Man behind ad urging Hispanics not to vote is a longtime GOP operative

Thu, Oct 21, 2010 (2 a.m.)

The force behind the commercial aiming to keep Hispanic turnout in the Nevada Senate race low is a little-known political group headed up by little-known conservative pundit Robert de Posada.

But he and his group, Latinos for Reform, have big ties to bigwigs in the Republican Party.

De Posada, a conservative strategist with the Virginia-based public affairs consulting firm Smith Fairfield, has a long history in and about the Republican Party.

From 1988 to 1992, de Posada was director of Hispanic affairs of the Republican National Committee, the GOP’s national advocacy group.

He’s also served on the executive committee of the Hispanic Business Roundtable, and as founder and president of the Latino Coalition, a Republican-leaning business association, which interestingly enough, unequivocally denounced de Posada’s advertisements Wednesday.

De Posada achieved slightly more notoriety during the George W. Bush administration. In 2001, the former president appointed him to head a commission to advance the privatization of Social Security — an issue that has come up in the Senate contest between Sharron Angle, who also wants to privatize Social Security, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who wants to keep it intact.

During the Bush years, de Posada worked with Republicans Dick Armey and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie — through the group Americans for Border and Economic Security — to promote an approach to overhauling immigration legislation that would steer clear of any provisions restricting companies from hiring foreign workers.

Overall, de Posada’s career reads like that of a fairly unassuming conservative. But his organization’s track record has a more checkered past.

Latinos for Reform is a 527 organization — a classification given to groups formed to influence elections, but not affiliated with specific candidates or parties, a separation that allows them to raise money relatively unfettered by disclosure rules or contribution limits.

The group made a splash during the 2008 presidential campaign with a similar message to Hispanics: Don’t vote — for Obama, because he likes black people more than you. “Barack Obama a friend of the Latino community? The record demonstrates the opposite,” those ads stated.

The message did not take hold. About 70 percent of Hispanic voters pitched their support to Obama over John McCain in the general election.

The Latinos for Reform’s treasurer was a big player in the 2008 election cycle — as a top fundraiser for McCain. Juan Carlos Benitez — formerly Bush’s special counsel for immigration-related unemployment practices — is now a powerful Republican lobbyist.

According to several bloggers, Latinos for Reform’s registration papers list the same address as one of the most successful 527 organizations in recent history: the Adm. Roy F. Hoffman Foundation, the brains behind the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign that called former Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry’s Vietnam War record into question, and is often credited with costing him the 2004 election.

De Posada has called the common address a “mistake” and denied that he is in any way affiliated with the Republican Party, or trying to advance the party in close elections where Hispanic turnout may determine the outcome.

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