Quid pro quo? Rodriquez says it’s 'fake news'
Did Sen. Dennis Rodriguez promise to support Gov. Eddie Calvo’s bond borrowing proposal in 2011 in exchange for getting tax-debt relief on behalf of his parents?
The question reemerged on Tuesday when an anonymous email sender leaked to local media organizations a thread of alleged email exchanges between Calvo and Rodriguez attempting to seal a quid pro quo arrangement.
Rodriguez, the youngest gubernatorial candidate running under the Democratic Party, dismissed the emails as “fake” and “fabricated.”
“Since day one after announcing my candidacy, I have been under attack,” he said. “It’s no secret that I am an anti-corruption candidate.”
Rodriguez is running against three other candidates — former governor Carl Gutierrez, Sen. Frank Aguon and Bank of Guam president and former senator Lourdes Leon Guerrero — for the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial nomination in the August primary. Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio is running unopposed on the Republican side.
“You would see why people were doing this,” he said. “I am an unusual candidate. I’ve never run for governor or lt. governor before. They all have. All my opponents can campaign on the high road but they know how to play in the sewer.”
Speculations about the alleged quid pro quo arrangement were first passed around in whisper in September 2011 at the height of legislative discussions on the governor’s proposal to borrow $343 million on the bond market. At about the same time, the senators’ parents, Dennis Rodriguez Sr. and Asuncion, were negotiating a settlement with the government for $2.7 million in unpaid taxes plus interest that the Department of Revenue and Taxation said they owed.
The anonymous email sender included an alleged email dated June 3, 2018, from Senator Rodriguez to attorney Tom Fisher seeking assistance on “privacy concerns” regarding “a string of emails correspondence with the governor.”
Fisher was the attorney for the Calvo-Tenorio campaign in 2010 and a former partner of Arthur Clark, who recently resigned as the governor’s chief policy advisor.
Attached to the anonymous email sender’s message is a PDF copy of alleged email communications between Calvo and Rodriguez from Sept. 6 to 14, 2011. The governor’s alleged emails were supposedly sent from his Yahoo address that had the governor’s official letterhead, while the senator’s emails were supposedly sent from “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Rodriguez noted that the “fake emails” each end with a signature that is not consistent with his own “distinct email signature.”
An email message from Calvo dated Sept. 6 read: “I hope the family is doing well. Someone from my office will be sending the bond measure we discussed earlier. I hope you get your support because our people need their taxes. Let me know your decision.”
Rodriguez’s reply reads: “Thank you again for meeting with me earlier. The family is doing good. I will look out for the bill and I hope you will consider my request.”
Calvo’s supposed reply read: “Thank you Senator, I will need to talk to our lawyers to see how we can help your family but your parents may well need to pay for something but a smaller amount.”
In an undated email, Rodriguez wrote, “I will consider your bill to pay our people their income taxes. I am asking you to reconsider my request to forgive the tax debt of my parents. The tax obligation has placed some stress on our family and I am willing to support any bill you may need me to support.”
The bond borrowing bill eventually passed. Rodriguez voted against the bill.
Meanwhile, the senators’ parents, who initially took DRT to court, settled their tax debt for $100,000 in a 2012 agreement opposed by the Attorney General’s Office.