OCTOBER 23, 2009
A veteran Illinois congressman embroiled in a big-city corruption scandal last year unscrupulously pressed the federal government to bail out a Puerto Rican bank operated by his wife and several major political donors.
Eight-term Democrat Luis Gutierrez conveniently omitted his longtime close ties to the failing Banco Popular when he directed the Treasury Department to save it, claiming it was a special case in need of an urgent rescue. In a letter to the nation’s Treasury Secretary Gutierrez said it’s in the best interest of the U.S. government and Puerto Rico that the failing bank continues providing services to maintain a safe and sound financial system.
He actually tells the Treasury Secretary that helping Banco Popular is of “utmost importance” to 4 million American citizens in Puerto Rico and minority communities across the country. The once-secret correspondence was obtained, under the Freedom of Information Act, by a news publication dedicated to covering Capitol Hill.
Thanks to Gutierrez’s intervention, the government gave the Puerto Rican bank $935 million although it continues to struggle, losing $361 million in the last nine months, according to the newspaper that broke the story. In ardently advocating for the taxpayer bailout, Gutierrez never mentions his close association with Banco Popular or that his wife, Soraida, was a senior vice president at the problematic financial institution. He also leaves out that bank executives have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to his political campaigns.
Last year Gutierrez was embroiled in another scandal involving a political donor who benefitted from his influence in obtaining suspicious zoning changes in Chicago. Gutierrez heavily lobbied the city’s mayor to back a controversial multi million-dollar development for a campaign donor who had just given him $200,000.
Earlier this week the popular legislator, who chairs a key congressional immigration task force, offered a sneak preview of the “compassionate” and “comprehensive” law the Obama Administration is having him craft to legalize the nation’s estimated 12 million undocumented aliens. Long an advocate of illegal immigrants, Gutierrez wants them to have a pathway to citizenship, guaranteed humane treatment in U.S. prisons and discounted tuition at public colleges and universities.
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