Acevedo DC Aide Continues To Throw Mud At Rossello… Another Acevedo Aide Tries To Claim Credit For Congressional Aid… Report Estimates Bill Would Grant Puerto Rico $69 Million… Young In Line To Chair Homeland Security Committee

June 3, 2005
Copyright © 2005 THE PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

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Acevedo DC Aide Continues to Throw Mud at Rossello

From 2001 through 2004, trying to connect now Puerto Rico Senator Pedro Rossello (statehood/D) to corruption while he was the territory’s governor was a major preoccupation of his successor, Sila Calderon ("commonwealth"/no national party), and now Governor and then Resident Commissioner in the States Anibal Acevedo Vila ("commonwealth"/D).

The main goal was to deal a fatal blow to the statehood movement that had surpassed "commonwealth" support in the territory and gained broad acceptance in Washington.

The more immediate objective was to win the 2004 elections (and the effort did help Acevedo squeeze past Rossello for the governorship).

The endeavor involved projecting guilt by association as much as it did investigations that never led anywhere. And the campaign was conducted in contacts with leaders in the States as well as in the news media in Puerto Rico.

Acevedo took it to the Floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Congressional Record and Calderon to congressional leaders -- including when she was lobbying for tax exemptions for manufacturers with operations in Puerto Rico to the surprise of the congressmen.

The campaign was also conducted on a day-to-day basis by Acevedo aides. One of their primary tactics was to send key congressional figures news articles on corruption while Rossello was governor, suggesting a Rossello involvement although there was none according to the U.S. Attorney in Puerto Rico. (A similar practice almost cost a young Puerto Rico ‘commonwealther’ on the staff of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, his job.)

This week, UPDATE learned from a House staffer that a top Acevedo aide in the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) headquarters in Washington has continued the activity. PRFAA is the Commonwealth government’s offices in the States. It is controlled by Acevedo as the territory’s governor but it is funded by all Commonwealth taxpayers.

Another Acevedo Aide Tries to Claim Credit for Congressional Aid

While his colleague was suggesting Rossello guilt by association, another Acevedo aide in Washington tried to claim unwarranted credit for PRFAA for assistance for the territory approved by a U.S. Senate committee May 26th.

The assistance would exempt Puerto Rico from a requirement that gasoline include renewable resources, such as ethanol made from corn, by 2012. The requirement would have required costly shipping of ethanol from the Midwestern U.S.

The provision is contained in a major energy policy bill approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The aide suggested that PRFAA lobbying led to the exemption. But the exemption also applies to the States of Alaska and Hawaii as well as to the other U.S. territories.

And there are senators from the two states on the committee, Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Akaka has been a champion of aid to territories.

The PRFAA aide also told reporters that the bill provided for the U.S. Energy Department to develop a plan to address the energy needs of the territories.

In fact, it would require the agency to update 1982 energy plans, required by a 1980 law.

And the requirement for updated plans by the Interior Department as well as the Energy Department was contained in a House version of the bill, which was passed by the House Resources Committee April 13th and by the full House April 21st -- a fact not noted by the PRFAA official.

Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner, Luis Fortuno (statehood/R), serves on the House committee. So do representatives from Alaska and Hawaii, Don Young (R-AK) and Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), and the delegates from three of the other U.S. territories, Democrats Eni Faleomavaega of American Samoa, Donna Christensen of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Madeleine Bordallo of Guam.

The House-passed bill would also authorize $5 million a year to improve the ability of electricity lines in U.S. territories to withstand hurricanes. The funds -- which would still have to be included in an appropriations (actual spending) bill -- would be for grants for up to 75 percent of the cost of line strengthening projects.

The energy plans would have the goal of reducing reliance on imported oil by 2012.

Report Estimates Bill Would Grant Puerto Rico $69 Million

The staff of the Congress’ Joint Taxation Committee Monday issued a report estimating that a tax provision in the surface transportation bill passed by the Senate May 17th would grant Puerto Rico and the U. S. Virgin Islands an additional $87 million.

Puerto Rico would receive about $69 million of the funds, about four-fifths of it during federal fiscal year 2006, which begins October 1st. The rest of the funds would be received in fiscal year 2007.

One-sixth of the grants to Puerto Rico are for the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust, which maintains historic and natural properties in the territory.

The funds would be an additional $3 per proof gallon of collections of the tax on rum produced in the territories and in foreign countries during calendar year 2006. Current law would grant the territories $10.50 per proof gallon of the $13.50 tax.

The surface transportation bill passed by the House does not include the funds or any of the other $11 billion in tax costs included in the Senate bill. The Bush Administration opposes the addition of the Senate tax provisions to the bill.

President Bush’s budget, however, proposed that the territories receive an additional $2.75 of the $3. This would have continued a series of temporary increases in the grants initiated by President Clinton. The initial reason for congressional approval of the temporary increases was to help Puerto Rico recover from a crippling hurricane and to fund the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust.

The temporary increases had been limited to $2.75 of the $3 because of Puerto Rico commonwealther claims that the territory was entitled to all of the collections.

Collections of the tax on Puerto Rican rum were originally granted to the territorial government soon after the United States took Puerto Rico from Spain. The purpose was to provide the territorial government with a source of revenue when it was an instrumentality of the federal government and before the territory had an economy and tax system to support the local government.

Collections of the tax on foreign rum were originally granted to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands two decades ago to prevent a feared reduction in the grants due to the Caribbean Basin Initiative’s elimination of customs duties on foreign rum. Territorial officials were concerned that the elimination of the duties would enable rum produced in Caribbean nations to take a greater proportion of the U.S. rum market at the expense of the territories’ rum.

Young in Line to Chair Homeland Security Committee

The possibility that Alaska’s Representative Young would chair the House’s new Homeland Security Committee opened up Thursday.

The possibility was created by Committee Chairman Christopher Cox (R-CA) accepting President George Bush’s nomination for him to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Commission’s current chairman Wednesday resigned effective the end of this month. Cox’s appointment has to be approved by the Senate.

Young is the next highest ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, putting him next in line for the chairmanship.

It is unclear, however, that Young will want to give up the chairmanship of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

As Chairman of the House Resources Committee, Young, who personally favors statehood for Puerto Rico, worked to enable Puerto Ricans to choose the territory’s ultimate political status -- a goal he recently said he will still actively support.

As Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Young has included ground transportation funding requests from Resident Commissioners Acevedo and Fortuno in transportation bills.

Cox is the second House Republican to accept a Bush Administration job this year. Earlier, Representative Rob Portman became U.S. Trade Representative.

The appointments are unlikely to diminish the Republican majority in the House, however. Cox was elected with 65 percent of the vote and Portman won his seat from Ohio with 72 percent.

The "Washington Update" appears weekly.

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