Executive Committee

Mario H. Lopez, President

Mario H. Lopez is the President of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, an advocacy organization dedicated to promoting limited government, individual liberty, and free enterprise, where he brings extensive experience in media and public relations, political campaigns, and the public policy process. Lopez has appeared in a number of English and Spanish language print, television, radio, and online outlets, and has contributed written work to several publications. Lopez is a recent guest lecturer for the Leadership Institute’s Campaign Manager School. Prior to founding the Hispanic Leadership Fund, Lopez was tapped to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives as Executive Director of the Congressional Hispanic Conference—a group of between 8-16 Hispanic and non-Hispanic Members of Congress who together promoted legislation and policy that sought to foster Hispanic prosperity through free enterprise and traditional values. He implemented communication and political strategies, focused heavily on coalition building, messaging, and issue management. He worked on issues like trade with Latin America, Social Security, and immigration, as well as topics pertaining to small businesses, health care, tax reform, and education. He served as liaison to the White House, executive branch agencies, the private sector, and the public policy communities. Lopez previously served on the Hispanic Advisory Board for the Republican National Committee, and was a presidential appointee for George W. Bush. In his first post on Capitol Hill, Lopez served as Deputy Director of Coalitions and Outreach for House Republican Conference Chairman J.C. Watts. He has been involved in campaigns in California and Virginia. Born and raised in San Diego, Lopez earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a minor in Philosophy the University of San Diego. He is a graduate of The Fund for American Studies’ Institute on Political Journalism, and performed graduate work at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles in both Political Science and the highly-regarded Master of Professional Writing programs.

 

Omar Franco

Prior to founding Franco Government Relations, Omar Franco worked for Petrizzo Strategic Group where he was the lead government relations representative for Florida Gulf Coast University, Secure Wrap, Inc., Medical HealthCare Plans, and the municipalities of Hialeah, Miami Lakes and North Bay Village. Over the last three years he has worked on federal issues for the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida, Stratus Pharmaceuticals, Pacer Health and FalconTrust Air, among others. Omar worked for U.S. Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart as his Chief of Staff for over four years. His areas of expertise included federal appropriations, health care, higher education and Florida issues. Omar began his government service in 1993 as a Legislative Assistant in the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate for five years. In 1998, Omar joined the Florida Medical Association as the Field Office Director. The following year he became the Director of Governmental Relations for the University of Miami – School of Medicine and in 2001, the President Donna Shalala promoted him to Assistant Vice President of Governmental Relations for the whole university. He has an Associate in Arts in Business Administration from Miami Dade Community College and a Bachelor of Arts in English/Business from Florida State University.

 

Daniel Garza

Daniel Garza, a former White House staffer who served in the Bush Administration also worked as a co-producer and host of Agenda Washington, a Spanish language news/interview weekly television program that covered state, economic, political and social issues impacting the U.S. Hispanic community airing on the Univision television network. Daniel served as a former Congressional Staff Assistant for U.S. Congressman Richard “Doc” Hastings before being elected as Councilman for the City of Toppenish, Washington in 1996. Daniel was then appointed in 2001 by the Bush Administration to serve as Deputy Director of External and Intergovernmental Affairs in the Office of the Secretary at the Department of the Interior. In 2004, Daniel was appointed as Associate Director of the Office of Public Liaison in the White House before moving on to work for Televisa in 2006 as President of HISPANIC and PODER Group, where he oversaw the editorial, commercial, and promotional aspects of HISPANIC, Hispanic Trends, PODER and Tu Dinero magazines. Born in the Central Valley of California, Daniel’s family would migrate annually from his ancestral hometown of Garza Gonzales, Nuevo Leon in Mexico throughout California, Nebraska and the State of Washington as they followed the crop season as farm workers. He recently authored a fiction novel in Spanish and is currently residing in McAllen, TX with his wife and three children.

 

Bettina Inclan

Bettina Inclán is a communications and political strategist with vast knowledge in public relations, new media, strategic planning and coalition building. An experienced spokesperson, with both mainstream and Spanish language press, she has built numerous effective grassroots, messaging and branding campaigns for organizations across the country.  Bettina has worked with top political candidates nationwide, including prominent roles in recent statewide races in Florida and California, states with large and diverse Hispanic population. In her most recent post as Deputy Communications Director for Rick Scott for Florida Governor 2010, she was part of the successful campaign helping the Republican candidate win over 50% of the Hispanic vote, in a pivotal swing state where Hispanic Democrats outnumber Hispanic Republicans.  During her tenure as the National Executive Director of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, Bettina worked with national Hispanic conservative leaders and built coalitions with fellow Latino organizations and conservative groups. She helped expand the national organization and worked closely with the Republican National Committee and the White House on Hispanic issues. Bettina has worked in Republican Leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives, serving as Communications Director for the Republican Policy Committee, among other roles.  Bettina is a blogger and commentator discussing Republican politics, Latino issues and culture.

 

Jorge Martinez

As Chief Executive Officer of Fusion Global Partners, Jorge Martinez provides strategic communications counsel to clients that must speak with clarity and purpose. A seasoned industry veteran, Jorge has applied his communications expertise during a career that spans the White House, political campaigns, and a number of high-profile clients around the world. Jorge has developed a reputation for putting together winning strategies when communications is the key to victory. He has an extensive background in dealing with situations that involve balancing public opinion with political and public policy considerations. Jorge has managed national media campaigns, public relations, public events, and reputation management programs. His experience, as well as extensive relationships with key decision makers and stakeholders, enables Jorge to offer effective public relations, advocacy and grassroots strategies. From 2002-2004, Jorge served President George W. Bush as spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice. He has appeared in media outlets throughout the world, including Spanish-language media. A trusted Administration advisor, Jorge was also tapped to manage operations for numerous White House trips locally and abroad. Jorge has developed and implemented Hispanic communications programs that deliver market impact by raising the visibility and credibility of clients. He has a record of delivering positive exposure in Hispanic and mainstream media, developing meaningful partnerships with key stakeholders and organizations, facilitating direct interaction with community leaders, and positioning clients in a favorable light among the Hispanic population.

