Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Scandal-scarred state Sen. Pedro Espada demands federal probe of chief rival Gustavo Rivera

Tuesday, August 3rd 2010, 4:00 AM

State Sen. Pedro Espada will square off against Gustavo Rivera (below) in the Dem primary.
Hagen for News
State Sen. Pedro Espada will square off against Gustavo Rivera (below) in the Dem primary.

ALBANY - Here's a twist: State Sen. Pedro Espada is demanding a federal investigation.

The scandal-scarred Bronx state senator - the subject of several probes - has sent a letter to the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office claiming his chief Democratic primary rival, Gustavo Rivera, is getting illegal help.

The letter from Espada's election lawyer charges the political action committee of wealthy Democratic activist Bill Samuels has been improperly coordinating efforts with Rivera's campaign, the Working Families Party and another group.

Samuels has vowed to use his New Roosevelt Initiative PAC to spend at least $250,000 to oust Espada.

PACs can skirt normal campaign contributions limits as long as they do not directly contribute money to a campaign or coordinate with the campaign or a political party.

"These individuals and organizations, in direct coordination, have violated numerous state and federal laws," Espada's lawyer Daniel Pagano wrote in the letter, which does not point to much evidence.

The U.S. attorney's office declined to comment.

Samuels spokesman Doug Forand scoffed at Espada's claims. "It's a complete lie," Forand said.

Rivera campaign strategist Horacio Gutierrez called the letter a "desperate act by someone who knows he can't win the Sept. 14 primary."

There are two other candidates vying for the party's nod.

Working Families Party officials deny coordinating with the New Roosevelt Initiative but say they can work with Rivera's campaign because he is their nominee.

Espada is no stranger to investigations. State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office has filed a civil lawsuit charging that the senator siphoned for his personal and political use $14 million from the Bronx health clinics he founded.

The Brooklyn U.S. attorney and the IRS also are looking into Espada and his health clinics, and the Bronx district attorney is probing whether the senator actually lives in the district.

klovett@nydailynews.com

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