111 Congress Avenue, Suite 400
Austin, Texas 78701
1101 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Suite 600
Washington, D.C. 20004
Phone: 202 756 7732
The Hispanic Alliance for Prosperity Institute (HAPI), sponsor of the Hispanic Alliance for Prosperity, is a self-identified conservative public policy and advocacy organization “focusing on issues of importance to the Hispanic Community.”
The stated mission of this Texas-based organization is to “promote policy and legislation to advance traditional Hispanic values, economic prosperity, and entrepreneurship.” HAPI claims that it “fills a significant void by advocating the voice of the conservative Hispanic Community.”
In line with the model of the Business-Industrial Political Action Committee and the Americans for Prosperity, HAPI aims to mobilize Hispanic support for a free trade, free market policy agenda, particularly in the areas of energy, international relations, health care, and communications. Its goals include:
* “Develop core membership nationally through a state by state organization. Organize at the city, then precinct level in key states. Emphasizing data collection and database building -- grasstops and grassroots.
* “Enact an advocacy model to motivate members of Congress reflecting the desires and needs of the Hispanic community.
* “Provide Hispanic leadership, participation, and research for major Washington based coalitions and advocacy.
* “Leverage and utilize technology: emails, website, interactive telecommunications, etc. into all phases of development and execution.
* “Develop a top level benefits program, providing needed services at a lower cost.”
Bashing Obama on Immigration
HAPI gained national attention in September 2008 with the release of a statement that criticized Senator Barack Obama over his role in the immigration policy debate while complimenting Senator John McCain. The Sept. 16 release, “Setting the Record Straight on the Candidates’ Immigration Positions,” asserted that, “amid countercharges” about the candidates’ positions, HAPI would “recite the FACTS.”
HAPI echoed earlier charges by the McCain campaign in a Spanish-language television ad (titled “Hicieron Fracasar La Reforma”) that Obama helped kill the comprehensive immigration reform bill in June 2007.
According to HAPI, “Barack Obama, despite his promises of support, was absent from much of the debate on the compromise, then turned his back on the proposal, siding instead with organized labor on a series of ‘poison pill’ amendments that even his supporter, Sen. Edward Kennedy, opposed. Among the proposals Obama supported were amendments that would have cut the number of Guest Worker Visas in half, and would ultimately have killed the program after just five years.”
HAPI concluded: “In the heat of the campaign, overheated rhetoric and campaign promises should never eclipse the truth – and when it comes to comprehensive immigration reform, the truth is that Sen. McCain has shown courage and leadership, while Sen. Obama, despite his promises, ultimately sided with those who oppose comprehensive reform.”
HAPI got it right that Obama did support a failed motion to cut in half the Bush administration’s proposal for a 400,000 guestworker program, and he did support a successful amendment that would have ended the proposed guestworker program after five years. It is also true that Obama was not a major presence in the 2007 immigration debate. But he didn’t turn his back on the bill, as HAPI stated. Along with McCain, Obama voted to move forward with the compromise bill.
Conservatives have for the past two years been trying to pin blame on candidate Obama for the failure of the comprehensive immigration reform bill despite the fact that, as they attest, he was not a major mover in the immigration policy debate in the Senate. The HAPI release (and the McCain ad) followed the lead of an erroneous report by Brit Hume of Fox News during the heat of the immigration debate in 2007.
As a report on the Media Matters website observed: “On the June 7  edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Brit Hume claimed that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) ‘managed to get’ an amendment to the comprehensive immigration reform bill ‘passed,’ and that it ‘may be the killer amendment that ... ends this bill.’ In fact, Obama's amendment, which would have required the bill's merit-based evaluation system for new visas to expire after five years, failed by a vote of 42-55 -- making it impossible for the measure to have ‘end[ed]’ the immigration bill.”
Obama did, however, support – along with 48 other senators – the amendment to sunset the controversial guestworker program after five years. While this amendment angered the business community that had been lobbying for an expanded temporary worker program, it did not kill the reform bill, as HAPI claimed. Despite increased enforcement provisions and onerous requirements for legalization, the Republicans – with the exception of John McCain – voted against the final bill largely because of mounting pressure from restrictionist groups and their constituencies.
HAPI, Republican Party, and McCain
Headquartered in Austin, HAPI was launched in 2004 as part of an effort to boost Latino support for the Republican Party. Originally named the Hispanic Alliance for Progress, HAPI maintained its initials but switched the “P” initial to stand for Prosperity instead of Progress.
