Official Linked to Criminal AIDS Funds Embezzlement Rewarded with Top Gore 2000 Appointment
Recipient of Embezzled Federal AIDS Funds Chairs Gore 2000 in Puerto Rico
(WASHINGTON, DC) – The embattled Governor Pedro Rossello of Puerto Rico is at the center of a growing scandal involving over one million dollars in federally appropriated AIDS funding which was criminally embezzled and funneled into his own campaign coffers.
At the same time investigators were uncovering more details of the political embezzlement scheme and seeking to prosecute key figures, Vice President Al Gore (D) appointed Rossello chairman of the Gore 2000 presidential campaign in Puerto Rico, which brought criticism from the island's gay and AIDS communities.
"What is Al Gore thinking when he finds someone who received illegal campaign funds stolen from a federal AIDS program and rewards him with a top campaign appointment?" said Richard Tafel, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans. "The Vice President should be calling for his resignation, not giving him a promotion."
Between 1990 and 1994, $6.8 million in federal Ryan White CARE Act funding was sent to Advanced Community Health Service, a clinic in San Juan. Investigators found that at least $1.4 million was embezzled, some of which ended up in the political accounts of Rossello's New Progressive Party. Court testimony revealed that on one occasion, $200,000 in cash was hand-delivered in a cardboard box to top Rossello ally, Jose Granados Navedo, former Vice President of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives.
As the investigations continue to unfold, more figures closer and closer to Rossello have been implicated. Among those apprehended and tried so far include Rossello's health care advisor Yamil Kouri, who was convicted on 17 criminal counts including conspiracy, theft of federal funding grants, and money laundering. In October 1999, top New Progressive Party activist Luis Dubon, whose family owns the headquarters of the party, will be tried, and new information is expected to be revealed as a top aide to Dubon is cooperating with prosecutors.
"At a time where Congress has been funding AIDS care programs at millions of dollars above the Clinton-Gore administration's own budget requests in order to meet the escalating need, this scandal and the Gore campaign's involvement is a troubling moral statement about the Vice President's real priorities," Tafel said. "I hope every gay and AIDS organization will join us in denouncing this decision by Al Gore to reward the New Progressive Party for its criminal actions. The AIDS community of San Juan needs to hear our voices in support of their call for justice. Stealing money from people with AIDS and lining your campaign accounts cannot be rewarded."
"AIDS activists and the Republican Congress have succeeded together in increasing federal AIDS funding over the Clinton-Gore budget requests each year because we've made the case that the money is spent well and gets to those in need," Tafel said. "Criminal misuse of these federal funds, like in this scandal, undermines our efforts and every AIDS organization and Al Gore himself should condemn it, not reward it."