02.28.2010 0

Aponte: A Loyalty Risk for Ambassador?

  • On: 03/08/2010 11:29:45
  • In: Appointments
  • By Richard McCarty

    President Obama made a terrible mistake nominating Mari Del Carmen Aponte to be ambassador to El Salvador. Aside from the fact that Aponte has given tens of thousands of dollars to Democrats, why would Obama waste more political capital trying to get this controversial and incompetent nominee into government?

    Nearly a dozen years ago, President Clinton nominated Aponte to be ambassador to the Dominican Republic. Several months later, her nomination was withdrawn because Aponte did not wish to answer Senators’ tough questions about her past.

    Aponte’s biggest problem was her eight-year relationship with Roberto Tamayo, a man who was friendly with and indisputably in regular contact with Cuban intelligence. Some have even called him a spy. Tamayo loaned Aponte money, which allegedly came from the Cuban intelligence service; and Aponte never repaid the loan.

    A Cuban defector once even asserted that Cuban intelligence wished to recruit Aponte. Of course, she denied any knowledge of Cuban intelligence efforts to recruit her.

    The FBI questioned Aponte about her contact with Cuban intelligence, and she gave somewhat inconsistent answers. The FBI then requested that she take a polygraph test, but she refused saying that she was not subject to a background check.

    These are hardly the actions of a trustworthy public servant who has nothing to hide. Over the objections of career personnel at the State Department, she received her top-secret security clearance—after all, she was a good friend of Hillary Clinton.

    Regardless of the truth about her dealings with her boyfriend and his connections to Cuban intelligence, Aponte would seem to have divided loyalties. Although she has experience serving as an ambassador, she previously represented the “country” of Puerto Rico in the United States.

    That’s right, from 2001 to 2004, Aponte served as the Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration. In this cabinet-level role, she represented the governor of Puerto Rico in the United States. It appears that she viewed herself as an ambassador to the United States. At an official gathering in 2003, she referred to Puerto Rico as a “country.” And this was no slip-of-the-tongue: several days later her office issued a press release calling her office building in D.C. an “embassy.”

    But even if we were to set these loyalty concerns aside, there are still plenty of troubling things about Aponte’s record. Her record conclusively shows her to be both radical and incompetent.

    She has served on the boards of the National Council of La Raza, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (now LatinoJustice PRLDEF), Democracia USA, and PODER PAC. La Raza (the Race) and LatinoJustice PRLDEF both advocate for rights for illegal immigrants, among other things.

    Democracia USA is a group founded by the radical People for the American Way. Like ACORN, Democracia USA has been accused of voter registration fraud. PODER PAC is a discriminatory group that only supports liberal, female, Hispanic Democrats. Fittingly, its slogan is “by Latinas, for Latinas.” This slogan is not far from the slogan of the blatantly racist group Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA), which is, “For The Race everything. Outside The Race nothing.”

    Aponte is also a member of the Belizean Grove, and she recommended Justice Sonia Sotomayor for membership. Of course, Sotomayor quit the females-only club before her Senate confirmation.

    But even if we set aside concerns about Aponte’s loyalty and her radicalism, she still has a disturbing record of incompetence. For example, she served on the board of the United Way of America as its president, Bill Aramony, lived a lavish lifestyle, and funneled United Way’s money to his family and cronies.

    What was the board’s reaction as the problems came to light? After an internal investigation, the board unanimously offered its support for Aramony and attributed the problems to sloppiness and inattention to detail. Ultimately, Aramony went to prison, and the lackadaisical board was shaken up after local chapters withheld their dues to the national organization.

    Aponte was a partner at a minority law firm that routinely changed its name partners—five times over the course of six years. At one point, the firm owed the IRS $1 million in back taxes. Eventually, the firm collapsed, and a creditor sued for $1 million claiming that the firm had filed fraudulent documents to obtain money.

    The business license of Aponte & Tsaknis, another firm at which she served as partner, was revoked. Aponte was the registered agent for the firm. Furthermore, she was managing partner of KJN/DC, an advertising firm, whose business license was also revoked.

    Finally, Aponte served as an unofficial advisor to the unpopular, one-term mayor of Washington, D.C., Sharon Pratt. Presumably, Aponte’s relationship with Pratt helped her land a seat on the board of the University of the District of Columbia. Throughout Aponte’s time on the board, the university was beset by problems.

    There is certainly enough in Aponte’s past for Senators to justify placing holds and demanding recorded roll call votes on this controversial nominee, whose radicalism on display, loyalty concerns, and incompetence are just another example of this Administration’s astounding arrogance.

    Richard McCarty is an assistant director of Research for Americans for Limited Government.

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