Its figurehead, chairman, and cofounder is former Cong. Manuel Lujan, a conservative Republican who represented northern New Mexico in Congress for two decades. “Manny” Lujan is the owner of a large insurance company. He served as an anti-environmental and aggressively pro-business interior secretary under George H.W. Bush, who was the honored speaker at HAPI’s kickoff celebration at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City in August 2004.
HAPI’s other cofounder was Shiree Sanchez, who is a senior adviser to the John McCain campaign and (along with Manuel Lujan) a member of McCain’s National Hispanic Advisory Board. Ms. Sanchez was appointed by George H.W. Bush to serve in the White House as Special Assistant to the President Public Liaison. She is an Austin businesswoman, who is managing partner of Terra Capital Group and a senior advisor to Covalent Capital, a private equity firm focused on Latino investments. She is vice president of government marketing at FTLSolar.com in Austin. Shiree Sanchez’s name does not appear in the latest listing of HAPI’s board member and advisors.
HAPI counts on a congressional advisory board including current and former Republican senators and congressional representatives:
Congressman Joe Barton, TX
As People for the American Way in its RightWing Watch notes, HAPI’s advisory and policy boards “are made up of high-level Republican political operatives with deep ties to Republican administrations (Reagan, Bush I and Bush II). HAPI's boards are composed almost entirely of Republican players, including lobbyists, donors, and political appointees.”
Leslie Sanchez, a member of HAPI’s policy board, cochair, and director of its Leadership program, is prominent HAPI voice in the media. She is the executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, and was Bush’s lead person on Latino education issues. Sanchez directed the first multi-million-dollar Hispanic advertising campaign undertaken by the Republican Party. She is the founder and CEO of Impacto Group LLC, a communications and market research firm.
HAPI’s allegiance to the Republican Party was broadcast to the nation during the 2008 Republican Party National Convention, when HAPI cosponsored with the Hispanic Leadership Fund and the Latino Coalition, the Fiesta Americana Concert on Sept. 1, 2008, featuring Reggaeton star Daddy Yankee & Pop Artist Maxine Lausell. According to the event’s promotional statement, “This event…will demonstrate a clear message of support for key issues such as tough but fair immigration reform, free trade in the Americas and prosperity through ownership. The blockbuster event will highlight the McCain/Obama policy differences on these issues.”
“Ownership Society” Means Corporate Agenda
The vision of the Hispanic Alliance for Prosperity for America is what the institute and other Republican organizations call an “Ownership Society” – a code for a society shaped solely by free-market economics. As HAPI notes, one of its leading goals is to “impact legislation on issues of importance such as: Trade, Financial Literacy, Education, Immigration, and other issues falling under the ‘Ownership Society’ umbrella.”
HAPI says that “supports ownership society tenets vital for asset creation, and ensuring access to affordable housing. Research validates the connection between housing stability as a cornerstone to family stability.”
According to HAPI, “Free and Fair trade and believes it fosters economic benefits to U.S. businesses and U.S. consumers.” HAPI says it was “a key advocate and major player supporting and voicing the Pro-Business and Hispanic Pro- CAFTA positions and a leading advocate for the Colombia Free Trade Agreement currently pending before Congress.”
Other than its Sept. 16, 2008 media release, “Setting the Record Straight on the Candidates’ Immigration Positions,” HAPI has little to say about immigration on its website. Its “Immigration Policy Paper” has been removed from its website.
As part of its summary of its policy position, HAPI has one paragraph that includes a mention of immigration: “HAPI supports strong national security measures without jeopardizing the U.S. economy. HAPI advocates for a balance that will accommodate both critical interests. A vital component of legislation should include a guest worker program that is realistic to deploy.”
To guide it toward its goal of creating an ownership society, HAPI counts on its corporate board, whose members are: Bank of America, BellSouth, Ford, AT&T, AIG (American International Group), Information Technology Industry Council, Goldman, Sachs & Co., Altria Group, Inc., American Petroleum Institute, IBC Bank, Case New Holland, DCI Group, Coca-Cola Companies, R.J. Reynolds, National Association of Manufacturers, and National Association of Realtors.
(As the financial sector crumbles and the U.S. Treasury intervenes, HAPI may find it still more difficult in convincing Latinos of the virtues of the “ownership society,” especially with the likes of the now largely government-owned AIG on board.)
HAPI is part of Bipac electronic advocacy network. Formed in 1963, the Business-Industrial Political Action Committee is a corporate political action committee focused on electing Republicans. HAPI’s web pages for policy issues and action alerts are actually web pages maintained by Bipac.
