New York Times
By Nicholas Confessore and Julia Preston
March 10, 2016
The billionaire George Soros and other liberal donors will bankroll a new $15 million campaign to mobilize Latinos and other immigrants this fall, hoping to channel outrage at the political rhetoric of Donald J. Trump and other Republicans into a surge of votes for Democratic candidates in November.
Strategists involved said the new spending would be the largest Democratic voter-turnout effort ever devoted exclusively to Latino and immigrant voters. Most of the money will be spent through organizations in Colorado, Florida and Nevada, states with large or growing Latino and Asian populations that will be pivotal in the presidential race and in the battle for control of the Senate.
The outreach, which will be coordinated through a new “super PAC” called Immigrant Voters Win PAC, will be more explicitly political and partisan than past efforts, the strategists said: The goal was to not only turn out committed Latinos already voting Democratic but also find and persuade immigrant swing voters. Ultimately, organizers hope to get at least 400,000 new Democratic voters to the polls in November.
“This is really taking the gloves off,” said Cristóbal Alex, the president of the Latino Victory Project, one of several national pro-immigration or Hispanic-oriented groups working with the super PAC. “From the first day he attacked us, he called us rapists and thieves,” Mr. Alex said of Mr. Trump. “We could have a giant wall built and millions of families broken apart. The country is on the precipice.”
The effort comes amid signs of a Democratic enthusiasm gap that has worried some of the party’s leading strategists. While Republican voters are turning out in droves, often to vote for Mr. Trump, millions of Democratic voters have sat out the party’s primary between Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Democrats are confronting lingering dismay among some Latinos regarding President Obama, who has not delivered a promised immigration overhaul and has deported more than two million people. At the same time, conservatives are already investing heavily to woo and turn out right-leaning Hispanic voters: A group called the Libre Initiative, financed by the Koch brothers’ political network, is expected to spend more than $10 million through November and already has dozens of field organizers in nine states.
Both campaigns are unfolding against a demographic surge that is reordering American presidential politics, providing millions of new voters for Democrats while stirring an angry counterreaction on the right, where working-class white voters have rallied to Mr. Trump’s promises to end illegal immigration, to build an enormous wall along the Mexican border, and to expel undocumented workers who are already here.
For Mr. Soros, who will contribute $5 million to the super PAC, the effort represents a return to the large-scale political spending that made him a liberal hero — and conservative boogeyman — in 2004, when he helped organize a failed $200 million advertising and voter-mobilization campaign to unseat President George W. Bush. His contributions to super PACs and other explicitly political organizations this cycle will soon exceed $13 million, his largest investment since the 2004 election. Mr. Soros has committed another $5 million to a Democratic-led legal campaign to contest restrictive voting laws in states like Ohio, Wisconsin, and North Carolina.
Mr. Soros, a financier who fled his native Hungary in his teens during the Nazi occupation, has long funded less overtly political efforts to educate and organize immigrants. But in an email, Mr. Soros said he had been particularly struck by the tone of the 2016 race, in which Mr. Trump and other Republican candidates have also called to block Muslim refugees from entering the country.
“The intense anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric that has been fueled by the Republican primary is deeply offensive,” Mr. Soros said. “It is harmful to our democracy and to our national interests. There should be consequences for the outrageous statements and proposals that we’ve regularly heard.”
Those involved with the new endeavor said it was also a response to longstanding complaints among Latino organizers that liberal donors — including members of the Democracy Alliance, which Mr. Soros helped start after Mr. Bush’s re-election — had been stingy with funding. In past elections, some local groups most active in turning out Democratic-leaning Latino and immigrant voters have not had enough money to fully participate in so-called “tables” where labor, abortion rights, and environmental organizations coordinate strategy in key states.
“One reason we had lower turnout is because of historical underinvestment in our community,” Mr. Alex said. “Folks who want a progressive vision of the country have to match what is happening on the right. Now we are seeing a recognition by certain donors of the importance of our vote.”
Rather than start new organizations, the new effort will mostly provide money and technical assistance to those already active in Latino and immigrant communities. The Center for Community Change Action, a Washington-based liberal organization, will develop a national field program with groups on the ground and will measure their performance.
Organizers said they hoped to start as early as May knocking on doors, calling and sending mailings to reach 728,000 voters — mainly Latinos and Asians — in Colorado, Nevada and Florida. That timing will allow them to respond to the Supreme Court’s decision, expected this June, on Mr. Obama’s executive actions to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Latinos are a large enough share of voters in those three states to sway the outcome of close races. Mr. Obama won all three in 2008 and again in 2012, while Republicans have won Senate and governor seats in the states during the same period.
Deepak Bhargava, the center’s executive director, said the organizers would be provided data to help identify likely voters and recruit local volunteers to remain in contact with them through November. America’s Voice, which is active in lobbying for immigration reform in Washington, will conduct bilingual polling in Spanish and English.
In recent years, the Service Employees International Union and other labor groups have backed an organization called Mi Familia Vota (“My Family Votes”) Education Fund, which promoted naturalization and voter registration among Latinos. The group has helped drive up Latino voter numbers, but some believe its effect was limited because it could not engage in openly partisan voter turnout.
The new campaign will be funded directly by individual donors, rather than by their foundations, allowing the money to be used for more overt political activity, including expressly advocating Democratic candidates.
“We will be naming names,” Mr. Bhargava said. “It seems to us that Trump’s nativism has infected nearly the whole Republican Party, and we need to exact an electoral toll.”
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