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Tuesday, July 18, 2006 

MATT Is Not Your Friend

Right after the Mexican Elections on July 2, I was asked if I knew MATT. According to the posted comment on ePluribus Media, MATT stands for Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together or MATT.org. The Houston Chronicle did a write up of MATT when they noticed that MATT ran a couple of commercials during the ALMA Awards.
Twice during a recent, prime-time Latino awards show featuring Jennifer Lopez, Andy Garcia and other Hollywood heavies, viewers saw commercials for a new, bilingual Web site with a daunting agenda.

Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together, or MATT.org, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit interactive Web site launched on Cinco de Mayo after thousands took to the streets in Houston and across the nation to protest U.S. House legislation that would make illegal immigration a felony. A compromise bill was passed May 25, but MATT founders see a continuing need for calm discussion in the fractious national debate over illegal immigration.
According the Chronicle, Lionel Sosa is one of MATT's co-founders, however, the Chronicle never mentions MATT's other co-founder. In fact, after doing a little internet research, the Chronicle is not the only one who also has done this, it seems that MATT's other co-founders aren't interested in being want to be identified just yet.

The obvious question then is, who is Lionel Sosa? Sosa, is a son of Mexican immigrants and a successful businessman who happens to be close to the Bush family. Sosa entered into the political scene back in the late 70's. According to Time, Sosa was hired by former Texas GOP U.S. Senator John Tower to help deliver the Hispanic vote. Tower won his 1978 re-election bid with 37% of the Hispanic vote. Soon after, Sosa became known as the man who could deliver the Hispanic vote. He has worked for President Ronald Reagan in 1980, first President Bush in 1988, and the second President Bush in 2004. Time writes:
In 1980 Ronald Reagan reached out to Sosa, who created gauzy, feel-good ads that focused on the candidate rather than the issues, promising Latinos that Republicans shared their values of family, personal responsibility and hard work. "It's an insight Ronald Reagan gave me," says Sosa, who has worked on six presidential campaigns. "He told me Latinos are Republican. They just don't know it yet." With Sosa's help, George W. Bush snared an estimated 40% of Latino voters in 2004, a huge jump from Bob Dole's 21% in 1996.
Right after Tower's election, Sosa eventually founded Sosa, Bromley, Aguilar, Noble & Associates and soon after Reagan's election, Sosa's company really picked up. One of their major clients was the US Army, which produced 40% of its billings from 1982-85, other clients included Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola, Budweiser, Bacardi Rum, Westinghouse and GTE.

Sosa, Bromley, Aguilar, Noble & Associates was once the largest Hispanic ad agency in the US and at one point the company was billing more than $100 million annually. Sosa went on to head DMB&B Americas, a network of 20 ad agencies specializing in Latin America. Sosa is now retired and his "legacy continues with San Antonio-based Bromley Communications, whose CEO is Ernest Bromley" according to the San Antonio Express-News. Bromley Communications is now the country's largest Hispanic ad firm.

MATT blls itself as being nonpartisan, however, when the website launched, both San Antonio Express-News and the Washington Post reported that Matt.org is the brainchild of Texas adman Lionel Sosa and that the group began with $5 million dollars in "seed money" from "a group of Mexican businesspeople." MATT.org will is just one of many MATTs to come. Both the Express-News and the Chronicle report that Sosa and his mysterious deep pocket backers plan are to launch another site on Sept. 16, Mexico's Independence Day, Mexicans and Americans Trading Together, or MATT.biz. The Chronicle reported MATT.biz would "foster U.S.-Mexico business while promoting and funding the nonprofit MATT.org."

It is not surprising that the netroots is playing a key role in getting political information out to the public. In fact, the Internet did play a role regarding the 2006 U.S. immigration reform protests by helping to "get the word out" on the dates and locations for the marches and demonstration protests. Is this Sosa's way to get in on the Internet political action?

In its attempts to be non-partisan in its opinions and with less than 20 articles since their inception, on July 9, right after the hard count of the precincts in the Mexican elections, the headline that ran on MATT.org revived their colors:

MATT Was First To Predict!
Matt was the first to predict Calderon would be Mexico's Next President.

And before Mexico's July 2nd Presidential election, Narco News' Al Giordano and previously reported by the Express-News, noted that in mid-June the same organization, Matt.org said exactly the opposite; saying that it was a "two horse race" between Obrador and Madrazo, with Calderon out of the race.
"With the Mexican Presidential election only two weeks away and a new round of polling completed in MATT's historic presidential poll, a 3-way tie is looking more like a 2-horse race. If the election were held today, Calderon would be out of the race. Why? Because he would need almost 80% of the undecided votes to overtake Obrador; a statistical and political impossibility. What other polls don't see is this: with Calderon out of the race, the number 2 horse, Madrazo, is running stronger than anyone thinks."
MATT.org being confident about its findings went even further, the website read: "New Presidential Poll Results! From 3-way tie to 2-horse race.... 116,000 likely voters can't be wrong."

Was this a case of selective amnesia? Perhaps. The University of Texas at Austin's Center for Interactive Advertising (ciAd) provides a pretty good insight on Sosa's rise to be the largest Hispanic ad agency in the US. There are significant differences among Hispanics - varying national origin, political and demographic are among those differences. For example, Cuban-Americans tend to be older and more likely to vote Republican than Mexican-Americans. According to ciAd, Sosa's influence in the Hispanic market had to do with a method he developed and copyrighted. Sosa's method involved segmenting the Hispanic Spanish-language market into acculturation influence groups. Acculturation is the process of adapting to another culture while keeping one's original culture intact. In order to deliver the correct message marketers seek to identify three markers - generational, language preference and cultural differences within the Hispanic population. Once they are identified they then categorized by varying degrees of acculturation: unacculturated, partially acculturated and completely acculturated. In short, acculturation is the method that is able to explain why a second-generation Mexican-American who grew up somewhere in the Southwest has more in common with a third-generation Puerto Rican from New York than with a Mexican who arrived from Jalisco last year.

In surfing through the website, Matt.org tends to play more to the highly acculturated Hispanic group, those who are more likely to be U.S.-born and raised and upper-class. What is disturbing, is the message it is sending out. The Chronicle reports:
Surfing through the many blog conversations, however, reveals a far less than sanguine outlook. For instance:

"Ya know, Adolph Hitler once said 'cockroaches are a very nasty sub-species. They are very hard to exterminate but with time and patience, it can be done!' And, yes, he was referring to the Jews. But on the other hand, isn't this 'infestation' onto our soil something us AMERICANS should be concerned about," ventures one poster.
The Chronicle went on to say MATT leaders downplay the more extreme views voiced on the thread. Another questionable feature is MATT's people finder. The website claims that is will help connect those who "live in Mexico and have lost touch with a loved one now living the United States." One has to wonder if this is a menthod locating the undocumented here in the US to help the Republicans in their fight for immigration control and mass deportation.

It is hard not to conclude MATT is a GOP front for astroturfing or maybe even more. With an election coming up in November, was the Mexican Presidential election a test run for Sosa in directing an outcome? One thing is for sure, MATT is no where close to being nonpartisan.

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