According to Bipac, “THE PROSPERITY PROJECT drives your organization’s grassroots strategy. You will use your Prosperity Project Web site to educate your employees and/or members about candidates, workplace issues and elections, and help them register to vote, find their polling place, and communicate with their elected officials about issues that matter to them, and your industry.”
Bipac’s Prosperity Project, which has been described as a coalition of 170 corporations (The Hill, August 6, 2003), formed during the 2000 election cycle to counter the Democratic Party’s voter-mobilization efforts.
As described on the Democracy 21 website, the Prosperity Project helps corporations and business associations focus on their own “stock-owning, non-unionized business employees” and also on shareholders to support free-market and ownership society candidates. Companies, for example, may include information about business-friendly candidates with paychecks in the months before the 2004 election (Roll Call, July 9, 2003).
According to the National Journal, “The BIPAC Prosperity Project has been both creative and effective in using the Internet to enable its member companies and trade associations to get their pro-business message to millions. The eight-year-old Prosperity Project and its 27 state affiliates give BIPAC (the Business Industry Political Action Committee) members and their partners the technology to create their own grassroots action Web sites that employees can use to get politically involved.”
HAPI used the Bipac model “grassroots strategy” to spread is own message of prosperity politics to Latinos, using Bipac’s web platform and mimicking its prosperity framing.
Using prosperity to frame free-market political agendas is common among conservative organizations, including Americans for Prosperity, which like Bipac serves as a model for HAPI. According to former labor secretary Robert R. Reich, “The radcons' [radical conservatives] arguments are organized around three themes: morality, prosperity, and patriotism.”
Writing in the May 2004 issue of the American Prospect magazine, Reich stated: “The radcon version of prosperity rewards the rich, gives almost nothing to the middle class, and penalizes the poor. It is based on a market-fundamentalist faith that has deep roots in American history.”
Big Energy and Free Trade
HAPI is a routine supporter of energy corporations and free trade agreements. It is closely associated with Texans for Electric Choice, which is an electric industry public relations organization that opposes energy regulation. Other backers of Texans for Electric Choice include the Texas Association of Business and Americans for Prosperity.
A Texas Observer online report by Forrest Wilder on June 11, 2008 on inked HAPI to another fossil fuel coalition called Power Across Texas. “The group’s Web site warns ominously of “pending power shortages, the potential of rolling blackouts and the traumas associated with lack of energy supply” and calls for “environmentally sound approaches for ensuring reliable power at the lowest possible price for all Texans.”
“But Power Across Texas’ allies aren’t exactly typical tree-huggers. It’s backed by the Clean Coal Technology Foundation of Texas, a group tied to Big Coal; the right-wing, anti-environment Americans for Prosperity; the Republican-oriented Hispanic Alliance for Progress; the Biodiesel Coalition of Texas; Jupiter Power Company, L.P.; and Cyclone BioEnergy LLC.”
Through Bipac, HAPI is circulating its own “Take Action” letter to congress on energy issues. As usual with its advocacy, HAPI appeals directly to Hispanic constituencies, beginning the letter: “As a Hispanic American consumer, I am concerned about continually rising energy costs, and realize that the cost of energy is related directly to supply.”
According to HAPI, “Currently, the U.S has access to an abundant supply of domestic oil and natural gas which government has deemed “off limits” for production. Given the extreme pressure consumers are feeling in their pocketbooks related to energy costs, now is the time for Congress to release the hold on those areas…including the moratorium on the Outer Continental shelf. “It’s no wonder, then, that the powerful American Petroleum Institute has seen fit to join HAPI’s corporate board.
HAPI has released action alerts supporting the Central America Free Trade Agreement and the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
According to HAPI, the proposed FTA with Colombia will “bolster the efforts of President Uribe and the Colombian people as they continue to collaborate with the United States in the fight against those forces seeking to destabilize the region through drugs and terror.” Taking issue with critics who oppose the FTA because of Colombia’s human rights abuses, HAPI says “that arguments about violence committed against labor organizers have been condemned in the national media as exaggerated and blind to the extraordinary and successful efforts of the Uribe administration to reduce violent crime and provide security to union officials.”
HAPI recommends that Latinos send this letter to their congressional representatives: “As a Hispanic American, I am keenly aware of both the benefits and challenges of America’s diplomatic and trade relationship with Latin America. This agreement will promote the long sought and elusive concept of “fair trade” and propose a win-win scenario for businesses and workers on both sides of the border. I ask that you bring the Colombian Fair Trade Agreement up for a vote this year in 2008 without any further delay. “
The web address of this Take Action initiative is: http://www.bipac.net/issue_alert.asp?g=hapi&issue=columbia&parent=HAPI (Note the bipac.com address and spelling of Colombia.)
