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Acevedo Vila: Will He Plead The Fifth Amendment?


October 7, 2004
Copyright © 2004 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

There’s an old saying that "people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones." Apparently, Anibal Acevedo Vila, the gubernatorial candidate for the Popular Democratic Party, isn’t heeding that advice.

In the recent gubernatorial debate, he repeatedly accused Pedro Rossello of misdeeds and of violating the law, and he further kept insisting that Pedro Rossello either knew about all the illegal financial activities in his administration or was otherwise inept.

Acevedo Vila doesn’t have the moral authority to make those charges. He is, undoubtedly, one of the biggest liars and violators of the law that our political system has ever produced.

As far as being a liar, the U.S. District Court in Puerto Rico declared as much in a judgment in which he was publicly chastised for making and insisting on maintaining false and malicious accusations against me in the Federal Election Commission (FEC) during the 2000 campaign. He is a habitual violator of the law and obviously has gained a lot of experience in how to lie in public, to the press, and to the people, without batting an eyelash.

In violation of federal and local campaign laws, he received $20,000 from Dr. Machado for campaign purposes and deposited the money in his own personal account, which he kept with his sister. At the time he did this, he was the minority floor leader of the Popular Democratic Party in the House of Representatives. It wasn’t until the fact became public knowledge four (4) years after he received the money, deposited it in his personal account, and disposed of it as he saw fit that he decided he had misused the money and, as president of the Popular Democratic Party, ordered the party to give Dr. Machado a check for $20,000 without interest.

The receipt of the donation by Acevedo Vila was illegal. The payment of $20,000 to Dr. Machado was also an illegal donation by the Popular Democratic Party to Acevedo Vila, because it wasn’t the party that had illegally received the money; it was he personally.

The $20,000 Acevedo Vila deposited in his own personal account wasn’t reported as income in his income tax returns for 2000. He is, therefore, also guilty of a violation of the income tax law, which is punishable by imprisonment.

Acevedo Vila also received from Dr. Machado $10,000 for the Popular Democratic Party, in violation of the electoral law. He also committed a crime by receiving $7,000 in cash from Tommy Habibe, who publicly informed the governor of Puerto Rico of this fact, which was never investigated by the Department of Justice.

Acevedo Vila also transferred $70,000 from his federal campaign fund to his gubernatorial campaign, without identifying the donors of the $70,000, which is a violation of the Puerto Rico Electoral Law.

Worst of all, he has raised almost $500,000 through fund-raising activities in several states of the union and Washington, D.C., particularly in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

I analyzed all of the information received and also downloaded the donation list filed by his campaign in the FEC, and the facts demonstrate that something is definitely rotten in Denmark. Although Acevedo Vila is hardly known in stateside circles, he has raised almost half a million dollars in less than two (2) years. I was a member of Congress for eight (8) years and managed to raise only $83,000 in the States. I was able to raise only about $10,000 per year, even though I had been mayor of San Juan for eight (8) years, president of the National League of Cities, governor of Puerto Rico for eight (8) years, and president of the Southern Governor’s Conference and had many more friends and important contacts on the mainland than Acevedo Vila.

During the fund-raisers my campaign held in the States, I found that those they approached weren’t very eager, or willing, to contribute to the election of a nonvoting member of Congress.

Upon examination of the donors list to the Acevedo Vila campaign, we discovered that each of the stateside donors gave no less than $2,000, and some gave as much as $7,000. Not a single one gave in the hundreds. In Puerto Rico, the majority of the donors listed donated in the hundreds and not in the thousands.

The largest number of donors from the mainland, 36 out of the 38 listed, was from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Of the two who weren’t from Pennsylvania or New Jersey, William R. Howell, an executive of Image from Rockville Centre, N.Y., donated $2,500 and William Wood, a retiree from Lubbock, Texas, donated $6,000. In total, these two and the 36 from Pennsylvania and New Jersey donated $180,000, which, according to the FEC records, was deposited in Acevedo Vila’s campaign fund.

The first question that comes to mind is why all these people from New Jersey and Pennsylvania contributed thousands and thousands of dollars to Acevedo Vila, who was a nonvoting member of Congress? Why were they so interested in his being re-elected?

Upon further examination of the little information we have of these contributors, we find that most of the contributors from New Jersey and Philadelphia are owners, officials, professionals, or employees of dental-service companies. The majority of the donations were made in groups on the same date, which obviously indicates that someone was organizing these fund-raising activities. Why would employees, officials, and owners of dental-service companies in Pennsylvania and New Jersey be donating such large amounts to Acevedo Vila? Was there quid pro quo?

The question of whether there was quid pro quo in the fund raising becomes more important when we discover that the most successful mainland fund-raisers for Acevedo Vila, Robert Feldman and others, were also involved in fund-raising activities for Gov. James McGreevey of New Jersey and Mayor John Street of Philadelphia.

At the time I write this column, there are ongoing investigations in New Jersey and Philadelphia in a statewide and City Hall scandal, which has been called "pay to play." In other words, some of the contributors to those campaigns were offered and have allegedly obtained contracts in the city of Philadelphia and in the state of New Jersey as payment for their contributions.

As we take a look at the list of donors, some are very obvious examples of fishy donations, such as a donation of $5,000 by Gracy Champy, a secretary in Dental One Services, and a donation of $7,000 by a supervisor in Dental One, Kim McNally. The chairman of Dental One, Salvatore Avanzato, donated $5K, and his wife, Filiz Tiryaki Avanzato, chief financial officer of Dental One, also donated $5K.

In other words, a secretary and a supervisor donated $12K, while the owners of the dental-service business donated $10K, which is $2K less than their own employees.

Ken Goldenberg, partner of Water Tower Square, donated $7K, and Robert Goldenberg, partner of Water Tower Square, donated $4,500. Robert Feldman, who together with Candido Negron was, reportedly, finance co-chairman and a fund-raising organizer for Acevedo Vila stateside, donated $5,000.

By "coincidence," Feldman was also a prominent campaign fund-raiser for Mayor Street and Gov. McGreevey. It is precisely in New Jersey and Pennsylvania where the fund-raising activities are being investigated as allegedly associated with a "pay to play" scheme to give city and/or state contracts to generous fund-raisers.

There are strong indications that several people contributed money through others, in order to cover up violations of contribution limits in the federal election laws. The information available is more than sufficient to warrant an investigation into illegal money-laundering activities and other violations of the Racketeering Act. As I have informed the federal authorities, there is at least one witness who is willing to testify. And he has a lot of information. If other donors are offered immunity, I am sure they will testify. However, Acevedo Vila will undoubtedly invoke the Fifth Amendment.

Whether violations of the law were committed is a question that should be answered after a thorough and careful investigation. In the meantime, Acevedo Vila refuses to answer why these dental-service employees, who don’t know him at all or hardly know him, donated so much money to his campaign.

Carlos Romero Barcelo is a two-term former governor of Puerto Rico (1977-84), a two-term former resident commissioner (1993-2000), and a two-term former mayor of San Juan (1969-78). He was president of the New Progressive Party for 11 years.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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