People For the American Way

The Libre Initiative: A Deceptive Group Courting the Latino Vote

The Libre Initiative, founded in September 2011, is a lavishly funded Koch Brothers front group dedicated to winning Latino support for far-right GOP candidates.

Key Facts

Libre backs anti-immigrant Republicans while claiming to support immigration reform. For example:

  • The group attacked Rep. Pete Gallego (D-TX), a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform whose opponent had indicated that he would oppose reform.
  • Libre supported Andy Tobin (R-AZ), who not only opposed comprehensive reform, but 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.

Libre promotes conservative policy priorities at odds with priorities of Latino working families.

  • On immigration, Libre has:

    • Echoed the unsubstantiated right-wing talking point that President Obama’s DACA order caused the child migrant crisis last summer.
    • Called DACA “pandering” and “dangerous.”
    • Opposes the President’s recent actions, DACA+ and DAPA.
  • Libre opposes increasing the minimum wage and rallies against clean energy development.

    • Much of Libre’s efforts go toward attacking the Affordable Care Act.
    • Libre's Executive Director said he supports voter ID laws, which make it harder for Latinos to vote.

Libre is a Koch front group designed to push a far-right agenda.

  • At least half of Libre’s revenue in the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years came from two other Koch front groups.
  • In Nevada, Libre shared an office with Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity. It later moved in an apparent attempt to distance itself from AFP.
  • Although Libre is organized as a trust, with Executive Director Daniel Garza as trustee, a Koch-connected group has the power to fire him at any time.

For an in-depth analysis of the Libre Initiative’s funding and tactics, see People For the American Way’s report on the Libre Initiative. The report is also available in Spanish here.

Key Statements

Dolores Huerta, in an op-ed for La Opinion, wrote:

“El problema es que La Iniciativa Libre promociona ideales conservadores que ofenden a nuestra comunidad. Ellos se oponen a los sindicatos, se oponen a un aumento en el salario mínimo y se oponen a medidas que protegen el medio ambiente. Sostienen que apoyan la reforma migratoria pero respaldan a candidatos republicanos que la oponen. El año pasado, publicaron anuncios que ayudaron a un candidato que apoyó la ley antiinmigrante de Arizona, SB 1070.”

[TRANSLATION: The problem is that the Libre Initiative promotes conservative causes that are completely wrong for our community, like busting unions, opposing the minimum wage and poisoning the environment. Libre claims it supports immigration reform, but backs Republican candidates who oppose immigration reform. Last year, Libre ran ads that helped a candidate who supported the state’s notorious anti-immigrant law, SB 1070.]

From Newsmaker Sunday with Fernando Espuelas, 3/1/15:

Dolores Huerta: [Libre’s] really deceiving the voters and trying to make them think that they’re supporting immigration reform, but at the same time, they are supporting all of the Republican candidates that are right now trying to keep Obama’s executive actions from taking effect. They’re putting unlimited amounts of money into getting politicians elected that are anti-immigrant, anti-workers, anti-clean environment, and they’re going to try to confuse Latino voters into thinking that they’re their friends. We’ve got to let our community know that Libre, which is funded by the Koch brothers, are not our friends.

Fernando Espuelas: In particular in the 2014 cycle, Libre spent millions of dollars to bring down certain Latino candidates in Florida and elsewhere, with what objectively would seem to be lies in their commercials. Do you think this is a real menace going forward, including in 2016?

Dolores Huerta: Oh I think so! Basically they’ll just be telling a lot of lies and making people think that the candidates they’re supporting are pro-immigrant, at the same time that they’re voting against everything that we’re trying to get for immigration reform. So it’s a very deceptive, but very well-funded operation…We [have to] spread the message that when people hear the word libre, it doesn’t mean libre [free], it means cadenas, it means chains, just the opposite of Libre. This is a rouse that is going to try to entrap people, try to confuse them. We want to do a better job to inform and to educate the Latino voting public who your friends are and who your enemies are. And one of those big enemies is going to be Libre, the group that wants to put us in chains. There’s a good saying in Spanish, dar gato por liebre, so this is dar gato por Libre.

For more information about the Libre Initiative, please email media@pfaw.org.