Those involved so far appear to number fewer than a dozen. Most know each other and claim friendships dating back a decade, a time when Hispanic staffers were a rarity on the Hill.
“Thank goodness, things change,” said Gene Green, who has employed Duran, Jimenez and Mercado. “Frankly, they’re a part of the system now. And if they want to make changes in the system, they need to elect folks they can agree with.”
Both the former staffers and their Congressional sponsors are hot political commodities right now. The Democrats’ return to power handed subcommittee gavels to 11 CHC members. One, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), got the full chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee. The caucus also counts among its members four appropriators, four members of House Financial Services Committee, two members of House Energy and Commerce Committee and one member of the Ways and Means Committee.
Corporations have taken notice.
The caucus’s political action committee — Build Our Leadership Diversity PAC, or BOLD PAC — kept relatively steady fundraising during its first three cycles in existence, with receipts hovering around $250,000. But by the end of March, the account had already pulled in $351,941, according to CQ MoneyLine. New fans of the PAC this cycle include such blue chip companies as Amgen, Burlington Northern-Santa Fe, Diageo, Freddie Mac, Merck and Pepsi.
Meanwhile, outside the Beltway, Hispanics are emerging as an increasingly potent electoral force. All three presidential campaigns are actively courting their votes, and prognosticators cite them as a potentially decisive swing bloc in November.
That backdrop gives new relevancy to the lobbyists push, those behind the effort say. “Companies are saying, ‘How do we capture a piece of that? How do we work with Hispanic Members of Congress and the Hispanic community?’” Ingrid Duran said. “Now that there’s a critical mass of Hispanics in lobbying positions, we’re reaching out to them.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.