Who’s behind new effort to politically mobilize Dominican Americans?

One of the wealthiest and most powerful families in the Dominican Republic is backing a new effort in the United States aimed at encouraging Dominican…

New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat is running to replace Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.). Espaillat is one of the Dominican Americans running for high office. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

One of the wealthiest and most powerful families in the Dominican Republic is backing a new effort in the United States aimed at encouraging Dominican Americans to register to vote and become civically engaged.

The New York Times reported on Thursday that the Vicini family, who operates Grupo Vicini in the Dominican Republic, is partnering with other Dominican business leaders to fund the effort called Dominicanos USA. Together, they are expected to invest $3.5 million through 2016 in the effort.

SEE ALSO: New group mobilizes Dominican Americans to register and vote

Dominicanos USA announced Wednesday that it had registered more than 26,000 mostly Dominican American voters in New York City and in Providence, Rhode Island — two cities with large populations of Dominican Americans. The group plans to expand its efforts to other states in the future.

“As one of the fastest growing ethnic population in New York City and Providence, Rhode Island it made perfect sense to start our focus in these two places where our community has lived, worked, and thrived for years, yet has not fulfilled its civic and political potential to have a say in the city’s political and policy affairs,” stated Manuel Matos, a board member of Dominicanos USA.

According to The New York Times, the effort comes at a time when Dominican Americans are looking to become more active in U.S. politics. Several Dominican Americans are currently running for office in New York and Rhode Island.

In New York, Adriano Espaillat is vying to become the first Dominican-born member of Congress. He is running to replace Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), who has served 22 terms in the House of Representatives.

SEE ALSO: Adriano Espaillat could become the first Dominican in Congress

And in Rhode Island, Angel Taveras made history when he was elected as the first Dominican mayor of Providence in 2010. Now he is looking to become the first Latino governor of Rhode Island.

New York and Rhode Island are among the top five states with the largest populations of Dominican Americans.

Over the years, both states have seen an increase in the number of Dominican Americans who are eligible to vote. According to The New York Times, there were 357,000 Dominican Americans who were eligible to vote in New York in 2012, while in Rhode Island there were 14,000.

Pew Hispanic Research Center data shows there are about 1.5 million Dominican Americans currently living in the U.S. Dominican Americans are the fifth-largest Hispanic group in the country, accounting for 3.0 percent of the U.S. Hispanic population.

SEE ALSO: Mayor Taveras wants to become the first Latino Governor of RI