A nonprofit group founded by ex-New York SEIU boss Dennis Rivera has received big contributions from corporations that do business with the Puerto Rican government, while employing the governor’s brother as its only employee. This arrangement was reported today by Alana Goodman of the Washington Free Beacon, based on information provided by NLPC.
The charity, now known as “Sociedad Económica De Amigos del Pais,” was founded in New York in 1996 by Rivera and former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson as the Hispanic Education and Legal Fund (HELF). Its name change, relocation to Puerto Rico and change of mission raise additional red flags.
The nonprofit was already under scrutiny as a possible vehicle for political corruption.
On November 22, the New York Post ran a story, based on documents provided by NLPC, detailing how $1 million was routed from HELF to another foundation headed by Richardson. A whistleblower lawsuit, which has been joined by the State of New Mexico, alleges that the payment was a “kickback” to Richardson. The lawsuit seeks to recover funds for the state employee pension system.
The $1 million was a portion of $20 million in donations to HELF that were made during Richardson’s switch of management of the state’s pension system, with disastrous results.
From the Free Beacon story:
“Anytime a non-profit close to a political figure gets major funding from companies or individuals who can benefit from the actions of that politician, it raises ethical red flags,” said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center. “When the non-profit also employs a family member of the politician, the situation raises improper influence or pay-to-play issues. The public is entitled to complete transparency.”
The governor of Puerto Rico is Alejandro Garcia Padilla, whose administration is rife with corruption. His brother Antonio Garcia Padilla made $70,000 working for the nonprofit in 2014. According to a recent federal indictment, a Padilla fundraiser worked with another of Padilla’s brothers to place cronies in government positions in order to steer contracts to friends. (In the photo, Alejandro is on the left; Antonio on the right.)
Currently, Rivera is lobbying for a Puerto Rico bailout. He enjoyed some success recently when House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) agreed to provide $865 million in extra funding for Puerto Rico’s collapsing — and fraud riddled — Medicaid system, despite the overwhelming opposition of Congressional Republicans.
The money, part of the Omnibus at year-end, came at a good time for Padilla. He handed out $120 million in Christmas bonuses to Commonwealth employees, even though the island is in the grips of financial crisis, having trouble paying interest on its $70 billion debt.
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