By Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Washington
Published: March 27 2008 22:06 | Last updated: March 27 2008 22:06 THE FINANCIAL TIMES
The Democratic governor of Puerto Rico and 12 associates have been indicted for fraud and conspiracy as part of an alleged corruption scheme that spanned from the Commonwealth to Philadelphia, the justice department announced on Thursday.
Anibal Acevedo Vila, who is a former non-voting member of the House of Representatives, and a dozen business and political consultants were charged in a 27-count indictment that accused him of accepting illegal contributions for his campaigns in exchange for government contracts.
Mr Acevedo, who is up for re-election this year and had pledged to support Barack Obama as a super-delegate at the Democratic party convention, yesterday shrugged off the indictment, calling it a "a spectacle designed to damage me", according to the Associated Press.
The indictment alleges Mr Acevedo and others conspired to defraud the US government and violated campaign finance rules by accepting illegal and unreported political donations to pay off large and unreported debts.
The charges allege the def-endants sought to defraud the Puerto Rico Treasury of $7m by pledging to comply with public funding laws in Mr Acevedo's 2004 gubernatorial run. The laws required Mr Acevedo to report fully his contributions and expenditures in exchange for $7m of public funds.
The indictment alleges an unnamed media company created fake invoices for payments made by Mr Acevedo's "collaborators" to make it appear the payments were used for legitimate corporate purposes, when they were really part of a fundraising scheme.
Also ensnared in the indictment is Robert Feldman, a Philadelphia political consultant who served as Mr Acevedo's campaign finance chairman in 2002. Mr Feldman's relationship with another politician, Bob Casey, was highlighted in campaign advertisements by Senator Rick Santorum, his Republican rival, during the 2006 congressional election in Pennsylvania, in which Mr Casey defeated the conservative Republican.
The justice department hailed the indictment as proof that no politician was above the law.