A Washington government watchdog group is urging U.S. House leaders to ask for Rep. David Rivera to step down, following the end of a state investigation into Rivera's personal and campaign finances.
Though the probe concluded this week without any criminal charges filed against Rivera, a Miami Republican, the nonpartisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, noted that prosecutors cited ambiguities in state law and the statute of limitations as reasons why they could not charge the first-term congressman.
"Reports from the Florida State Attorney and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) make clear that the only things bigger than David Rivera's acts of corruption are the loopholes in Florida law that let him get away with it," CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a strongly worded statement. "House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor pledged zero tolerance for ethics violations. This is their chance to prove it. By no measure should David Rivera be a member of the House of Representatives."
Rivera has had tough words himself for prosecutors, calling the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office investigation closeout memo "outrageous and libelous." He has also suggested he may pursue legal action against the state attorney's office.
Read CREW's full press release after the jump.
CREW CALLS ON HOUSE LEADERSHIP TO DEMAND REP. RIVERA’S RESIGNATION
Washington, D.C. – Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) today called on the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives to demand the resignation of Rep. David Rivera (R-FL).
“Reports from the Florida State Attorney and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) make clear that the only things bigger than David Rivera’s acts of corruption are the loopholes in Florida law that let him get away with it,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor pledged zero tolerance for ethics violations. This is their chance to prove it. By no measure should David Rivera be a member of the House of Representatives.”
In her report, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle aptly summed up Rivera’s behavior when she wrote that “…we have been confronted with the fact that an elected official, over a period of many years, may essentially live off a combination of [campaign] contributions … and indirect payments made as consideration for efforts as a political strategist while avoiding penal sanction.”
Last year, CREW included Rep. Rivera in its annual report on the most corrupt members of Congress.
But now, the title of the most corrupt no longer is in dispute. “It’s David Rivera,” Sloan said. “His conduct is far worse than carrying on an affair or posing with your shirt off,” referring to former Reps. Mark Souder (R-IN) and Chris Lee (R-NY) who were forced to resign as a result of those transgressions. In contrast, said Sloan, “David Rivera lived as a campaign finance welfare queen, sponging off contributors and taxpayers. Fortunately, he remains under investigation by the FBI and the IRS.”
The fact that Rep. Rivera is claiming these two reports exonerate him is outrageous. Among the findings in the Florida reports:
Rep. Rivera set up a phony corporation, Millennium Marketing, to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments from Flagler Dog Track for his efforts in support of a referendum to allow casino-style slot machines at places like dog tracks. At the same time, then- state Rep. Rivera was voting on legislation directly affecting the dog track.
The FDLE concluded that “the sole purpose” of Millennium Marketing was to funnel money from the track to Rep. Rivera. FDLE also found that Rep. Rivera went to great lengths to hide the sources of his income. The report concludes that “Mr. Rivera purposely falsified his financial disclosure forms…” and “attempted to disguise compensation received from the pari-mutual industry and fabricated the source of that income…”
Rep. Rivera claimed the payments were merely loans. He produced copies of alleged promissory notes. But the originals were “lost” and the computer on which they were written was “discarded” – so there is no way to determine if the notes are real or produced after-the-fact to hide the true purpose of the payments.
Then there is the matter of Rep. Rivera’s use of campaign funds as a personal piggy bank. The FDLE “identified a pattern of activity in which Mr. Rivera was utilizing funds collected during his political campaigns to defray personal expenses not related to campaign activity.”
Rep. Rivera’s explanation, according to the state attorney, is that he spent virtually every waking moment running for some office or other and therefore almost anything he did was a campaign expense. The “reasoning” extended beyond his own expenses. According to the state attorney, Rep. Rivera explained that “as a single man running as a political conservative, it was necessary for him to appear at campaign related events with a female escort…” Therefore, he claims, the escort’s expenses also could be reimbursed with campaign funds.
But sometimes, for Rep. Rivera, being reimbursed once was not enough. The FDLE found that he used campaign funds to pay himself nearly $30,000 for legislative expenses already reimbursed by Florida taxpayers.
“David Rivera has cheated his campaign contributors, flouted the norms of common decency and ripped off hard-working Florida taxpayers,” Sloan said. “We call upon Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor to act where the FDLE and the state attorney could not.”