Contributions to Gallego’s electoral committee, between January and March, coincide with his two trips to the island. (AP) (semisquare-x3)
Contributions to Gallego’s electoral committee, between January and March, coincide with his two trips to the island. (AP)

Washington – Just as he is taking an active role in Puerto Rican affairs, particularly in favor of statehood, Democratic Congressman Rubén Gallego (Arizona) is also becoming an important fundraiser on the island.

According to data from the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), in the first quarter of 2019, Gallego obtained $24,721 in donations from residents of Puerto Rico.

Among members of the House Committee on Natural Resources – with primary jurisdiction over Puerto Rican affairs –, no one raised more money on the island in the first three months of this session.

While the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources ruled out the status debate and does not have a defined agenda on other island issues, in the House Committee on Natural Resources the attention is focused on PROMESA and the island’s recovery.

Contributions to Gallego’s electoral committee, between January and March, coincide with his two trips to the island.

The first trip was in early January, along with about three dozen representatives, and included meetings, an event of the Latino Victory Fund and the musical “Hamilton”.

In mid-March, he was part of the House Committee on Natural Resources delegation that visited the island to survey first-hand the recovery process and the effects of the austerity measures implemented by the Oversight Board, overseeing the public financial decisions and the island’s elected government.

Gallego – who considered, but later dismissed, running for the U.S. Senate –, has supported his Democratic colleague Darren Soto (Florida) statehood bill for Puerto Rico and has advocated to review the powers the Board.

The list of Gallego’s contributors includes pro-statehood supporters Andrés Guillemard ($2,500) and Kenneth McClintock, former Senate president, Politank lobbyist and spokesman for the pro-statehood group “Puerto Rico Equality Forum”- with $500. The owner of the Hermanos Meléndez Hospital, Richard Marchado ($2,700); investor Nicholas Prouty ($5,400) and Carlos López López, manager of the lobbying firm Wolf Popper ($1,000), traditionally associated with the Popular Democratic Party (PPD).

However, so far this term, no member of the House Committee on Natural Resources has raised more money on the island than Rep. Soto, except for Commissioner Jenniffer González. On March 28, Soto introduced a bill -unlikely to become law- to make Puerto Rico a U.S. state three months after the bill is signed by the President and without a federal referendum.

In the last legislative session, his first term in Congress, Soto received $68,250 from island residents.

Soto introduced the pro-statehood bill and issued a report on his agenda for Puerto Rico with recommendations to the Natural Resources Committee in four key areas: disaster relief, economic development, equal access to federal programs such as Medicaid and a review on PROMESA seeking debt reform and reviewing the powers of the Board.

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González is the only official co-sponsor of Soto's Bill 1965. However, Gallego, Democrat Jamie Raskin (Maryland) – who received $250 in contributions from McClintock–, and Republican Don Young (Alaska) have also publicly supported him.

Although Soto did not receive contributions from the island in the first quarter of this session, he did receive contributions from two Puerto Ricans in Washington D.C., Jennice Fuentes, from Fuentes Strategies ($500), and Federico de Jesús Febles, from FDJ Solutions ($250). Fuentes Strategies, who advised then-Cameral President Jaime Perelló, now helps the Board to reach the diaspora. De Jesús Febles was deputy director of the Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) and is now a senior advisor to the “Power4PuertoRico” coalition.

During the last legislative session, Soto's contributors included three statehood lobbyists from Politank: Francisco Domenech ($2,700), who was Commissioner González's campaign director; Kenneth McClintock ($1,751) and Elisa Muñoz López ($500).

So far in these first four months, among the Republicans at the Committee on Natural Resources, Rob Bishop (Utah) is the one who received the most donations from the island. During the last session, 2017 and 2018-, Bishop –minority spokesperson of the Committee he chaired until last December – raised $ 58,050.

Board Chairman José Carrión ($1,000), and other Republicans such as Zoraida Fonalledas ($ 3,000) and Jorge San Miguel ($1,000) are among his contributors.

In 2017, Bishop announced that this would be his last term in Congress, so his election committee has not raised money this year. However, according to Utah media, he has not ruled out running for the Republican nomination for governor of his state.

Puerto Rican Democrat Nydia Velázquez, who is also part of the Natural Resources Committee, received $7,850 in donations from island residents during the last Congress. Her committee has not received contributions from the island in 2019.

Last session, Velázquez's donors included the now Popular candidate for mayor of San Juan, Armando Valdés ($500), former PPD campaign director Irving Faccio ($1,000) and MCS Advantage health insurance president, Roberto Pando ($1,000).

Meanwhile, Republican Young is pro-statehood supporters oldest ally in Congress and in the Natural Resources Committee. His friends on the island sent him $6,700 during the last session. But, he has not raised money from island residents in the first three months of 2019.

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