Both political parties agree: Hispanics are contributing more money to campaigns than ever before.
By James E. Garcia
November 2000 - There’s no doubt this will be the single most expensive presidential election in U.S. history. At last count, more than $300 million had been collected by the two major candidates. And by November 7, experts say as much as $750 million will have been spent by the major parties on their respective presidential campaigns.
The Hispanic community has made history, too. Twice as many Hispanics were expected to vote in this presidential election than in 1992. As many as 6 million Hispanics will cast their ballots this month.
But the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates count more than Hispanic votes. They also count our money.
Campaigns are only beginning to crunch the numbers, but political finance experts say the Hispanic community broke new ground by giving more money than ever to the major presidential campaigns, as well as down-ballot races at the federal, state, and local levels.
“It’s all part of the maturing process for the Latino community,” explains Al Cardenas, chairman of the Florida Republican Party and a major fund-raiser for George W. Bush. “There’s a growing number of Latino-owned small businesses and entrepreneurs. There are five times as many Latino executives today. So the [campaign] fund-raising is a natural part of that maturing process.”
According to officials with the George W. Bush campaign, at least 10 Hispanics nationwide have helped raised $100,000 or more for the Republican presidential candidate. Among the top Hispanic fund-raisers for Mr. Bush are Hector Barreto of Barreto Insurance and Financial Services in California; Solomon Trujillo, former CEO of US WEST in Colorado; Raul Romero of S&B Infrastructure in Texas; Jorge Arrizurieta of Huizenga Holdings in Florida; and A.R. “Tony” Sanchez of Sanchez Oil and Gas in Texas. Mr. Sanchez, incidentally, is a registered Democrat who may run for governor of Texas.
On the Democratic side, which raised about $50 million less than the Bush campaign overall, fewer Hispanics are estimated to have raised $100,000 or more for the White House aspirations of Vice-President Al Gore.
Gilberto Ocañas, deputy executive director for the Democratic National Committee, says “several” Hispanic Democrats have raised at least $100,000 for Mr. Gore, including Miguel Lausell, a Washington attorney, and Alvaro Cifuentes of Puerto Rico. But Luis Rosero, a deputy press secretary for the Democratic Party, says that information could not be confirmed at press time because Gore campaign officials only file quarterly contribution reports, while their Bush counterparts provide monthly updates.
Still, Mr. Ocañas insists that many more Hispanics are contributing to Democrats during this election cycle than ever before. “I think they’re doing it because obviously the economy is doing really well these days,” explains Mr. Ocañas, president of Ocañas Printing Co. in Austin, Texas. “There’s also been a lot more outreach to find Hispanic donors. In the past, we never really thought we could raise money [in the Hispanic community]. But now when you go to Democratic fund-raisers, you see a lot more Hispanics, including people from all over the country – Florida, Chicago, Los Angeles.”
The fact that more Hispanics are running for elective office – especially at the local and state level – means people in the community are often being asked to contribute by someone they know. Once Hispanics gain a foothold in local politics, they become a natural conduit for the national campaigns.
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