A Latino convention in Las Vegas – home of notorious government-gone-wild parties in the past – raked in at least $140,000 from four federal agencies last month.
The U.S. Army and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health each contributed $50,000 as “presidential sponsors” of the League of United Latin American Citizens’ annual convention at Caesars Palace.
The Department of Defense and the CIA chipped in $20,000 apiece as “congressional sponsors.”
None of the agencies were available to discuss their use of taxpayer funds at the weeklong gathering of the Hispanic lobbying organization.
But Alejandro Mayorkas, director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, celebrated the event in a speech at Caesars.
“You deserve our gratitude,” he said of LULAC and its convention attendees.
VIEW MAYORKAS VIDEO HERE.
Quoting the late Latino labor organizer Cesar Chavez, and referencing “undocumented” immigrants, Mayorkas said, “Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations of others.”
“Thank you for your work and service,” said Mayorkas, a second-generation Cuban immigrant nominated by President Obama to the No. 2 position at the Department of Homeland Security.
Mayorkas boasted that the United States now has the “most diverse” population in its history. In fact, demographic research shows that the immigration boom during the past four decades has been overwhelmingly composed of one group: Hispanics.
From just 5 percent of the population in the 1970s, Hispanics now make up the largest minority cohort, and account for an estimated 12 million people in this country illegally.
Striving for Latino votes, soldiers and buying power, government agencies and corporations doubled down in Vegas with $1.63 million in convention sponsorship payments to LULAC.
The biggest players were Wal-Mart and Entravision, which each laid out $75,000 as “diamond sponsors.” See the full list here.
While private donations are welcome, LULAC works the federal government most intensely – inside and outside the convention halls. Indeed, the four agencies that shoveled tax dollars to LULAC in Vegas represented just the tip of federal involvement.
For example, LULAC and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management operate a Federal Training Institute.
“We realize the rapid changes of our nation present all agencies and companies with new and additional challenges in completing their various missions. We are committed to providing the support, training and development to keep abreast of these changes,” LULAC explains on its website.
The web page goes on to list scores of federal departments that collaborate with LULAC’s efforts. The roster ranges from the Department of Agriculture to the Social Security Administration.
Cultivating ties with Capitol Hill, LULAC frequently hosts elected officials at forums around the country. On Sunday, the group is conducting a “Town Hall” with Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., in Woodbridge, to “dialogue on immigration reform.”
LULAC says its mission is all about “non-profit employee advocacy, training and education.” It also can be hyper-partisan.
Earlier this month, LULAC hailed the Senate confirmation of Thomas Perez as secretary of Labor as a “key victory for Latinos and workers.”
LULAC’s news release did not mention that Perez has been repeatedly accused – and now sued — by non-Hispanics over actions that purportedly favored Latino employees during his tenure as head of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice. Other accusations swept under the Senate carpet involved improper use of government email.
Earlier this year, LULAC sued one of its own members, Domingo Garcia, in an effort to derail his insurgent bid for the group’s presidency.
LULAC president Margaret Moran was re-elected at the Vegas convention amid allegations of vote “suppression” and what Garcia called “dirty tricks.”