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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

PDP to urge electoral comptroller to investigate illegal donations scheme in Pierluisi campaign

Popular Democratic Party Secretary General Ramón Luis Cruz Burgos

By The Star Staff

Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Secretary General Ramón Luis Cruz Burgos, and former legislator and PDP governing board member Luis Vega Ramos announced Sunday they will file a complaint with the Office of the Electoral Comptroller charging that the office now has the evidence it needs to investigate a scheme of illegal donations in Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia’s 2020 election campaign.

Vega Ramos previously asked the electoral comptroller to investigate allegations surrounding the Super PAC Salvemos a Puerto Rico (Save Puerto Rico) 2020 when the office was also investigating certain allegations related to campaign donations filed against former PDP gubernatorial candidate Charlie Delgado.

“When the public complaints were made in September 2020, the Office of the Electoral Comptroller dismissed them because the information did not come from a witness having personal knowledge of the fraudulent scheme of the coordinated campaign between the Super PAC ‘Save Puerto Rico’ and Pedro Pierluisi’s campaign,” Vega Ramos said. “Now the document filed by federal prosecutors, which includes the statement of Joseph ‘Joey’ Fuentes Fernández himself, admitting the fraud and who pleaded guilty last week, fulfills the requirement that the information comes from someone with personal knowledge of the events.”

Fuentes Fernández pleaded guilty recently to having rendered straw donations in the campaign. Cruz Burgos said documents clearly establish that there was coordination between Salvemos a Puerto Rico, and individuals linked to a significant Pierluisi associate and funder, Cruz Burgos said.

“Given these facts already admitted and presented in Federal Court, the Electoral Comptroller has the responsibility to investigate the matter again and confirm the identity of the persons identified in the federal document as the ‘elected official’ and the ‘individuals’ 1 and 2 directly linked to Pedro Pierluisi and his campaign,” Cruz Burgos continued. “To that end, the Electoral Comptroller must make a formal request to the federal prosecutor’s office so that they can inform him of the identity of these people and interview them, as well as summon Mr. Fuentes Fernández, the director of Mr. Pedro Pierluisi’s campaign and Mr. Pierluisi himself.”

The coordination would be illegal under Puerto Rico law.

On Sept. 18, 2020, less than two months before the general election, the electoral comptroller issued a determination in which, after acknowledging that he merely examined the records of the Department of State, and the files of the Pierluisi Committee in the Office of the Electoral Comptroller and those of Salvamos a Puerto Rico in the Federal Election Commission (FEC), dismissed a complaint against Pierluisi filed by the campaign of then-Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced. The electoral comptroller argued “lack of jurisdiction to address a complaint that deals mainly with a committee registered with the Federal Election Commission and since no evidence was found that constitutes a basis to maintain the complaint against the Pedro Pierluisi Committee.”

The determination of the electoral comptroller ended by saying: “Now, what is resolved in the provision of this Complaint does not constitute an impediment for the Election Comptroller Office to take the corresponding measures in accordance with Act 222 if it finds evidence of the occurrence of coordination, either through audits or during any other investigation that is initiated from authenticated documents and/or statements from persons with personal knowledge of facts that point to the coordination of expenses between any natural or legal person, whether or not registered as a committee, and a campaign committee.”

“The admission of guilt of Mr. Fuentes Fernández, together with the statement or ‘Information’ filed before the federal forum constitute the ‘evidence of the occurrence of coordination’ that the Electoral Comptroller spoke of in his 2020 determination,” Vega Ramos said. “In fact, they admit collecting funds until mid-November 2020. And the document confirms that Salvamos a Puerto Rico ran television, radio and internet ads against the PDP gubernatorial candidate. In light of these new revelations, the investigation must move forward because the requirement of personal knowledge is offered by the statement of Joseph ‘Joey’ Fuentes Fernández under oath before the Federal Court.”

The complaint was filed by former PDP electoral commissioners Guillermo San Antonio Acha and Gerardo A. Cruz Maldonado, and lawyer Gerardo de Jesús Annoni.

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