Shapiro's column filled with false, misleading attacks on NCLR

Syndicated columnist Ben Shapiro made numerous false and misleading attacks on the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), which he called “a radical and in some cases quasi-criminal group.” He falsely smeared former NCLR board member Mari Del Carmen Aponte as “an alleged former spy for Fidel Castro” ; falsely claimed that a statement urging Hispanics to "[reclaim] the land of their birth" was a “founding document” of NCLR; baselessly asserted that a proposed federal education funding increase was part of an effort “to funnel money quickly and furiously into NCLR coffers” ; and ignored evidence contradicting claims of a “kickback scheme” involving an NCLR affiliate.

Shapiro falsely smears former NCLR board member as “alleged former spy for Fidel Castro”

Shapiro wrote in his December 16 syndicated column:

If you were president of the United States, would you hire an alleged former spy for Fidel Castro to be ambassador to El Salvador, a country teetering on the brink of hard-core socialism? President Obama just did.

On Dec. 9, Obama nominated Mari Del Carmen Aponte to be ambassador to El Salvador, despite the fact that in the late 1990s, the FBI discovered that she was working with Cuban intelligence officers. According to Insight Magazine, “When the FBI eventually questioned her about her involvement with Cuban intelligence, she reportedly refused to cooperate.”

Why would Aponte escape the Obama administration's scrutiny? Because she is a former board member of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest Hispanic advocacy organization in the United States, with 300 affiliated community-based organizations, many of which run like local ACORN offices.

In fact, the FBI reportedly cleared Aponte of allegations that she had been recruited as a Cuban spy.

Shapiro falsely links NCLR to el Plan Espiritual de Aztlán

Shapiro wrote:

The Obama administration has consistently bent over backward to seek the approval of the NCLR. La Raza, by the way, means “The Race” ; the organization's founding document, el Plan Espiritual de Aztlan, rips the “brutal 'gringo' invasion of our territories” and urges Hispanics to "[reclaim] the land of their birth," while declaring that “the call of our blood is our power, our responsibility, and our inevitable destiny.”

El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán is not an NCLR “founding document.” NCLR was founded as the Southwest Council of La Raza in February 1968. El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán was drafted in March 1969 and is, according to its website, “fundamental” to the “philosophy” of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA).

NCLR has denounced separatist organizations, “inappropriate rhetoric.” The NCLR website states that “NCLR has never supported, and does not support, separatist organizations,” adding that documents such as el Plan Espiritual de Aztlán “contain inappropriate rhetoric” and that “NCLR has publicly and repeatedly disavowed this rhetoric.”

NCLR disputes that “La Raza” in its name “means 'The Race.' ” From the NCLR website:

Many people incorrectly translate our name, “La Raza,” as “the race.” While it is true that one meaning of "raza" in Spanish is indeed “race,” in Spanish, as in English and any other language, words can and do have multiple meanings. As noted in several online dictionaries, “La Raza” means “the people” or “the community.” Translating our name as “the race” is not only inaccurate, it is factually incorrect. “Hispanic” is an ethnicity, not a race. As anyone who has ever met a Dominican American, Mexican American, or Spanish American can attest, Hispanics can be and are members of any and all races.

Shapiro smears CPLC with raid, ignores sheriff's FBI and DOJ investigations

In what is apparently the only support of his claim that NCLR is a “quasi-criminal group,” Shapiro wrote:

In fact, the day before Obama nominated Aponte, NCLR-affiliate Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC) was raided by the Phoenix Sheriff's Office, which was investigating a kickback scheme between CPLC and indicted Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox. CPLC allegedly gave Wilcox $297,000 in undisclosed loans in exchange for her votes to award over a million dollars in county contracts to CPLC.

CPLC says two of the three loans have been paid in full, reported interest rates don't indicate “sweetheart deal.” Days before CPLC was raided by the sheriff's office, CPLC released the following statement:

Mrs. Wilcox did not receive special treatment, nor was she denied the opportunity to receive a loan from Prestamos because of her position as an elected official.

The following is the loan history:

November 2000 -- loan for $7,500, paid in full as agreed

July 2005 -- loan for $50,000, paid in full as agreed

October 2008 -- loan for $120,000, current

Multiple lien records appear on the public record, but the total of the three loans was $177,500.

