Puerto Rico Administration Voter Registration Fraud In IL... Top Hispanic Democrat Calls For Democracy For Puerto Rico… Congressional Hispanic Leader: Independence Or Statehood… Two Democratic Governors Of 24 Do Not Support Rossello

March 12, 2004
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Puerto Rico Administration Voter Registration Fraud In IL

Two employees of the administration of Puerto Rico Governor Sila Calderon ("commonwealth"/no national party) are being investigated by the Chicago, IL Board of Election Commissioners in what its chairman termed "one of the largest cases of fraud we have seen in many years."

He said the "massive" fraud resulted in an estimated 1,000-2,000 false voter registrations over a 17-month period.

The registrations were done using false names and addresses.

The fraudulent registrations were among 10,000 registrations between August 12, 2002 and January 29 of this year.

Most of the fraudulent registrations took place in Chicago’s 26th Ward, an area represented on the powerful Cook County Commission by Roberto Maldonado (D), who is of Puerto Rican origin.

Maldonado investigated the fraud and said he was "livid" about it. He found four new voters registered as living at his home -- although he lives alone. He also found 17 new voters were listed as living at what turned out to be a gas station "and four at a mechanic’s shop."

The fraud was revealed days before next Tuesday’s primary election in Illinois. Maldonado is not considered part of the political organization of U.S. Representative Luis Gutierrez, who is also of Puerto Rican heritage and who is a reliable supporter of Puerto Rico’s "commonwealth" party. Gutierrez has been consolidating power as a Hispanic leader in Chicago by taking sides in local Democratic Party election contests.

Two employees of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) are being investigated for the false registrations. PRFAA’s Chicago office director, Maddi Amill, was reportedly not available for comment.

A drive to register residents of the States of Puerto Rican origin to vote in the States is one of the Calderon Administration’s major initiatives. The drive reportedly spends $6 million a year of Puerto Rican government money in the States.

It has also employed top national Democratic and Republican Party political operatives.

The drive has also been controversial for reasons in addition to its cost and contracts. New York Democrats -- especially leaders of Puerto Rican and African origin -- were furious when Calderon launched the drive in New York with NY Governor George Pataki (R). Florida leaders of Puerto Rican origin were also repelled by the close ties between the Calderon Administration and some local Republicans in the drive. At the same time, in other instances the drive has been conducted with local Democrats.

One of Calderon’s top consultants in promoting the drive said that its primary purpose was to get President Bush’s political adviser, Karl Rove, to override the U.S. Treasury Department to support Calderon’s proposal that profits companies based in the States earn from manufacturing in the territory be 85-100% exempt from federal income taxation. The Treasury Department strongly opposed the proposal, as have the Senate Finance Committee and the chairman of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee.

Top Hispanic Democrat Calls For Democracy For Puerto Rico

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson declared in an official proclamation released last weekend that Puerto Rico deserves "a permanent status that would provide full representative democracy."

The proclamation called for a federal law that would enable the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico to determine the territory’s status from among "the non-territorial status options."

Richardson is the most prominent leader of Hispanic descent in the Democratic Party. His name is one of the most mentioned in speculation about the vice presidential running mate for Senator John Kerry, the presidential candidate.

The Hill, a newspaper for the congressional community, Tuesday rated Richardson as the third most likely Kerry pick for vice president. (Ahead of Richardson were Senator Evan Bayh, a former Indiana governor who remains a friend of former Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Rossello (statehood/D), and Senator John Edwards (NC), who challenged Kerry for the nomination.)

The New Mexico governor has already been chosen, however, to be the Chairman of the Democratic National Convention that will nominate Kerry.

Richardson’s proclamation stated that "the time has come, after 106 years as a territory, for Puerto Rico to attain full self-government." It recalled that New Mexico’s development from a territorial to a democratic status took 84 years and that New Mexico, like Puerto Rico, was acquired by the U.S. by war.

Hispanic democratic leader Richardson also noted that New Mexico’s "ascension to statehood" was "intertwined" with its "Hispanic heritage." The statement countered claims by some Puerto Rico nationalists and U.S. right-wing nativists that Puerto Rico is ineligible for statehood because of its Latin culture.

Richardson’s proclamation followed a ‘joint memorial’ to the Congress and the President that the New Mexico Legislature adopted a few weeks ago.

During the administration of former President Bill Clinton, Richardson served first as U.S. Representative to the United Nations and then as Secretary of Energy. He joined the Clinton Administration after serving in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The New Mexico governor dealt with the Puerto Rico status issue while in the House and when he headed the U.S. ‘Mission’ to the U.N.

Congressional Hispanic Leader: Independence Or Statehood

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX) last Friday said that Puerto Rico’s status choices should be independence and statehood.

Rodriguez termed Puerto Rico’s current status -- an unincorporated territory of the U.S. -- "a second-class type operation." He said that the status, popularly known by a word in the name of Puerto Rico’s local government as "Commonwealth -- should not be an option for Puerto Rico’s future status.