 

Jacquelyn Puente

Prior to joining DCI Group, a strategic communications and public affairs firm, Jackie was the Director of Development & Corporate Relations of the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI), a non-profit and non-partisan organization dedicated to creating a broader awareness of the diversity of thought, heritage, interests, and views of Americans of Hispanic and Portuguese descent. In this position, Jackie was responsible for the organization’s fundraising and external relations, developing strategic partnerships and programs with individuals and institutions throughout the Americas. Before joining CHLI in 2006, Jackie was the Managing Director of the National Blood Foundation, where she worked extensively on international health initiatives and managed public private partnerships for pharmaceutical and biomedical engineering corporations with government agencies and trade associations. Before joining the nonprofit sector, Jackie was nominated for a Presidential appointment at the U.S. Treasury Department in the Office of Economic Policy, where she covered energy, trade, social insurance, and healthcare. An American University graduate with degrees in International Economics and Russian/Eurasian Studies, Jackie was a 2004 National Security Education Program Boren Scholar in Moscow, Russia, where she studied energy economics and Central Asia at Moscow International University.

 

Sergio Rodriguera, Jr.

Sergio Rodriguera, Jr. is Senior Vice President at Sphere Consulting LLC and, most recently, served as a Navy Reserve Intelligence Officer in Afghanistan from June 2009 to April 2010 as Deputy Officer in Charge of the Afghanistan Threat Finance Cell, where his unit was tasked with targeting the financial networks of our enemies. Prior to his duties in Afghanistan, he was a Defense Fellow/Policy Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict focused on policy and intelligence to provide valuable insight on monitoring global threats using quantitative analysis. From 2005 to 2006, he was Special Advisor to the Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the Department of Treasury leading outreach efforts to the financial sector, intelligence community and regulatory agencies. Also, from October 2003 to November 2004 he was the Hispanic Outreach Coordinator for Bush Cheney 2004. He served on active duty as a Naval Officer from 1998 to 2003, where he served onboard the USS CURTS (FFG 38) and Pentagon, deploying to assist in counter-narcotics operations/counter terrorism exercises. He graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

 

Jennifer Sevilla Korn

Jennifer Sevilla Korn currently teaches at the Leadership Institute and is a senior fellow at the Institute for Liberty. Most recently Jennifer served as the Director of the Office of Government Affairs and Public Liaison at the U.S. Department of Justice. She was senior advisor to the U.S. Attorney General on matters concerning state and local governments and law enforcement officials, and worked on key issues such as national security and federal elections. Prior to DOJ, Jennifer served in the White House Office of Public Liaison, as Director of Hispanic and Women’s Affairs, working on issues including trade, small business, education, immigration, and health care. Jennifer served as both the National Hispanic Director and the Southwest Coalitions Director on President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign. As the National Hispanic Director, she helped design and supervised the plan which was instrumental in President Bush receiving 44% of the Hispanic vote and traveled the country educating audiences on the President’s record in support of the Hispanic community. Originally from California, Jennifer served as the Executive Director for the Lincoln Juarez Opportunity Center, a non-profit headquartered in Santa Ana that specialized in education, citizenship/immigration, job training, and English classes for the Hispanic community. She also spent 10 years working for, and managing local, state and federal campaigns, and representing state legislators.

 

Omar Vargas

Omar Vargas is a 1998 graduate of American University’s Washington College of Law and the School of International Service. He joined PepsiCo in June 2006 as the Director of Global Policy and Government Affairs. Between 2001 and 2006, Omar held a number of appointments at the U.S. Department of Justice, where his portfolio included a broad range of legal and public policy issues. In 1991, Seton Hall University awarded Omar with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Scholarship. Omar graduated from Seton Hall in 1995 with a Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, in Political Science. Omar’s professional and volunteer work has earned him recognition by the New Jersey State Assembly, Seton Hall University, the University of New Mexico School of Law, the Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia, the Washington College of Law Latino Law Student Association, the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, and MillerCoors Lideres. Omar is presently the Treasurer of the Deuville Building Relief Fund and a member of the Board of Directors of the Hispanic National Bar Legal Education Fund and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. He is also a member of the Dean’s Diversity Council at the Washington College of Law. Omar, whose mother is from Puerto Rico and his father an immigrant from Ecuador, is a native of New Jersey. He and his family live in Northern Virginia.

 

Mercedes Viana Schlapp

Mercedes Viana Schlapp is co-founder of Cove Strategies, a governmental and public affairs firm based in Alexandria, Virginia. She works as a consultant for clients from Fortune 500 corporations and nonprofit organizations. Mercedes serves as the interface between the clients and mainstream and Spanish-language media outlets as well as develops media strategy including message development and implementation plans that identifies the most effective way to reach targeted audiences nationally and/or locally. With more than 10 years of experience, Mercedes has developed strong regional, national and international relationships with reporters in the Spanish press. Mercedes served in the White House for President George W. Bush as a a spokesperson for Spanish-language media outlets in the United States, Spain and Latin America as well as worked with other specialty media outlets including religious press. In 2006 Mercedes hosted the Republican National Committee’s cutting-edge web show, In the Know, where she delivered current Republican news and interviewed Republican political leaders and policy makers for both Spanish and English audiences. In addition, Mercedes frequently participates in radio and television interviews as a political strategist and has recently appeared on Univision, Telemundo, CNN en Español and on Hannity’s America on FOX News.