Cecilia Soto-Loftus, co-founder of a Malibu, Calif., party services company, was new to presidential politics when she started raising money for President Barack Obama's re-election bid last year.
After pulling in more than $400,000, she was to get the red carpet treatment at this week's inaugural festivities, with invitations to a strategy briefing for top fundraisers, a VIP candlelight reception and the official inaugural ball.
The special access reflects the unusual role Soto-Loftus and other Latino fundraisers played in Obama's 2012 campaign, the first to focus on tapping Latino celebrities, lawyers, business owners and community leaders for cash. The effort, called the Futuro Fund, aimed to raise $6 million -- and brought in more than $30 million.
"It really sent a strong message that we shouldn't be overlooked," said Soto-Loftus, a Los Ángeles native who hopes to be considered for an ambassadorship, perhaps to Costa Rica or the Bahamas. "And I think we have only hit the tip of the iceberg."
Although $30 million was a small slice of Obama's record $1.1 billion haul, the Futuro Fund inducted a new cohort of donors into national politics and created a Latino fundraising network that other politicians are clamoring to access. Most importantly, the group's work demonstrated the growing clout of Latinos beyond the ballot box.
"This is practically the final frontier in terms of what we need to be doing as political players in this country," said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. "We've had the elected officials. We've had the activists. We've had the voters. And now we have the donors."
Democrats used the inauguration to cement ties with the new class of donors.
Obama named actress Eva Longoria, a co-founder of the Futuro Fund, as co-chairwoman of his inaugural committee. And on Sunday night, Vice President Joe Biden made a surprise appearance at a gala performance of legendary Latino artists including Jose Feliciano, Rita Moreno and Chita Rivera that Longoria hosted at the Kennedy Center. The event was the culmination of Latino Inaugural 2013, a three-day celebration organized by the Futuro Fund.
"In this election, you spoke in a way that the world -- and I mean the world, as well as the United States -- could not fail to hear," Biden said as he thanked the black-tie crowd.
The proximity to power has given Latino fundraisers a new avenue to push their policy agenda. During the campaign, Longoria and others pressed Obama to overhaul immigration laws. Now they aim to continue advocating for immigration reform, for more Latinos in the administration and for a host of other issues.