CPLC chief executive Edmundo Hidalgo further explained that the first loan had a 12 percent interest rate, the second had an 8 percent interest rate, and the third had an 8.5 percent interest rate. Phoenix New Times reporter Stephen Lemons reported of Hidalgo's statement, “the interest rates quoted do not indicate a sweetheart deal.”

CPLC has not faced any criminal charges. Although the CPLC's headquarters was raided by the sheriff's office and hard drives, emails, and other documents were seized, CPLC has reportedly not faced any criminal charges as a result of the documents seized.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio -- whose office raided CPLC -- is under DOJ investigation for possible civil rights violations. In a March 10 letter to Arpaio, then-Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Loretta King stated that the Department of Justice was “commencing an investigation of the Maricopa County Sherriff's Office ('MCSO')” that “will focus on alleged patterns or practices of discriminatory police practices and unconstitutional searches and seizures conducted by the MSCO, and on allegations of national origin discrimination, including failure to provide meaningful access to MCSO services for limited English proficient (LEP) individuals.” On December 8, Phoenix Business Journal reported that the Department of Justice had set up a tip line as part of its ongoing investigation of Arpaio.

Arpaio reportedly under FBI investigation for allegedly using his position to settle “settle political vendettas.” On October 29, Phoenix CBS affiliate KPHO reported, “The FBI is looking into accusations that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is using his position to settle political vendettas.” KPHO further reported that Phoenix's mayor, former police chief, politicians, and journalists found themselves under investigation by the sheriff's department shortly after expressing opposition to Arpaio or his policies. KPHO's “list of people subjected to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office investigations ... [which] includes people who have authority over the sheriff and people who challenged his authority” includes the “Maricopa County Board of Supervisors,” on which Wilcox sits. Of the people and groups on that list, none has been convicted of any crime, and some were never charged with a crime.

Shapiro baselessly portrays NCLR president's statement on “risky home loans” as “disowning the very loans she'd pushed”

Shapiro wrote:

Virtually the entire Obama administration visited the 2009 NCLR annual conference: Obama's brain, Valerie Jarrett; Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis (winner of the 2008 NCLR Capital Award); Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan; Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

At that conference, the Obama honchos were joined by Bank of America President Ken Lewis -- Bank of America has been a longtime supporter of NCLR, setting up a credit line to aid illegal immigrants. Other banking giants are in bed with NCLR, too. Wachovia, for example, routinely gave mortgages to illegal immigrants, which helped cement Wachovia's financial collapse, leading to its acquisition by Wells Fargo.

When the economy collapsed, NCLR President Janet Murguia cynically turned on the bankers she had cultivated, disowning the very loans she'd pushed. “Latino ... families are being pushed into high-cost and risky home loans,” she said. “The result is that more of our families are falling victims to loans that were not a good fit in the first place.”

NCLR had criticized predatory lending practices prior to Murguía's statement. While Shapiro portrayed Murguía's statement in an April 2007 press release by several civil rights groups, including NCLR, as “disowning the very loans she'd pushed,” a May 2005 NCLR report -- before “the economy collapsed” -- highlighted “predatory practices in the homebuying market” that were “jeopardizing Hispanic homeownership,” stating that Hispanics “are more likely than Whites to finance a home purchase with an expensive mortgage product” and noting "[d]isproportionately high denial rates among Hispanic prime mortgage applicants." The report further stated that “the growth of the subprime market along with the rise in subprime lending to Latinos raise serious concerns about the scope of predatory lending in the Hispanic community.”

Shapiro attacks Obama for accurate statement on ICE dividing families, baselessly claimed he “pledged to crack down on the First Amendment”

From Shapiro's column:

Then-Sen. Obama appeared at the 2007 NCLR national conference, where he pledged, “I will not walk away from the 12 million undocumented immigrants who live, work and contribute to our country every day.”

The next year, Obama told the conference that Hispanic communities were being “terrorized by ICE immigration raids” and said that “nursing mothers are torn from their babies.” Even worse, he pledged to crack down on the First Amendment for the benefit of NCLR: “They're counting on us to stop the hateful rhetoric filling our airwaves -- rhetoric that poisons our political discourse, degrades our democracy, and has no place in this great nation.”

