BY TONY CASTRO
They say that Hollywood is a place where you can remake yourself into whatever you want, and no star knows that better than Eva Longoria.
Eight years ago, she transformed herself from one of the many daytime soap opera actors in Tinseltown into a major entertainment star with the hit ABC drama “Desperate Housewives,” becoming possibly the biggest Hispanic name in show business today.
Eva Longoria is trying to increase Latino power in politics
Now she is trying to do the same makeover for Latino power in politics, attempting to transform their role through the voice she knows speaks the loudest both in Hollywood and Washington – money, which has traditionally been the mother’s milk of politics.
The 37-year-old actress is the best known of a small coterie of wealthy Latinos who are trying to develop a fund-raising arm that, along with the Hispanic clout at the polls, will put the American Hispanic agenda at the forefront of the country’s national political dialog.
“We wanted to make sure the Latino community stops being a number and starts being looked at as a market,” says Longoria. “It may have been a shock to some, but not if you look at trends in Hispanic buying power.”
The other Latino millionaires who are helping Longoria are her fellow Texan Henry Muñoz III, a San Antonio architectural-designer; Puerto Rican attorney Andres W. Lopez; former television anchor Giselle Fernandez; and prominent Chicago trial lawyer Manuel “Manny” Sanchez.
The Hispanic political model is turned on its ear
“What Eva and her partners are doing is turning the Hispanic political model on its ear,” says California political consultant William Orozco. “Other Latino political and advocacy groups have been around for decades, but they’ve never raised the kind of money for a campaign like what Eva and her people did this year.
“It’s revolutionary in American Latino politics, and in politics nothing talks like money. It makes Eva a new political force in her own right.”
Eva Longoria was the most visible Hollywood figure during the presidential campaigns
Longoria was one of President Barack Obama’s re-election co-chairs, stumping nationally for him and becoming perhaps the most visible Hollywood figure in this year’s presidential campaign.
But what most people didn’t realize was that she along with her money group also injected some $30 million dollars for Obama’s re-election through their fund-raising operation called the Futuro Fund – of which Muñoz, Fernandez, Lopez and Sanchez are co-chairs.
“Politics has a currency — it has votes and money,” says Muñoz. “Our community has been known for votes, and now it has to be known for money.”
Most of the Futuro Fund’s money in the past campaign was raised by hitting up other well-heeled Hispanics, and their biggest fund-raiser was a celebrity studded fund-raiser Oct. 24 at home of actors Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith in the exclusive Los Angeles enclave of Hancock Park.
Banderas, a Spaniard by citizenship, said the event was “like a fairy tale.”
“I am still a supporter of President Obama, not being an American but knowing that the president of the United States of America has a very strong impact around the world, and my family – they are – my daughter, I want a future for her,” the actor said.
The event was billed as “first ever national Latino gala for a presidential candidate” with tickets ranging from $5,000 to $35,800.
Obama flew into Los Angeles for the event which was also attended by Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and San Antonio mayor Julian Castro.
Now, Longoria and her fund-raising partners are looking ahead to developing their operation as a bi-partisan tool.
“We can’t cast ourselves necessarily as a partisan entity or an Obama-specific entity,” says Lopez, a member of the Democratic National Committee. “The question is, how do Latinos, having reached a tipping point in this cycle, move on not just for the next four years, but the next 40?
“That will necessitate talking to both sides of the aisle.”