By José De Bastos and Ronny Rojas
Various media outlets have pointed out that one of the thousands of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails leaked by WikiLeaks over the weekend shows that the Democratic Party sees Latino voters as a product that must be won in order to win the election, not as human beings.
The controversy stems from a series of emails containing a Latino voter strategy that were exchanged by senior party officials. The strategy document refers to Latinos as "the most loyal consumers in the world" and as a "brand."
Media outlets reporting on the document in question - some of them conservative - are using the leak to try to jeopardize the party in the eyes of Hispanic voters.
An outsider’s document
What reports haven't mentioned about the document is that it contains information from outside the Democratic Party, and that the Democratic Party didn’t commission it.
The email exchange -- between the DNC's Bridgette Gomez, Luis Miranda and Marilyn Davis -- shows the document was prepared and submitted in May 2016 by Steve Lucero, a California entrepreneur who was developing a web app to encourage young Latinos to vote in the 2016 presidential election and "beyond" and to support Hillary Clinton.
The emails don't show that Lucero's plan came from within the party. In fact, Gomez said in one of her emails that Lucero was working on his own to develop the projects and was also seeking funding from "Soros, Buffet and Steyer," referring to billionaire philanthropists George Soros, Warren Buffet and Tom Steyer.
In the four e-mails about the proposal, none of the party members approve of the content or indicate that they'll use the suggested strategy. In the first email, Gomez says that the app creator clearly wants to work with the DNC, but had started out doing it on his own.
Davis asks if Lucero has a demo of the plan, with Gomez expected to follow up. The email exchange takes place on May 22 and 23, 2016. Since email filtering on Wikileaks is only available through May 25, there are no other emails about this issue and the existing emails don't say whether Lucero received formal support from the DNC.
The people involved
Bridgette Gomez is the director of Hispanic Outreach for the Democratic National Committee. According to BuzzFeed, Gomez has held that position since mid-April, just weeks before the e-mails were sent.
Marilyn Davis responds to Gomez, asking about a "demo" plan for Latinos suggested by Lucero. She is the National Director of Community Engagement for the Democratic Party, a position assumed in November 2015, in which she coordinates with various sectors, including Hispanics.
Finally, Luis Miranda, who received the four e-mails but did not participate in the exchange, is the DNC Communications Director. He took that position in September 2015, after working for four years as Hispanic media spokesman for the White House. Most of the emails in the leak came from Miranda.
Weeks before the exchange, one of Gomez’s first emails spoke precisely of a plan to reach Hispanics. It mentioned a number of relevant news pegs before the Democratic National Convention, such as Mother's Day, the crisis in Puerto Rico and the anniversary of DACA, and suggested opinion articles, press releases and digital messages to connect with voters.
What does the proposal say?
Highlighted in this series of emails is a proposal to try to reach more Hispanics and lure them to the polls to vote for the Democratic Party. The first part of the proposal, which indicated that Hispanics are the most loyal brand consumers in the world, has generated the most attention. The email said it’s a "known fact" that Hispanic loyalty is generational, but that once a brand loses this loyalty, Hispanics will never re-engage: “Unforgiving.”
The strategy document also contained statistics about the Hispanic electorate and a plan for attracting Latino millennial voters, to "empower and inspire Hispanics over 18 to register and vote."
The solution, according to the plan, is to focus on Hispanic "millennials" through a marketing strategy "based on issues and discussions" rather than surveys or automated calls.
The Wikileaks correspondence does not show that the Democratic National Committee believes Hispanics are a "brand" or are sensitive and "unforgiving" "consumers." The leaked information is an external proposal made to the DNC related to Hispanics, but no message indicates that this is the position maintained by members of the Democratic Party.