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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Latino business advocate stung by misconduct claims resurfaces with ‘No Labels’

Javier Palomarez denied the accusations against him.

By Kate Kelly and Reid J. Epstein

No Labels, the centrist organization that is vying to gain ballot access for the 2024 presidential election, has joined forces with Javier Palomarez, an advocate of Hispanic-owned businesses with a history of allegations of workplace financial misconduct and sexual harassment.

In 2018, Palomarez stepped down from his job as CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce while facing accusations that he had padded his pay and had made an unwanted pass at his female chief of staff. He denied those allegations and later sued the chamber. He also sued one of the group’s former directors, saying that he had been sexually harassed. Both matters were ultimately settled out of court in 2019.

In an interview Tuesday evening, Palomarez said his departure from the Hispanic Chamber was a result of a witch hunt against him because he elected to work with instead of against the Trump administration. He said he “won the lawsuits” against his accusers, though he said the terms of the settlements remained confidential. He declined to reveal them. “All I can do is tell you I maintained my innocence then and I maintain it now,” he said.

Palomarez is a self-described Democrat who resigned from a diversity coalition convened by the Trump administration over its efforts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. He appears on cable news occasionally to criticize President Joe Biden on issues such as immigration and domestic energy production. He is also the founder and CEO of an advocacy organization with a mission similar to that of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, his former employer, and is now a volunteer leader at No Labels.

During a video meeting with No Labels followers on Tuesday evening, Palomarez spoke of the importance of engaging Hispanic voters as part of any presidential ticket.

“Our nation is at a transit point. Never before have we been so disillusioned by our elected officials and our leaders,” he said to the roughly 300 participants on the call. “One thing is clear: The Hispanic electorate will play a decisive role in the elections of 2024.”

Palomarez, who voted for Biden in 2020, said his role at No Labels would be as a conduit to the Hispanic community, which he said had been harmed by the Biden administration’s energy policies.

Feedback from No Labels supporters, he said, is that it would be better to replace Biden with a Republican.

“There’s a sense that this White House has lost touch,” he said. “From an economic perspective, a Republican would be better suited to run the country.”

But before the meeting with Palomarez, some invitees were privately fuming about his involvement.

“It was alarming to see his role in a big organization like No Labels, though clearly, No Labels lacks a lot of credibility when it comes to national politics,” said Maria Cardona, a Democratic strategist who was on the board of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce when Palomarez came under fire. “I hope he has changed.”

Nancy Jacobson, the No Labels CEO, said Tuesday that she wasn’t aware of the 2018 allegations against Palomarez.

No Labels, which is exploring the possibility of running a so-called presidential unity ticket that could include both a Republican and a Democrat, has qualified for the presidential ballot in 12 states. But its effort has stalled in others — a result of rules in some states that require new third-party organizations to have a candidate to secure ballot access.

Biden’s allies view No Labels as an existential threat because of the competition it could create for both votes and dollars. Democrats have broadly shunned No Labels, a result in part of a campaign from the group Third Way to keep top party members and donors from participating with the organization.

They may have reason for concern. On the call Tuesday, Neil Newhouse, a Republican pollster, said a survey he recently conducted for the Spanish-language news network Univision showed that independent presidential candidates Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Cornel West were pulling more support from Biden than they were from former President Donald Trump. Newhouse showed a slide that had Biden and Trump tied in a two-way race, but Trump ahead in a race with several other candidates on the ballot.

Jacobson has in recent weeks told potential donors that the group will name a Republican to lead its presidential ticket at a planned convention in April.

In 2021, three years after departing the commerce organization, Palomarez founded the U.S. Hispanic Business Council, whose stated mission is to “empower Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States by advocating for people and policies that support their advancement.”

Jacobson said that Palomarez was recommended highly to No Labels.

“Several people referred him to our organization as an extremely competent leader who could add value and perspective as a volunteer,” she said. Jacobson said Palomarez would not be paid. She added that he would be working with the No Labels co-chairs but did not say what his responsibilities would be.

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