NY Times: ICE separated nursing mother from baby, study says thousands of American children have had a parent deported. In his July 2008 speech to the 2008 NCLR convention, Obama stated:

The system isn't working when 12 million people live in hiding, and hundreds of thousands cross our borders illegally each year; when companies hire undocumented immigrants instead of legal citizens to avoid paying overtime or to avoid a union; when communities are terrorized by ICE immigration raids - when nursing mothers are torn from their babies, when children come home from school to find their parents missing, when people are detained without access to legal counsel.

Indeed, in a November 17, 2007, article, The New York Times reported that a Honduran woman who was nursing her baby had been arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and jailed pending deportation, while her child, “who was born in the United States and is a citizen, was put in the care of social workers.” The Times further reported that based on a study by the NCLR and the Urban Institute, “at least 13,000 American children have seen one or both parents deported in the past two years after round-ups in factories and neighborhoods.”

Neither Obama's statement nor its context support Shapiro's claim that he “pledged to crack down on the First Amendment.” In his speech, Obama stated:

That's what's at stake this November. This election is nothing less than a test of our allegiance to the American Dream. And it's a test of our commitment to all those who are counting on us to keep that Dream alive - the people you serve every day.

The 12 million people in the shadows, the communities taking immigration enforcement into their own hands, the neighborhoods seeing rising tensions as citizens are pitted against new immigrants...they're counting on us to stop the hateful rhetoric filling our airwaves - rhetoric that poisons our political discourse, degrades our democracy, and has no place in this great nation. They're counting on us to rise above the fear and demagoguery, the pettiness and partisanship, and finally enact comprehensive immigration reform.

Shapiro portrays proposed education funding increase as payoff to NCLR

Shapiro claimed proposed funding increase is part of effort “to funnel money quickly and furiously into NCLR coffers.” As an example of the Obama administration's purported efforts “to funnel money quickly and furiously into NCLR coffers,” Shapiro stated, “Last week, the Committees on Appropriations moved toward directing $1.5 billion in 2010 Labor-Health and Human Services-Education appropriations toward education programs benefiting the NCLR, among other organizations.”

Money slated to go toward improving educational opportunities for minorities and disadvantaged students, not directly to NCLR. A December 10 press release from the Campaign for High School Equity, “a coalition of civil rights organizations focused on high school education reform” of which NCLR is a member, praised the proposed "$1.5 billion increase in appropriations for Title I," a federal program aimed at “improving the academic achievement of the disadvantaged” that was created in 1965. Title I grants are provided to school districts -- not directly to organizations such as NCLR, as Shapiro suggested. The CHSE press release stated that the money “will improve opportunities for students of color, Native and low-income students, and English language learner (ELL) students to obtain the educational skills they need to compete in a global economy.”

Shapiro misleadingly claimed Murguía asked Sebelius “to funnel $400 million” “toward 'racial and ethnic minorities' ”

Shapiro misleadingly claimed Murguía's letter requested HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “funnel $400 million” “toward 'racial and ethnic minorities.' ” As another example of the Obama administration's purported efforts “to funnel money quickly and furiously into NCLR coffers,” Shapiro wrote:

[I]n late November, Murguia penned a personal letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, asking her to funnel $400 million allotted under the stimulus package toward “racial and ethnic minorities.”

Yet in her letter -- from September 10 -- Murguía stated that “numerous studies have documented the disparities faced by racial and ethnic minorities in access to health care” and asked that of the $400 million allocated to Sebelius' office, “a significant share should be allocated to the Office of Minority Health” -- not to NCLR. Murguía wrote:

While we would not be so presumptuous as to specify exact amounts that should be allocated toward these priorities, we would conclude by observing that racial and ethnic minorities now constitute more than one-third of all Americans, and that proportion will grow dramatically in the future. At a minimum, that is one benchmark you should consider in your decisions as you allocate the CER [competitive effectiveness research] resources, especially since ARRA specifically urges consideration of racial and ethnic disparities in the execution of CER research.