03/28/2008 (6:00 am)
In what seems to be becoming a weekly event, another Democratic governor was indicted yesterday. Governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá of Puerto Rico and a dozen others were indicted for an alleged scam to bypass campaign finance limits. The specific charges included conspiracy to violate federal campaign law, conspiracy to defraud the IRS, wire fraud, filing a false tax return, and using campaign funds for a personal vacation.
Vilá immediately started beating the drum of the Bush Justice Department and its scheme to assault Democrats (another weekly event), with the help of McClatchy newspaper reporters, who reliably repeat Democrats’ talking points. There have been so many high-profile Democrats indicted lately that I started questioning the investigation pattern myself, but, no, this is actually part of a legitimate investigation that began in Philadelphia, back when I was living there. In 2004, Federal investigators indicted attorney Ronald White, a close associate of Mayor John Street, along with City Treasurer Corey Kemp and a dozen others for their role in a pay-for-play scam that ran Philadelphia with an iron fist. The investigation uncovered ties to Puerto Rico, as political fund-raisers in Philadelphia had met with Governor Vilá and made large contributions to his campaign, according to this story from the Philly Inquirer. Four Philadelphians were indicted yesterday along with Vilá, including Democratic financier Robert Feldman, who raised money for Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and Senator Robert Casey as well.
One of the interesting side notes on this story is that Vilá is a Superdelegate to the Democratic convention. So is Kwame Kilpatrick, Mayor of Detroit who was indicted earlier this week for perjury and obstruction of justice. So is Eliot Spitzer, New York governor who resigned a few weeks ago after an investigation of money laundering turned up his predilection for prostitutes. Think they’ll set up a penalty box for delegates visiting from the slammer?
Hot Air associates the story with Norman Hsu as another Democratic campaign scam, and also notes that this story ties yet another corrupt financier to Barack Obama (though it does not accuse Obama of doing anything wrong).
How badly will that hurt the Democrats? For one thing, it brings up the whole Norman Hsu story all over again. Hillary Clinton’s big fundraiser turned out to be a fraud, and now the Democrats have another crook. This follows on the heels of Eliot Spitzer’s hooker obsession and the misuse of public funds by his successor David Paterson. In terms of optics, the footage of Acevedo’s frog-march into federal custody will remind voters of the culture of corruption — and have the Democrats struggling to convince voters that they cleaned up politics.
It will impact Obama the worst, however. He loses a superdelegate in Acevedo, but more problematic, he has once again been associated with election crimes and corruption. He had just gotten past his Tony Rezko problem, and now the proximity of another money-launderer will call into question just how naive or worse the unvetted Obama may be.
It almost seems as though the willingness to engage in corruption is part of the requirement for rising in the Democratic party.
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