Politics & Policy

Racially Exclusive Group Charged with Discrimination

California’s Latino caucus blackballs its sole Republican.

California’s Latino Legislative Caucus has denied admittance to a Republican assembly member on the basis of his party affiliation.

Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, a Republican representing Oceanside, learned Tuesday that he is barred from joining the caucus in a legislature tightly controlled by the Democratic party.

According to KABC in Los Angeles:

“I asked to be a part of the Latino Caucus. I assumed I was going to be, but I was told that because I was a Republican I would not be part of the caucus,” said California Assemblyman Rocky Chavez (R-Oceanside).

Chavez says he wants to help the Latino community, but the president of the Latino Caucus says Chavez should form his own caucus, a caucus of one.

“There was a Hispanic Republican caucus that we worked with and we’ve worked well with over the years, and so we are going to encourage him to act as his caucus and we’ll continue to work together,” said state Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens).

It’s true that California has few Republican Latino politicians (or Republican politicians of any ethnicity), but Chavez tells National Review Online, “That’s not the issue. The issue is, the current caucus is using taxpayer funds to support a partisan agenda. As far as a Republican caucus, that would also not meet the needs of the Latino community. Solutions are best found when all good ideas are put on the table.”

A spokesman for the California Latino Legislative Caucus declined to say how much public largesse the caucus receives, but similar special-interest caucuses pull down high-five-digit to low-six-digit annual taxpayer funding for their operations. According to the assembly’s most recent quarterly summary of expenditures, the Asian Pacific Islander Caucus received $34,429.00 in the December-through-February quarter; the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Caucus got $20,907.00; and the Women’s Legislative Caucus pocketed $18,270.00. Expenses for the Latino Legislative Caucus are not listed in the summary.

Roger Salazar, a Sacramento crisis-management consultant, tells National Review Online that the bulk of the caucus’s operations are paid for through a related PAC and foundation. That foundation, the California Latino Legislative Caucus, lists annual revenue of $266,450 and expenses of $283,739, according to Guidestar.

He adds that the caucus is not the only openly party-affiliated political group receiving state money.

“There are partisan caucuses in the California legislature,” Salazar says. “And with much bigger budgets and staffs than this one — including the majority and minority caucuses.”

Salazar says the caucus does not include the word “Democratic” in its name because it was “was formed 40 years ago by four Democratic legislators. For most of that time there weren’t any Latino Republican legislators.” He adds that limiting membership to Democrats is in the group’s rules.

“The bylaws are clear on that,” he says. “It is open to Latino Democratic legislators.” He did not provide a copy of the bylaws for review.

Salazar says the caucus determines which legislators qualify as Latinos through “self-selection, if somebody says they’re Latino. The same way when you fill out a census form, you check the box.”

Chavez, a former officer in the Marine Corps, says the caucus should buck California’s increasingly one-party rule by opening itself to diversity.

“It is my hope that members of the Latino Caucus will see my commitment to our Latino community and will open up this caucus to myself and future Latino assembly members from all political parties,” he tells NRO.

— Tim Cavanaugh is news editor of National Review Online. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.




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