The Republican National Committee (RNC) argues a high-profile campaign backed by Eva Longoria meant to elevate Latino candidates is really a partisan group created to elect more Democrats in a letter first provided to BuzzFeed.
In the letter, the RNC says a nonpartisan organization dedicated to giving Latinos a greater voice in politics by supporting Latino candidates is a worthy cause, but that the Latino Victory Project is not being truthful about its intentions.
Longoria and Henry Muñoz III, Democratic National Committee (DNC) finance chair, founded the political action committee last year, with the stated purpose of elevating Latino political participation.
The letter attacks Muñoz for appearing on MSNBC in front of a DNC banner while promoting a nonpartisan organization. Longoria is also called out for an interview she did with Jorge Ramos, in which she named Latino candidates the Latino Victory Project would support and officials who are having an impact in politics, but did not name any Republicans.
"You didn't highlight the leadership of Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who are two of only three Hispanic U.S. senators," the RNC letter reads. "Nor did you mention either of the nation's Latino governors—Brian Sandoval of Nevada and Susana Martinez of New Mexico—both of whom are Republicans."
In an interview with BuzzFeed, Cristobal Alex, the Latino Victory Project's president, fired back and questioned whether the RNC really wanted to get into a debate about elevating Latino voices.
"It's ridiculous that the RNC would question our mission to raise the political participation among Latinos," Alex said. "This sense of justice doesn't seem to affect them" when it comes to other conservative groups like Crossroads, Americans for Prosperity, or the Libre Initiative, he argued, listing several outside conservative groups that are de facto partisan groups.
"At the same time the RNC is working to restrict the right to vote and diminish Latino voting power," Alex said of controversial voter ID laws pushed by conservatives. "Instead of attacking organizations such as ours, they should be looking at ways to attack these disparities."
Alex said the candidates the group supports are selected without regard to party but are chosen if they reflect the core values he said the Latino community cares about like a clean environment, changes to U.S. immigration policy, education, and health care.
He said Latinos score higher than any demographic group when it comes to environmental concerns like clean air and water and support an overhaul of current immigration law, including providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Alex would not comment when asked about the charge that Muñoz should not have gone on MSNBC with a DNC logo behind him.
He said Muñoz is someone who is a "visionary behind broad ideals on increased political participation" and that as president of the group, it is his job to work to achieve that for the Latino community.
Asked about someone like Rubio — who was part of the bipartisan Gang of Eight senators who helped craft the Senate's immigration bill, but has since backtracked on whether a comprehensive legislative action can make it through the House, and has recently questioned climate change science — Alex said the group might consider supporting him or another Republican under the right circumstances.
"We can cross that bridge when we get there, but I can tell you those values [mentioned previously] are critical to our community."
The side Longoria and Muñoz have supported isn't exactly a big secret. They led the Futuro Fund, which raised more than $30 million in contributions for Obama in 2012.
That's part of the reason why the RNC says the group is acting as a front for the DNC, "which has been unable to raise sufficient funds to get rid of their debt and compete in this year's midterm."
The letter argues the Latino Victory Project can get out from under these charges if its leaders spotlight the accomplishments of Republican Latinos, display them prominently on its website, and answer the question of which Latino Republicans it will be supporting in the midterm elections.
The RNC also argued that attacks on conservative outside groups demonstrated partisanship in a follow-up statement, dubbing the Latino Victory Project as "wannabes."
"It is extremely fitting they have chosen to attack conservative principles and organizations, further solidifying our concerns that the Latino Victory Project is far more preoccupied with pushing a Democrat agenda than being nonpartisan and supporting Hispanics across the ideological spectrum," Izzy Santa, an RNC spokeswoman said in a statement. "At the end of the day no one likes wannabes. If they are serious about a nonpartisan effort to elevate and advance Latinos in politics, they need to give Republicans a call."
Still, Alex seemed unperturbed by the charges of bias toward Democrats. He pointed to demographic shifts in states like Texas, as the promise for major Latino political power in the near future.
"In 2020, you have the presidential election, the Census and Latino majorities in the two biggest states of California and Texas," Alex said. "I think that Latino political representation, voter participation and registration rates will hit the point where Latinos will decide the future of that state and will help decide who becomes president."
So who are the Latino leaders in Texas and beyond that will usher in this new era of Latino political power?
Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro, who sat next to Longoria when the group launched recently, and his twin brother, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who gave the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention, Alex said.
"The Castro brothers for us represent the future of the country," he said. "They're amazing leaders and shine a bright light on what our community and leaders can do."
Adrian Carrasquillo is the White House correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Adrian Carrasquillo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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