On Friday a jury quickly acquitted former Puerto Rican Governor Anibal Acevedo Vilá on all of nine counts of election funding violations. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:
The acquittal was a major blow to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the governor in an election year–likely contributing to his defeat in one of the most lopsided elections in Puerto Rican history. He had said the investigation was politically inspired. Authorities last year accused Acevedo Vilá, a Democrat, and 12 associates of participating in an illegal scheme to pay off more than $500,000 in campaign debts.
Among those charged were Acevedo Vilá’s former U.S. finance chairman, prominent Philadelphia fund-raiser Robert M. Feldman; Glen Mills dentist Cándido Negrón; Boothwyn executive Salvatore Avanzato Sr.; and Philadelphia businessman and lawyer Marvin I. Block.
Why would the Department of Justice under Bush (and Rove) have concerned itself with the governorship of Puerto Rico? Consider that over one million Puerto Ricans have immigrated to Florida and now live there, and that under the rules governing the commonwealth status, Puerto Ricans obtain full citizenship and voting rights when they reside on the mainland. These demographic trends have been troubling for the G.O.P. in Florida, particularly as the state’s growing Hispanic population steadily becomes both less Cuban and less Republican.
If the goal was to put Acevedo Vilá in prison, then the prosecution failed miserably. But if the goal was for him to lose an election, it worked. With a politically-inspired indictment seizing headlines all through the campaign season, Acevedo Vilá went down to defeat and Luis Guillermo Fortuño-Burset was elected as the first Republican governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Another election win for the G.O.P.–achieved almost entirely through the efforts of the Bush Justice Department.