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Rep. Joe Garcia's campaign pays $25k bill to former adviser under state, FBI probes

@MarcACaputo

What's worse than firing your top political adviser and chief of staff amid a state elections-fraud investigation? Having to pay him $25,000 in invoices that appear once the FBI opens up a separate inquiry.

Welcome to Congressman Joe Garcia's world.

The Miami Democrat this morning reported he had a solid fundraising quarter, pulling in $411,000. But when his reports came online, this $25,000 expenditure stood out: Palm Media for "General Consulting." The company is controlled by Garcia's now-embattled former aide, Jeffrey Garcia (no relation).

The date he was paid: Sept. 13. Friday the 13th. It was also the start of Yom Kippur, so perhaps there's an atonement connection here.

The congressman's campaign adviser, Raul Martinez, Jr., said the unexpected bill was paid after it was sent by mail to the office.

"There were outstanding invoices and we had to honor them. This invoice was for services between January 2013 to May 2013. It was reviewed by our attorney and our campaign treasurer,"  Martinez said

Usually, a campaign has to pay its bills for the period when services are rendered. But what if it receives a bill afterward and if the guy once in charge of the books submits late bills after he's fired?

There's a chance Republican opponents might file a complaint just to find out. At the least, it would keep the story alive.

This isn't the first eye-catching bill from Palm Media. In July, the congressman's reports showed it was paid the same amount, $25,000, as a "campaign win bonus."

The National Republican Congressional Committee pointed out the expenditure with an almost-rhetorical headline: "Democrat Hush Money Over Voter Fraud Scandal in Florida?"

Expect that to be repeated. Perhaps without the question mark.

"Joe Garcia's conduct continues to disgrace and embarrass our community," Carlos Curbelo, a Republican challenger and Miami-Dade School board member said in an email after this blog was posted. "Why would he pay his former campaign manager, chief of staff, and roommate $50,000 since law enforcement authorities started investigating his campaign for potentially fraudulent activities?"

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