Sunday, June 28, 2009

'No activity' or brutal campaign by Pedro Espada, wonders election big

Sunday, June 28th 2009, 4:00 AM

Giancarli for News

Carlos Baez, 52, left and Eddie Baez, 50, worked on the campaign of State Senator Pedro Espada and claim Espada owes them $400.00.

When Bronx State Sen. Pedro Espada finally filed campaign finance disclosure forms with the state, he claimed he had "no activity" in his grueling bid for election last year.

But somebody spent big bucks on campaign literature and other materials with a common message: Vote Pedro!

Local voters say Espada sent dozens of mailings, took out ads in local newspapers, appeared on cable TV ads, held a fund-raiser in his Bedford Park co-op and hired campaign workers.

Espada, the turncoat Democrat whose disputed election as Senate president triggered government gridlock, had delayed filing disclosure forms for months.

He claimed a political action committee he'd set up showed everything he raised and spent, but state election officials said that was against the law.

Last week, they asked Albany County District Attorney David Soares to prosecute Espada as a scofflaw. Days later, Espada filed eight "no activity" reports.

"Espada ... has apparently cured the contempt order by filing statements, but that does not resolve the issue," Douglas Kellner, a lawyer on the state Board of Elections said. "There were obviously expenditures made and no committee has come forward disclosing [them]."

Kellner said neither Espada's nor the PAC's filings reflect what the public saw in last year's campaign to unseat Efrain Gonzalez.

"None of the typical expenses is there ... the costs of printing petitions, literature, ads," he said.

Gonzalez's allies estimate Espada spent between $100,000 and $200,000. The PAC reported contributions of $77,000 and expenditures of $15,000.

"The new filings appear to be just bogus," said one prominent election lawyer who did not wish to be identified.

Espada's lawyer, Daniel Pagano, insisted the PAC filings reflect everything raised and spent. He said it would have been wrong to transfer those contributions and expenditures to Espada personally.

"He did not run the campaign out of his pocket," Pagano said.

Eddie Baez, a former warehouse manager who was a patient in one of Espada's health clinics, disputed that. Baez said he was a volunteer in Espada's campaign headquarters the day before the election, when Espada asked him to hang flyers across the district.

"So I said, 'Who's paying for this?' and he said, 'Don't worry. I'll take care of you. I'll take good care of you. Just do this for me.'"

Baez said he and his brother worked 13 hours stapling posters in the north central Bronx.

"We filled my brother's Impala, the trunk and the back seat, with posters. We lit up the place. Jerome Ave. Walton St. 183rd St. I ran out of staples. We had to go back and make do with tape."

Baez soured on Espada after the senator's son, Pedro Gauthier Espada, promised to pay each man $250, but gave them just $100 each - in cash.

State law requires all cash expenditures over $50 to be reported. There are no filings on record indicating payments to Baez.

Nor are there expenditures reported in 2008 for the food given to voters who lined up in June to sign Espada's petitions.

There are no expenditures for legal fees to Pagano for the protracted court battle Gonzalez waged to try to get Espada disqualified on the grounds that he really lives in Mamaroneck.

Pagano said he was "paid something," but couldn't recall details. He said he thinks the PAC paid him but, "I'd have to go back and look."

There are no payments to printers for the posters in Baez's trunk.

Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo are investigating Espada's campaign finances to determine if he improperly used the resources of his nonprofit, the Soundview Healthclinics.

A Bronx grand jury has subpoenaed testimony and tapes from one of Gonzalez's campaign workers, Rafael Martínez Alequín, who took videos of Espada's food distribution and petition signing events.

Espada dismissed his latest problem as a "parsing of language" and more political attacks on him from foes.

"They've been raining political bombs on me for quite some time," he said. "But to target a nonprofit in such a fashion is reprehensible."

bross@nydailynews.com

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