Lobbyist hired to push for Smithsonian Latino museum

A group pushing for the creation of a Smithsonian museum on American Latino history has hired a lobbyist to help with the cause, records show.

The Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino (FNMAL) has hired Becker & Poliakoff to promote the Smithsonian American Latino Museum Act, which has been introduced in both the House and Senate. Omar Franco, the sole lobbyist on the account, worked for Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) as chief of staff earlier in his career. 

“Not only are we working with our friends on the Hill that have large Hispanic constituencies, but all of the members,” FNMAL director Estuardo Rodriguez said. “I couldn’t think of anyone better … to engage those members on the Hill.” 

The legislation would designate an empty building on the National Mall to be the museum’s home, without allocating federal funds immediately. The two bills, H.R. 3459 and S. 1868, were introduced in November and remain in committee.

The House bill from Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) has one co-sponsor, while the Senate version sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) boasts 17. Rodriguez said that there are many more potential sponsors of the museum bill in the House, citing members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, among others.

Franco will help FNMAL reach out to members and staffers who can “go to leadership and push this bill forward,” Rodriguez said. The group has already sent letters about the museum to the Senate and House while inviting members to join as honorary board members of FNMAL.   

“Many folks often say the things that we talk about are not mentioned in the history books,” Rodriguez said. “There are incredible details going back to the Civil War and to present day [noting] the contribution of the Latino community to military service.

“We’ve got a lot of things to be proud of, but unfortunately, not one home to share these stories.”

The amount of the contract is not yet known, as lobbying fees are not disclosed on registration forms. Franco did not respond to The Hill’s request for comment.