MATT.org, Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together, is based in the Alamo City where Tejanos and Mexicanos once fought against each other. The non-profit describes its mission in the following manner: “To encourage Mexicans and Americans to come together to bridge the gaps in understanding and quality of life so that we may truly prosper together.” Legendary marketer and advisor to GOP presidents Lionel Sosa enthusiastically leads the organization.
The group is passionate about immigration reform; the issue is at the center of everything it does. The organization launched a massive billboard and PR blitz during the 2006 comprehensive-immigration-reform battle centered around the Kennedy-McCain bill that went down in flames. At a July 26, 2007, international business luncheon, Sosa said that pro-immigration groups “can’t get their act together.” He also lamented that there is “no clear voice on immigration.” The recent failure of comprehensive immigration reform has convinced Sosa that we need a “clear message for the next time.” MATT.org is Sosa’s marketing response to this national challenge.
The group religiously tells the world it is nonpartisan and non-profit. Yet, when Mr. Sosa walks the halls of Congress advocating, on behalf of MATT.org for immigration reform, it is my belief that he is performing the role of a lobbyist. The same applies to the massive media campaign that now involves television commercials. It is clear political advocacy.
Sosa even talks like a lobbyist. “In the end, `the` solution is breaking down the laws and slipping them in with other legislation,” he said at the July 27 meeting. MATT.org is not a political-action committee, but based on its activities, it should be.
In 2007, Sosa sponsored a campaign fundraiser at the swanky Plaza Club on Houston Street for then-presidential-candidate Bill Richardson. He recently told CandidatoUsa.com, “I, for one, am back with my party and with John McCain.” The non-profit leader continues to be a political activist at a very high level.
On January 16, 2008, the Wall Street Journal reported the following: “Mr. Sosa says he has raised $25 million for the campaign from one group he didn’t identify.” This massive donation concerns me and it should trouble every American during a presidential year. I’m all for political activism and free speech, but I want to know who is bankrolling efforts to alter our immigration laws.
Was it a foreign government? A foreign citizen? Was it a billionaire with a special interest in helping a specific candidate who advocates comprehensive immigration reform? Why the mystery? Think about it: Who has that kind of money to throw around?
Speaking of mysteries, at that July 26 meeting, Sosa claimed that his organization has 1.3 million members. “Membership” to MATT.org simply involves going to their website and entering your personal password. They don’t need your name or your address. You do not have to agree to any set of values or beliefs. There is no need to donate money to the cause. It is my belief that MATT’s “members” are made up of 1.3 million individuals who have simply visited his website.
Where are the chapter meetings a la LULAC? Where are the grassroots leaders a la César Chávez, on the ground advocating for reform? Where are the legions of MATT.org supporters at rallies and political meetings? The MATT.org board of directors is made up of the same corporate elites who sit on every other board in San Antonio.
Sosa is essentially creating an illusion of massive political power and influence based on creative marketing. Martin Luther King, Willie Velasquez, and César Chávez changed our world by bringing the grassroots together and empowering them. They never had a $25-million piggy bank endowed by an anonymous donor. Where are the MATT.org activists? They don’t exist in the real world if you ask me.
Sosa should be commended and applauded for taking on such a difficult subject with endless points of view. He has put himself in the center of a challenging storm. But in an open democracy, we deserve transparency and honesty when it comes to political activities and the resources used to fund it. This is even more relevant when Sosa, a McCain supporter, takes in $25 million for his organization and openly claims it will be using those resources to advocate for the same immigration reforms backed by his presidential candidate. This one really stinks if you ask me.
MATT.org should do the right thing. It should disclose the name of the $25-million donor and they should also come clean about their membership base. The Tejanos and the Mexicanos it claims to represent deserve the truth and not a mystery. •