,214
For the period December 1, 2012-November 30, 2013.
- Total Revenue: $971,763
- Total Expenses: $4,301
- Net Assets: $982,267
The Libre Initiative
3805 Plantation Grove Blvd., Suite #51
Mission, TX 78572
Phone: (844) 564-6542
The Libre Institute, Inc.
2200 Wilson Blvd Suite #102 PMB 44
Arlington, VA 22201
Phone: (703) 678-4577
Resources and References
Related SourceWatch Resources
- Koch Brothers
- Koch Family Foundations
- Americans for Prosperity
- Freedom Partners
- Cato Institute
- Heritage Foundation
- Koch Universities
- Koch Network
- Knowledge and Progress Fund
- American Encore
- Donors Capital
- 60 Plus
- Generation Opportunity
- Peter H. Stone, New Koch Brothers Group Revamps Billionaires' Dark Money Operation, Huffington Post, April 26, 2013.
- Libre Initiative Institute, 2012 IRS form 990, organizational tax filing, October 15, 2014.
- Budget for Koch-backed network: almost $1 billion for 2016, Associated Press, January 28, 2015.
- Kenneth P. Vogel and Tarini Parti, Koch donors give Marco Rubio early nod, Politico, January 28, 2015.
- Theodore Schleifer, Koch brothers Hispanic group airs TV ads for Rubio, CNN, September 7, 2016.
- Kenneth Vogel, "Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity plans $125 million spending spree," Politico, May 9, 2014.
- Chris Moody, "Koch-affiliated group ramps up Hispanic outreach," Yahoo News, January 17, 2014.
- Daniel Garza, "Storm Clouds Over Venezuela, While U.S. Government Remains Largely Silent," Fox News Latino, May 9, 2014.
- Rachel Campos-Duffy, "Desperate Latina Eva Longoria doesn’t speak for me," NBC Latino, November 5, 2012.
- Daniel Garza, "Obamacare is particularly problematic for Hispanics," Press of Atlantic City, January 31, 2014.
- Daniel Garza, "Obamacare makes situation worse for Hispanics," San Antonio Express, January 31, 2014.
- Ronald Najarro, "It's time to restore value of work, not welfare," Las Vegas Journal Review, September 9, 2013.
- Daniel Garza, "Obamacare's headache for Hispanic community," Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, February 6, 2014.
- Andy Sullivan, "Koch-Backed Group Uses Soft Touch In Recruiting Hispanics," Reuters, April 22, 2014.
- Joe Ferguson, "CD1/CD2 Watch: New ad target Barber, Kirkpatrick over their support for Obamacare," Arizona Daily Star, April 3, 2014.
- The Libre Initiative, "The Accountability Project," organizational project website, accessed May 28, 2014.
- Right Wing Watch, "THE LIBRE INITIATIVE: The Koch Brothers’ New Focus on Winning Latino Voters," report, People for the American Way, February 2015. Accessed February 19, 2015.
- Libre Initiative, 2011 IRS Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, May 10, 2013.
- Libre Initiative, 2012 IRS form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, May 14, 2014.
- TC4 Trust, "2011 IRS Form 990," organizational annual IRS filing, May 14, 2013.
- Freedom Partners, "2011 IRS Form 990," organizational annual IRS filing, September 16, 2013.
- Peter H. Stone, New GOP campaign is aimed at Hispanics, Center for Public Integrity, September 22, 2011.
- Nicholas Confessore, Koch Brothers Plan More Political Involvement for Their Conservative Network, New York Times, April 30, 2013.
- Will Weissert and Philip Elliott, "Koch brothers reach out to Hispanics," Associated Press, August 11, 2014. Accessed February 19, 2015.
- The Libre Initiative, "Statement of Principles on Immigration Reform," organizational website, accessed May 28, 2014.
- Suzy Khimm, "CPAC panel: No, illegal immigrants don’t need a path to citizenship," Washington Post, March 14, 2013.
- The Libre Initiative, "The Impact of the Affordable Care Act on Hispanics," accessed May 28, 2014.
- Daniel Garza, "Obamacare's headache for Hispanic community," Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, February 6, 2014.
- Marty Schladen, "Libre Initiative targets Obama's Affordable Care Act," El Paso Times, February 9, 2014.
- The Libre Initiative, "LIBRE's "Share the Dream" Campaign Highlights the American Dream," January 6, 2014.
- Libre Initiative, Libre Team, Libre Initiative, 2016.
- Libre Initiative, 2013 IRS form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, May 15, 2015.