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1199 union's Rivera plays role in Cuomo trip to Puerto Rico

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a group

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a group he says have experience in finance and health care depart Monday, Sept. 7, 2015, for a visit to financially strapped Puerto Rico. This is the governor's mansion in Old San Juan on June 29, 2015. Credit: AP / Ricardo Arduengo

As Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo departs Monday for Puerto Rico taking along a host of New York politicos and several health care professionals, state sources say Dennis Rivera advised him regarding the trip.

Rivera, 65, led the health care workers' union 1199 SEIU between 1998 and 2007 and has since remained politically active. To address the island territory's financial crisis, Rivera has joined with others to denounce a federal proposal to reduce health care funding.

Both Rivera and the union have been considered allies of Cuomo and of state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, who's also on the trip.

But as this type of relationship goes, no elected official has clearer links to 1199 SEIU than New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio -- who was conspicuously not invited by the governor, with whom he's been famously feuding.

Labor Day may be a good time for a governor to display cordiality with Rivera. But Cuomo also has drawn flak at home from his left. Activists denounced his campaign support from the heads of hedge funds with a stake in Puerto Rico debt.

In July, demonstrators gathered outside a $5,000-a-plate Cuomo fundraiser at hedge-fund billionaire Daniel Loeb's East Hampton home. The group Hedge Clippers denounced so-called vulture funds as "fueling Puerto Rico's bankruptcy."

Announcing the visit last week, Cuomo said, "This trip is about stepping up for Puerto Rico and its people, and I look forward to working together with our partners to help address this crisis."

While New York is home to the largest Puerto Rican population outside the commonwealth, the fiscal woes he cites are a national matter.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton visited late last week. Both she and GOP candidate Jeb Bush have called on Congress to allow Puerto Rico to declare bankruptcy under Chapter 9, which states can do.

Another presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) -- who also visited there last week -- said bankruptcy "should only be a measure of last resort [to be] considered if Puerto Rico takes significant steps to fix its budget and economic mess."

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