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With DNC post, top Latino fundraiser gets 'seat at the table'

January 25, 2013|By Matea Gold
  • Andres W. Lopez, Henry Muoz III and Eva Longoria speak at Latino Inaugural 2013 at the Kennedy Center in Washington.
Andres W. Lopez, Henry Muoz III and Eva Longoria speak at Latino Inaugural… (Rick Diamond / Getty Images )

WASHINGTON — Henry R. Muñoz III’s cellphone began buzzing furiously Sunday night while he was attending a gala he helped produce at the Kennedy Center that capped Latino Inaugural 2013, a three-day celebration of President Obama’s second swearing-in.

It wasn’t until he got back to his hotel room around midnight that he listened to the string of messages -- the last from Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, asking him to call right away.

“I thought, ‘Oh my god, what did I do wrong?’” recalled Muñoz, a top Obama fundraiser who runs a San Antonio architecture-design firm.

In fact, Wasserman Schultz was calling to ask if he would take over as the party’s finance chairman, an offer that reflects the prominent role Muñoz and other Latino donors played in Obama’s reelection bid.

Together with actress Eva Longoria and San Juan attorney Andres Lopez, Muñoz launched an effort called the Futuro Fund that raised more than $30 million from 150,000 donors for Obama, the first concerted effort by a presidential campaign to cultivate Latino donors. Because of the Futuro Fund’s success, “I think we have a permanent seat at the table,” Longoria said before taking the stage Sunday night at the Kennedy Center.

Indeed, Muñoz’s election as finance chair showed how aggressively the Democrats are moving to cement their ties to this new donor network.

“It was a quite a surprise, but I think it’s something that is meaningful and timely for our community,” Muñoz said. “It proves that the final political frontier of the Latino community --  having the capacity to deliver significant fundraising -- that final piece of electoral politics has happened.”

Until he was nominated and elected on Tuesday, Muñoz said he had never attended a DNC meeting. Now he is charged with developing a national fundraising strategy for the party, taking the reins from Jane Stetson, a Vermont-based philanthropist and top party fundraiser.

His immediate goal: “I’m going to raise a lot of money.”

After racing through $285 million in the 2012 cycle, the DNC ended the campaign in the red, with a debt of $20.5 million and $9.7 million cash on hand, according to campaign finance records filed in December.

Muñoz said that he plans to spend some time traveling the country, listening to Democrats to figure out ways to get them more engaged with the party.

“I have a feeling there are a lot of people who have never been asked, a new generation of people anxious to invest in the principles of the Democratic party,” he said.

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matea.gold@latimes.com

Twitter: @mateagold

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