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Rules of the Game: Hispanic Caucus Leverages Latino Power

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Gutierrez, who chairs the CHC’s Immigration Task Force, is a member of an unofficial bipartisan working group of about eight House members trying to craft an immigration overhaul.

The growing clout of Latino donors and voters has quietly boosted the fortunes of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which has gained members, political leverage and fundraising power in the 113th Congress.

Through its increasingly lucrative political action committee, known as BOLD PAC, the caucus helped elect nine more Latinos to the House in November, growing the membership of the all-Democratic caucus to 27. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has tapped a pair of caucus members to cultivate Latino candidates and donors and leading caucus members are also in the thick of immigration overhaul negotiations on Capitol Hill.

“In many ways they’re the vanguard of this growing power,” said Albert Jacquez, director of legislative, congressional and political affairs at the National Council of LaRaza. Hispanics accounted for a record 10 percent of voters on Election Day, according to the Pew Research Hispanic Center, and the number of eligible Latino voters is expected to explode from 23.7 million now to 40 million by 2030.

“I would anticipate that Hispanics would be a big part of the numbers that it will take for Democrats to take back the House,” said Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., chairman of BOLD PAC. (The acronym stands for Building Our Leadership Through Diversity.) The PAC spent $844,000 on the 2012 elections, more than twice its spending in the 2008 cycle, when Democrats were in the majority.

Luján and Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, were tapped this month by the DCCC to spearhead the committee’s Latino Council, positioning them to both recruit Latino candidates and woo an increasingly well-organized cadre of Hispanic donors, who helped raise record sums for President Barack Obama’s re-election. San Antonio architect Henry Muñoz, who chaired the pro-Obama Latino donor network the Futuro Fund in 2012, is now the Democratic National Committee’s finance chairman.

But the members of the CHC, chaired in this Congress by Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Texas, are on the front lines of an intentionally nonpartisan campaign to enact a comprehensive immigration overhaul, say Latino leaders who have worked closely with the group.

Caucus members Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., and Luis V. Gutierrez, D-Ill., who chairs its Immigration Task Force, are members of an unofficial bipartisan working group of about eight House members trying to craft an immigration overhaul.

“We have helped keep the spotlight on immigration reform even when it felt pretty lonely to do so,” Gutierrez said in a statement. “And when we were not out fighting for reform publicly, we were doing so behind the scenes.”

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