Koch-backed Latino outreach group spends big in Miami House race

Screenshot of a Spanish-language ad from the Libre Initiative entitled “Be Free.” Source: YouTube.com

Florida’s 26th Congressional District is home to sun, long stretches of beach and about 380,000 Latinos who comprise about 70 percent of the district.

With a competitive House race and a chance to unseat incumbent Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia, it’s little wonder that Libre Initiative, a Texas-based “grassroots organization that advances the principles and values of economic freedom to empower the U.S. Hispanic community” would be interested in dropping some cash into the race.

The group, which received about $3.8 million from organizations affiliated with conservative bankrollers Charles and David Koch, has spent at least $205,000 on ads since the beginning of 2014 in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale television market, the major provider for the district, according to data from Sunlight’s Political Ad Sleuth.

Conspicuously absent from this list are any ad buys from the three Spanish-language stations that serve the South Florida region. While Libre does feature Spanish-language ads on its YouTube site, we don’t know if ads like this one or this one featuring former Real Word star and current spokeswoman, Rachel Campos-Duffy, who’s also married to Wisconsin Republican Rep. Sean Duffy, have hit the airwaves yet.

That’s because Spanish-language stations did not have to begin posting their ad buys online until July 1. Prior to that, only affiliates of the “big four” broadcast affiliates — ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX — posted online. Spanish-language heavyweights Telemundo and Univision were exempt. Any previous ad purchases on their affiliates are only available for inspection as paper copies for those who want to visit the station in person during working hours.

It’s good news and bad news for fans of open government. On one hand, political ad spending in the run up to the 2014 elections will be open to anyone with an Internet connection. The bad news is that tracking spending prior to a few days ago will only be possible for someone with a lot of time on his hands and a lot of gas to burn.

So far this year, Libre Initiative—the only “dark money” group to specifically target Latinos—has also made ad buys on English language stations in Phoenix and Austin, Texas.

While the Libre Initiative does not appear to have made any buys on Spanish language TV since the July 1 rule change, thanks to the Federal Communications Commission’s new disclosure rules, citizens are now “libre” to track the spending of dark money groups like these.