Puerto Rico Gov. Arrested In City Hall Probe

BY JOHN SHIFFMAN OF THE INQUIRER Puerto Rico’s governor and four Philadelphians, including prominent fund-raiser Robert M. Feldman, were charged this morning in San Juan with federal campaign-finance related crimes.The investigation of Gov. Anibal Acevedo-Vila, a Democrat who faces re-election this year, was triggered by the FBI’s Philadelphia City Hall corruption probe in 2003.

Feldman, who raised more than $1 million for Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. and Gov. Rendell, was a former business partner of Ronald A. White, the late power-broker who was the lead defendant in the Philadelphia corruption case. In the Philadelphia case, Feldman was not charged. In San Juan, he was charged with one count of conspiracy to violate federal election laws.

Feldman and others from Philadelphia were charged with conspiring to help Acevedo-Vila evade federal election rules to raise more than $100,000 in campaign funds as a way of gaining access and “to further their business interests” in Puerto Rico.The indictment says that shortly after Feldman helped with a fund-raiser in Philadelphia in 2002, Acevedo-Vila contacted a Puerto Rico government agency to request a meeting on behalf of a company associated withCity_Hall.jpga Feldman. Authorities also say Acevedo-Vila set up a second meeting with an island housing agency on Feldman’s behalf in 2003.

The indictment says that it was Feldman who came up with the idea of skirting campaign-finance laws by funneling cash to Acevedo-Vila through others in Philadelphia and South Jersey. Feldman’s lawyer, Henry Hockeimer, said this morning in a statement: “Mr. Feldman did nothing wrong. We are shocked and disappointed that the U.S. Attorney in Puerto Rico included Mr. Feldman in one count of this 27-count, 13-defendant, politically-inspired indictment. We are very confident Mr. Feldman will be vindicated at trial.”

The case could have political ramifications beyond Philadelphia and San Juan. Acevedo-Vila has endorsed Sen. Barack Obama in the Puerto Rico primary, which holds the nation’s last primary on June 6.In addition, some of the governor’s allies in Congress have tried to link it to the national U.S. attorneys scandal, alleging a partisan investigation. The Justice Department has said it prosecutes crime where it finds it. MORE

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