Tags: Puerto | Rico | AG

Mystery Senator Blocks PR Corruption Probe

Monday, 22 Oct 2007 05:39 PM

By John Mercurio

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The Democratic-controlled Senate, which has chastised the Bush administration for politicizing the attorney general’s office, has placed a "secret hold" on the nomination of Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez as Puerto Rico's attorney general.

According to The Hill, the hold was placed on the Rodriguez-Velez nomination just before Congress passed the new Honest Leadership and Open Government Act. That act requires that the name of any senator blocking a legislative decision be disclosed to the public within six days.

Observers say the nomination, which was approved by a voice vote of the Senate Judiciary Committee, could remain in political limbo indefinitely.

Rodriguez-Velez has waged an intensive probe of Puerto Rico’s ruling Democratic Party. It is widely believed that an ally of Democrats targeted by her three-year corruption investigation has blocked her nomination.

Most of the speculation hovers around Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., a close ally of Anibal Acevedo-Vila, the Democratic governor of Puerto Rico who is under investigation for campaign finance irregularities in his 2000 campaign.

Acevedo-Vila faces a tough re-election fight in 2008 against the island’s nonvoting House delegate, Republican Luis Fortuno. Menendez and Acevedo-Vila served together in the House, where Acevedo-Vila strongly backed Menendez in 2003 to chair the House’s Democratic caucus.

“There are only so many Hispanic Democratic senators with close ties to Puerto Rico’s governor,” says a knowledgeable Democratic source, who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorized to discuss the Rodriguez-Velez nomination. “I would start by asking the Hispanic Democratic senator from the East Coast.”

A Menendez spokesperson declined to comment, saying it’s the senator’s policy not to discuss “secret holds.”

Another possible (although less likely) suspect: Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., who along with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., held up the nomination for one week in committee to investigate allegations against Rodriguez-Velez.

“We became aware of allegations that the nominee had continued the grand jury without seeking an indictment and had used it to leak damaging info about the governor,” says Kennedy spokeswoman Melissa Wagoner.

The two senators later withdrew their objection.

The White House, meanwhile, remains strongly supportive of the nomination.

“Rosa Emilia Rodriguez is a well-qualified nominee who has already been voted out of committee," a White House spokesman tells Newsmax, "and we hope the full Senate acts swiftly to confirm her."

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