Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hispanic Grassroots Organization Shill for Corporate America

The vision of the Hispanic Alliance for Prosperity for America is what it and other Republican institutes 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 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.”

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