JANUARY 14, 2010
The scandal-plagued majority leader of the New York State Senate used tax dollars earmarked to fund healthcare for the poor to enrich himself and advance his political career, according to the state’s Attorney General.
Bronx Democrat Pedro Espada illegally funneled money from his network of nonprofit health clinics to a for-profit business that enriched him and financed his political campaign, according to scathing court documents filed this week in New York Supreme Court. In the filing, state officials claim they have evidence that Espada financed his 2008 Senate campaign with the siphoned public funds and proof that he committed fraud and violations of state laws regulating elections, nonprofits and labor.
Espada has a shady past and long history of disregarding and violating election laws. In the mid 1990s he was punished for election fraud, in 2002 he was caught transferring state money to his clinics, which pay him more than $200,000 a year, and in 2004 several of his employees pleaded guilty to using clinic funds to finance Espada’s political campaign. Last year the legislator came under fire for creating a special senate job—that pays $120,000 a year—for one of his sons. The other son makes a chunk of change running the family’s taxpayer-funded clinics for the poor.
No wonder a local newspaper editorial calling for Espada’s ouster refers to the unscrupulous lawmaker as a taxpayer-fleecing, subpoena-ducking con artist. If Senate Democrats want any credibility as ethics reformers, the editorial says, they need to strip Espada of his lofty title and privileges. Otherwise, fellow Democrats are guilty of harboring a fugitive.
Espada, who has been dodging subpoenas and records requests for months, assures he’s done nothing wrong and is simply the victim of a “witch hunt” driven by political ambitions. He says the Attorney General is using the state’s highest-ranking Hispanic official (that would be him) as a personal political piñata.
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