Former U.S. Rep. David Rivera funneled at least $69,000 in secret campaign cash to a ringer candidate in the 2012 congressional election, says the Federal Election Commission — which wants the Republican ex-congressman to pay $486,000 in civil penalties.
The FEC sued Rivera in Miami federal court Friday, seeking the penalties over the unreported money Rivera and Ana Alliegro, a GOP political consultant, used five years ago to prop up straw candidate Justin Lamar Sternad against Joe Garcia in the Democratic primary. Garcia ultimately defeated Rivera in the 2012 general election.
“Rivera’s scheme involved concealing in-kind contributions by paying vendors mostly in cash to produce and distribute materials for Sternad’s campaign,” FEC attorney Sana Chaudhry wrote in the civil complaint against Rivera.
“Sternad’s disclosure reports failed to disclose the true source of the contributions, instead falsely stating that the contributions were loans from Sternad’s personal funds. Rivera took several measures to conceal his involvement and the source of the contributions.”
Sternad and Alliegro, whom Rivera used as his go-between, wound up with federal criminal convictions in the notorious illegal campaign-finance case. Rivera, however, has managed to avoid all criminal charges. The statute of limitations on criminal charges expires next month.
The FEC’s civil case, in the works since April 2013 but delayed until now, is the latest indication that Miami federal prosecutors, led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Mulvihill, are unwilling to criminally charge Rivera — even though U.S. District Judge Robert Scola took the extraordinary step of forcing Mulvihill to name Rivera as the target of his investigation back in 2014.
The FEC lawsuit was first reported by Politico Florida. The illicit campaign-finance scheme was revealed in 2012 by the Miami Herald.
Rivera, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing — or that he’s been investigated at all — could not be reached for comment Monday. His cellphone recording says he’s out of the country.
Rivera is now a 2018 candidate for Florida House District 105. Last year, he narrowly lost another state House bid.
Photo credit: Pedro Portal, el Nuevo Herald