Justice

How A Notorious Conservative Group Tricked A Scholar Into Joining Their Attack On Latino Voters

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This adorable Latino family probably isn't involved in a conspiracy to steal Colorado elections

Seth Masket is an associate professor of Political Science at the University of Denver. He writes on Colorado politics, the role of interest groups in developing partisan agendas, and the impact of campaign field offices on electoral results, among other things. And, if you watch a film released by Citizens United, the conservative group behind the Supreme Court decision that tore down many of the limits on big money in politics in 2010, you will probably leave with the misleading impression that Professor Masket thinks that Latino immigrants are streaming across the Mexican border in order to help steal elections for Democrats.

As Masket explains at the Monkey Cage, this came about because he was approached by a filmmaker who claimed that he was “doing a documentary on Colorado politics and wanted to ask me some questions on campaign spending and demographic shifts in the state.” During Masket’s interview with the filmmaker, the professor made two uncontroversial claims about Latino voters — “Latinos have not only been increasing in their potential to vote, but they’ve been voting increasingly Democratic over the last 10 years in Colorado.”

Unbeknownst to Masket, however, the filmmaker was working on a film called “Rocky Mountain Heist,” which is co-written and hosted by conservative pundit Michelle Malkin. The film’s central argument is that “a secretive group of leftist millionaires and billionaires” transformed the once conservative state of Colorado into a place where “homeless vagrants smoke pot in public parks, war is waged on the state’s energy industry and gun ownership is under assault.”

According to Masket, his quote about Latino voters is sandwiched between “an insinuation by Tom Tancredo that the Obama administration is essentially recruiting Democratic voters via undocumented Mexican immigration, and a paean by Michelle Malkin to her Filipino parents who ‘immigrated here legally. It wasn’t easy. They learned English, they learned our history, they followed our rules.’” All of a sudden, Masket’s innocuous and objectively true statement about the partisan preferences of a particular demographic becomes corroborating evidence supporting Tancredo’s conspiracy theory.

Ironically, Masket says that he did not even learn that his quote had been used in this way until he testified as an expert witness against Citizens United in a case involving this very film. During cross-examination, former Solicitor General Ted Olson, who represents Citizens United, asked Masket if he was aware that he was in the film. Masket adds that he would have “declined the initial interview if I’d known it would result in this kind of film.”