In May 2005 HAPI joined with the Hispanic Alliance for Free Trade to promote the CAFTA-DR free trade agreement with Central America and the Dominican Republic. The institute organized a Washington, DC conference at the Organization of American States in support of the free trade agreement.
According to HAPI’s Manuel Lujan, “Hispanic Americans are united to these countries by language and similarities in culture, as well as by the increased opportunities in commerce. Passage of DR-CAFTA will better prepare these developing countries to compete in the global economy.”
The Hispanic Alliance for Free Trade, organized by the National Foreign Trade Council and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, stated: “DR-CAFTA was and continues to be an issue of great importance to Hispanic Americans who share strong familial, cultural, language and important economic ties with Central America.”
Anti-Union, Pro-Corporate, and Judicial Conservative
HAPI is a member of the anti-union, corporate-sponsored Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, which “is a coalition of workers, employers, associations and organizations who are fighting to protect the right to a federally supervised private ballot when workers are deciding whether or not to join a union. We are opposed to the so-called Employee Free Choice Act because it would strip Americans of that right and replace it with a system where your vote is no longer private, and it is made public to your employer, the union organizers and your co-workers.”
Hopi’s corporate and anti-worker orientation was also evident in its role in organizing the “Hispanic Safety and Health Summit” in July 2004. The summit was denounced by the Coalition for Hispanic Worker Safety, which included Hispanic groups such as National Council of La Raze and Casa de Maryland as well as the AFL-CIO and numerous unions.
Immigrant advocates noted that the only Hispanic organizations listed as conference sponsors or participants are the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and a group that calls itself the “Hispanic Alliance for Progress.” “The latter organization’s only known activities have been promoting the Bush administration’s immigration plan,” said the coalition.
In their letter to OSHA, members of the Coalition for Hispanic Worker Safety noted that the conference was organized with virtually no input from major Hispanic advocacy organizations or grassroots worker groups. “This is clearly not a serious effort to address the epidemic of workplace injuries and illnesses suffered by our community,” said Jayesh Rathod, staff attorney of CASA of Maryland. Planners chose not to invite groups like ours because they knew we would raise serious concerns about the administration’s dismantling of workplace safety rules,” Rathod added.
Not deterred, HAPI organized another Hispanic health conference in July 2008, which featured speakers from food processing and health corporations such as Tyson’s Foods and Hispanic-owned Care Alternative. HAPI’s Leslie Sanchez was the master of ceremonies.
According to RightWing Watch, “As part of the "National Coalition To End Judicial Filibusters," HAPI— in conjunction with the Committee for Justice, Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, James Dobson's Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, and others— supported the use of the so-called "nuclear option" to eliminate Senator's ability to filibuster against President George W. Bush's right-wing judicial nominees.”
HAPI features the following quote from Alberto Gonzales, former U.S. attorney general who is now under criminal investigation:
“When I talk to people around the country I sometimes tell them that within the Hispanic community there is a shared hope for an opportunity to succeed. 'Just give me a chance to prove myself' -- that is a common prayer for those in my community."
In March 2007, HAPI issued a media release in support of the beleaguered Gonzales. “On behalf of the nearly 20,000 members of the HAP Institute, we write to reject calls for the resignation of Attorney General Al Gonzales, and offer our full support for his long-term service to our President, our country, and the Hispanic community.”
Also, according to RightWing Watch, HAPI is a member of the Coalition for the Modernization and Protection of America's Social Security, “an organization formed to promote Social Security reforms proposed by President George W. Bush such as personal retirement accounts.”
Its “American Dream” award has gone to such Republican stars as U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, and Sen. Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico).
Question of Credibility
In its attempt to boost the McCain candidacy by bashing Obama’s position on immigration reform, HAPI found it necessary to attempt to boost its own credibility by associating itself with other better known Latino groups and ones with actual memberships. HAPI declared “virtually every Hispanic organization from the League of United Latin-American Citizens (LULAC) to the National Council of La Raza has recognized that Sen. John McCain risked his entire political career by defying much of his Party and supporting comprehensive immigration reform, including a Guest Worker Visa program.”
Its claim of a 20,000 membership is not supported by information on its website or anywhere else, and HAPI did not answer a request for an interview (perhaps unwilling to subject itself to the internet publicity it achieved in a revealing Sept. 23, 2008 blog posting on Migra Matters).
HAPI is trying to use identity politics to support a “21st Century Hispanic Agenda” that is patently an agenda for Corporate America.
- Tom Barry, September 29, 2008
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