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David Rivera's Maraña Mandala (or how he mistakenly admitted he wanted to break the law)


MaranaIf there's a single Miami slang term to describe David Rivera's schemes, it's "maraña."

Literally meaning "tangle" or "thicket," it's also Cuban Spanish for something like "a complicated web of schemes." I heard it first from a Republican friend of the former Florida lawmaker and current congressional candidate when he off-handedly mentioned "David's marañas.” 

The diagram embedded in this blog gives an actual picture of what one looked like. It was submitted as evidence by the state Attorney General's Office in the Florida Commission on Ethics case against Rivera, where a judge found him "non credible" and motivated sometimes by "corrupt intent" as he double-billed taxpayers and his campaign for legislative travel.

If the diagram is confusing, well, that's the point. 

It's a tangled thicket, a web of schemes. 

It's David's Maraña, a type of scandal-plagued Miami politican Mandala, like the Tibetan Wheel of Life that shows the rounds of ego-driven existence. Rivera's case, according to the commission's attorney, was about  "concealment, cover up, more concealment, and a large measure of greed thrown in." (Greed, incidentally, is symbolized as a cock in the center of the Wheel of Life).

David Rivera's Maraña Mandala reflects the flow of money into and out of his account when he tried to show he was paying back a "contingent liability loan" package of $132,000. The money came from a gambling company, now Magic City Casino, for Rivera's consulting work in a successful 2005 Miami-Dade gaming referendum. Rivera insisted the money be paid through a company called Millennium Marketing, owned by his now-deceased mother and her friend.

That's a tangled thicket, I know.

But again, that's the point. It looks and sounds like what it is. It's a maraña. It's a big reason the Internal Revenue Service, after investigating Rivera, is expected not to bring charges for failing to pay income taxes on the gaming money.

By classifying the casino money as a "contingent liability" from Millennium Marketing, Rivera said the payment wasn't income and therefore didn't have to be listed on public disclosures for state legislators. Few believe him, including the judge in his ethics case, but there's not enough "clear and convincing" evidence to prove otherwise.

In an effort to show the gaming money derived from "loans," Rivera started to pay it back. But while doing so, he borrowed money from his mother and her friend.

“So an officer of Millennium Marketing gave him the money to give back to Millennium Marketing,” Kelly Kimsey, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement senior crime intelligence analyst supervisor, testified in the case.

“He did not have the money to repay those loans at the time. He had spent the money on his living expenses,” she said, underscoring that she thought the arrangement was bogus.

Rivera denied all this in testimony. He said he borrowed the money in case he needed it during his successful 2010 congressional race. A judge found Rivera non credible” testimony and displaying “corrupt intent” while breaking state ethics laws


In giving his defense, Rivera basically admitted he was planning to break federal campaign-finance law that would generally outlaw using such a loan.

Even Rivera, it seems, can get stuck in his own marañas.

Here's the column, which didn't use the above graphic because, well, it was too confusing. Thus David Rivera's Maraña Mandala is a special bonus of being a Naked Politics reader.