Rodriguez is the leader of the 20-member Hispanic House Democrats’ group. Hispanic Republicans in the House have their own organization.

Rodriguez made the statement during an Hispanic Caucus hearing on the treatment of protestors who broke onto the then U.S. Navy training range on the island of Vieques, PR in 2001. The caucus has no legislative power but advances Hispanic issues in the House. The purpose of the Vieques hearings are to explore whether the protestors’ rights were violated.

Rodriguez’s view is similar to that of the House’s leading member of Puerto Rican origin, Jose Serrano (D-NY), and Rodriguez’s remarks referred to a Serrano statement regarding Puerto Rico’s lack of national government power.

Until Puerto Rico attains first class status as a nation or a U.S. State, Rodriguez said, "We’re going to continue to have . . . difficulties" on various issues concerning Puerto Rico.

Rodriguez made clear that the choice between independence and U.S. Statehood should be made by Puerto Ricans but those statuses "should be the only two options . . . available."

"It’s not for me to say" which of the two democratic governing arrangements Puerto Ricans should choose, Rodriguez said, but he asserted that the U.S. should "not be supportive" of continued territory status being an option because it continues "a second-class type of operation."

Rodriguez made the statement days before winning a party primary election in a substantially new congressional district. Texas Republicans led by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay drew controversial new district lines that took effect this year. The goal was to increase the number of Texas’ seats in the U.S. House held by Republicans vs. Democrats.

Two Democratic Governors Of 24 Do Not Support Rossello

The congressional candidate of Puerto Rico’s "commonwealth" party announced Monday that the party had obtained letters from two Democratic governors stating that they did not support statehood party Democrat Pedro Rossello over "commonwealth" party Democrat Anibal Acevedo Vila for governor of the territory.

A couple of weeks earlier the 24-member Democratic Governor’s Association (DGA) announced its endorsement of Rossello. The announcement was made by DGA Chairman Tom Vilsack, the governor of Iowa.

News that the "commonwealth" party had obtained letters from two governors who did not support the Rossello endorsement was released by Senator Roberto Prats, who chairs Puerto Rico’s Democratic committee and is running on Acevedo’s ticket to replace him as Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner.

One of the governors not supporting Rossello, Rod Blagojevich (IL), wrote that he supported Acevedo’s candidacy. The other, Edward Rendell (PA), said he was interested in Acevedo’s candidacy.

Acevedo’s mentor in the U.S. House of Representatives, Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), is a close associate of Blagoevich’s. Both Blagojevich and Rendell are governors of States with hundreds of thousands of people of Puerto Rican origin. These constituents are, presumably, divided in their support of Puerto Rico’s political parties.

Blagojevich gave as a reason for supporting Acevedo supposed Acevedo "achievements" in the education of children. Acevedo has asked many of those in the States endorsing him to give education as a reason.

Acevedo’s purpose in making the requests is to obscure the fact that his predecessor is more responsible for the major development in federal education policy regarding Puerto Rico during his term than he is. The development was the decision to phase-in equal funding for Puerto Rico in education programs for children in low-income areas.

President Bill Clinton proposed the change in policy at the request of then Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero-Barcelo. At the time, Puerto Rico received funding under the programs at 72% of the funding provided in the States.

Equal funding proposed by Clinton and Romero is providing the territory with hundreds of millions of dollars a year in additional education funding.

Clinton proposing the equal funding in the extensive elementary and secondary schools reform bill that became law in 2001 was a major step towards the equal funding. Also instrumental in advancing the issue in Congress were Representatives George Miller (CA) and Dale Kildee (MI) and Senators Christopher Dodd (CT) and Edward Kennedy (MA), all leading Democrats on education issues. Critical support was provided by then Puerto Rico Governor Rossello.

Acevedo supported the Clinton-Romero initiative in 2001 and tried to claim it as his own. Among other things, Puerto Rico reporters revealed that he introduced legislation for the equal funding after leaders of the U.S. House and Senate on education issues had agreed to the funding. He was apparently trying to suggest that equal funding was his idea.

Acevedo also ignored Miller’s critical role in obtaining the funding until he was rebuked for doing so. Further, when Kildee noted that Romero was also substantially responsible for the equal funding, Acevedo’s top aide harshly criticized the veteran representative in speaking to Puerto Rico reporters.

DGA Chair Vilsack, who announced the DGA endorsement of Rossello, is another leading Democrat who is being mentioned as a potential running-mate for presidential candidate Kerry. Congressional newspaper The Hill pegged Vilsack as the seventh most-likely Democratic candidate. Ahead of him are Sens. Bayh and Edwards and Gov. Richardson, as noted earlier, and Rep. Richard Gephardt (MO), retired General Wesley Clark and Senator Bob Graham (FL).

Gephardt, Clark, and Graham have all taken strong positions in favor of Puerto Rico obtaining a Democratic status.

The "Washington Update" appears weekly.

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