State GOP officials working to push Hispanics out of Party

By DOUG IBENDAHL • February 8, 2011


A conservative Hispanic leader says he’s the target of retaliation after he called out fellow DuPage County Republicans for supporting higher taxes.


Rafael Rivadeneira was one of five candidates for State Representative in the GOP Primary last year in the 41st District. Chris Nybo won that race and went on to win in November. Rivadeneira finished a respectable third in the Primary, garnering just over 15 percent of the vote.


Last year Rivadeneira took on the DuPage County GOP establishment and became the favorite of many conservatives and tea partiers. During the campaign, Rivadeneira spanked Dan Cronin for his support in the State Senate of the regional sales tax increase. (A Rivadeneira campaign mail piece that reportedly ruffled some feathers can be viewed here. Rivadeneira also took Cronin and others to task in blog entries, for example: Power to the Pork, and Us Against the Establishment.)


Dan Cronin openly backed Nybo in the Primary for that State Representative seat. Meanwhile, Cronin was elected Chairman of the DuPage County Board in November. Cronin is also Chairman of the DuPage County Republican Party and in that role he last month chose Ron Sandack as his replacement to finish out the two years remaining on his State Senate term.


None of this would be particularly noteworthy at this point, except for what happened over the weekend.


In 2008, Rafael Rivadeneira became President of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Illinois (“RNHA of Illinois”). On Saturday at the organization’s state convention in Dixon, delegates reelected Rivadeneira to that position.


The Rivadeneira Family

The Rivadeneira Family

Unfortunately it doesn’t end there. Rivadeneira has made enemies and they’ve been desperately trying to take him down. It wasn’t enough that Rivadeneira lost his bid for State Representative – they’re now trying to drive him out of the RNHA of Illinois, as well as from his local RNHA chapter in DuPage County. And in the process they’re dragging Rivadeneira’s personal and professional reputation through the mud. Other RNHA of Illinois members who have stood by Rivadeneira have also been targeted.


Saturday’s convention in Dixon was nothing short of a debacle for the RNHA of Illinois. Things got so out of hand – the police had to be called. Attendees ended up splitting into two groups, with the anti-Rivadeneira faction moving to a different hotel where they proceeded to elect their own slate of officers. The second location had reportedly been booked well in advance by the anti-Rivadeneira group.


There’s been no serious reporting of the events surrounding this story, beyond some jumbled blog postings. Most people have only read or heard about a hodge-podge of naked accusations and trivial grievances distributed haphazardly by Rivadeneira’s enemies. I think it’s mostly a lot of ginned-up nonsense and unnecessary confusion created by a handful of arrogant, immature individuals.


But what’s not trivial is the behavior of one of the ringleaders of the anti-Rivadeneira faction. When asked why Rivadeneira was ousted from the DuPage chapter of the RNHA, Angel Garcia stated that is was “due to misappropriation of funds.” But Garcia has yet to provide even a scintilla of evidence to support the slanderous charge. Defamation involving lies about financial mismanagement is particularly damaging to Rivadeneira as he is a licensed securities broker.


And it’s even more disturbing because Angel Garcia is also one of the 19 members of the State GOP’s Central Committee.


Rivadeneira told me he believes Dan Cronin is behind the whole thing. He makes it clear that’s his opinion, based on mostly circumstantial evidence. But I also talked to other DuPage insiders who off the record expressed the same firm belief. My phone call to Dan Cronin seeking comment for this story was not returned.


After reviewing the available evidence and talking to persons on both sides of the controversy, it’s my opinion that Rivadeneira is correct. There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that Rivadeneira has been targeted for political destruction because he dared to speak truth to power about the DuPage GOP old guard.


Consider the fact that Cronin’s alleged lackeys in this thing, Angel Garcia, Christopher Hage, and a handful of others, never speak up about real corruption or abuse in our Illinois Republican Party. But now we’re supposed to believe them when they pretend to be outraged over what really comes down to just infighting over interpretations of a small organization’s bylaws? The whole thing’s not credible.


On the one hand this shouldn’t be much of a story. The RNHA of Illinois reportedly had barely 100 total attendees at its Saturday convention – and that was before the split-up. And of those, I’m told less than 30 were delegates possessing any voting power.


Beyond maybe one phone conversation last year, I didn’t know Rivadeneira at all before I started working on this story. I decided to give it some coverage because I sensed that once again a good Republican was being smeared and punished simply for telling the truth.


My investigation basically confirmed my initial suspicions regarding this matter. The goon squad’s been deployed to smear and destroy a good man because some old guys in DuPage don’t like having their weak voting records exposed. And even though top GOP officials are involved, no one says a peep.


And some wonder why the Illinois GOP isn’t attracting Hispanic voters.


Doug Ibendahl is a Chicago Attorney and a former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party.


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