Superdelegate Watch: Puerto Rico governor indicted

Those Democratic governors are dropping like flies now. Federal prosecutors got indictments against Puerto Rico’s governor Anibal Acevedo Vila and a dozen of his associates for corruption charges stemming from fundraising operations and tax fraud. Acevedo also holds another position of note — Democratic superdelegate and Barack Obama endorser:

The governor of Puerto Rico and at least 12 others, including members of his campaign finance committee, were indicted in San Juan in the culmination of a three-year investigation into the governor’s campaign finances, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office on the island.

Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá is expected to be arrested Thursday and charged with six campaign related charges: conspiracy to violate election laws, making false statements, wire fraud, program fraud, conspiracy to defraud the IRS and filing a false tax return.

The 27-count indictment began with a long-running grand jury probe into how the governor funded his election to Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner, the nonvoting position in Congress he held prior to becoming governor.

According to U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia González, the governor and his allies in Puerto Rico and Philadelphia conspired to pay off campaign finance debt with fake invoices and straw contributions. The governor, she said, also used campaign funds to pay for family vacations to Miami, Orlando and Costa Rica.

Acevedo also used campaign funds to buy $57,000 worth of “luxury suits” and to send his children to China. But that’s only small potatoes in this indictment. Democratic moneyman Robert Feldman arranged for money laundering through Philadelphia and New Jersey, attempting to funnel cash to Acevedo illegally. Feldman, by the way, has been a big fundraiser for Democrats such as Sen. Robert Casey, Jr and Governor Ed Rendell.

How badly will that hurt the Democrats? For one thing, it brings up the whole Norman Hsu story all over again. Hillary Clinton’s big fundraiser turned out to be a fraud, and now the Democrats have another crook. This follows on the heels of Eliot Spitzer’s hooker obsession and the misuse of public funds by his successor David Paterson. In terms of optics, the footage of Acevedo’s frog-march into federal custody will remind voters of the culture of corruption — and have the Democrats struggling to convince voters that they cleaned up politics.

It will impact Obama the worst, however. He loses a superdelegate in Acevedo, but more problematic, he has once again been associated with election crimes and corruption. He had just gotten past his Tony Rezko problem, and now the proximity of another money-launderer will call into question just how naive or worse the unvetted Obama may be.