May 15, 2016

Carlos Curbelo cut David Rivera a check in 2012 but says he didn't end up voting for him

@PatriciaMazzei

Carlos Curbelo admitted to a Miami radio station recently that he didn't vote in the 2012 congressional election between then-incumbent Republican Rep. David Rivera and Democratic challenger Joe Garcia.

“When it became apparent that both those campaigns had been involved in unethical and illegal activities — because people went to jail from both campaigns — I did not vote in that election,” he told WIOD, as we reported in our story about Curbelo's political future.

Rivera is now running for the Florida House of Representatives. Garcia, who won the 2012 election and then lost to Curbelo in 2014, is running in the Democratic primary to try to oust Curbelo in November.

Curbelo may not have voted for Rivera, his fellow Republican, in 2012. But he did give him a financial contribution: $1,000 on June 29 of that year, campaign records show. The donation came before the Miami Herald revealed suspicious ties between Rivera and a ringer Democratic candidate.

But even before then, Rivera had found himself on shaky legal and ethical ground. Earlier Herald reporting led to a 2010 state investigation into Rivera's questionable use of campaign finances. Those investigations ended without charges in April 2012, a few months before Curbelo wrote his check. (A pair of separate investigations by the FBI and IRS appeared to be ongoing at the time but never went anywhere.)

So why back Rivera despite his prior troubles -- but then not vote for him?

"Once it became clear that the campaign had recruited and illegally financed a straw candidate, I no longer felt comfortable being supportive," Curbelo told the Herald in an email Saturday. "At first I figured it would be better to support him against Joe Garcia who had always shown a penchant for dishonesty, nastiness, and manipulation. Later we discovered that in fact Garcia pioneered the concept of attempting to rig elections by using straw candidates. It's all disgusting."

April 20, 2016

A GOP battle royale in South Dade: Lynda Bell vs. David Rivera

@PatriciaMazzei

Setting up a South Florida Republican battle royale, former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Lynda Bell plans to run for a Florida House of Representatives seat -- against former U.S. Rep. David Rivera.

Bell, who announced her candidacy late Tuesday at a meeting of the Old Cutler Republican Women's Club, told the Miami Herald on Wednesday that she looked at two open House seats in South Dade before settling on District 118, which includes neighborhoods she represented in her four-year term on the commission

"I'm not here to beat up on David Rivera, but I know I served 10 years in office, and I feel like I have a lot to offer," said Bell, who previously served as Homestead mayor. "I've accomplished very, very much."

Bell doesn't live in the district, which extends from West Miami-Dade to Richmond Heights, but said she'd move there by Election Day, as required by law. She thought about running in neighboring District 114 -- also not her home district -- but said she didn't want to challenge one of the Republicans already running, John Couriel, whom she called "a really great guy."

Neither of her choices was ideal: Both districts are heavily Hispanic, especially among likely Republican primary voters. Bell's long-shot bid might be based on the idea that other Hispanic Republicans could split the vote to her benefit, given her name recognition, but winning probably won't be easy.

More here.

March 16, 2016

David Rivera says he's filed to run again for Florida House

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@PatriciaMazzei

Now that his friend Marco Rubio is out of the Republican presidential race, former U.S. Rep. David Rivera plans to formally get back into politics.

Rivera emailed supporters Wednesday, the day after Rubio’s candidacy ended, to say he’s filed to run for the Florida House of Representatives, where Rivera began his political career.

“Exciting News!” read the subject line for the email, sent from Rivera’s personal Comcast account. “Today I launched my candidacy for the Florida House of Representatives in District 118!”

Florida’s Division of Elections didn’t show any Rivera paperwork Wednesday night, though there is sometimes a lag in when documents get posted.

The former congressman first revealed his plans to try to return to the Florida Legislature back in 2014. On Election Day that year, he showed up at at least one Southwest Miami-Dade County precinct to collect petition signatures to qualify for the 2016 ballot.

In his email Wednesday, Rivera bragged that the “best part” about his new candidacy is, “I have already gathered nearly 2,000 petition signatures from voters within the district who want me to serve as their representative in Tallahassee.”

More here.

March 10, 2016

David Rivera's ex-con ex-girlfriend says she called cops on him

via @ChuckRabin

Add another strange episode to one of South Florida’s longest running political soap operas:

Ana Alliegro, an ex-con who admitted to breaking campaign-finance laws, told police that former U.S. Rep. David Rivera, the suspected mastermind behind the scheme that landed her in jail two years ago, fell asleep at her home two weeks ago. And when he was asked to leave, she said the ex-congressman and state representative from Miami grabbed her arm and took her cell phone camera.

She called the cops. When they arrived, Rivera wasn’t there.

“He didn’t beat me up or anything,” she said during a telephone interview Thursday from her Miami home. “It was simple assault.”

But Rivera, still under the cloud of a federal investigation into his involvement in the 2012 scandal, flatly denies the encounter ever took place. He said he was in Tallahassee when Alliegro claims he stalked her — and that she threatened suicide if he didn’t drive down to Miami to see her.

“After my conversations with state and federal law enforcement officials, I have no doubt she will be prosecuted for perjury and filing a false police report and sent back to prison for committing a felony while on probation,” Rivera said in an email.

More here.

February 03, 2016

Marco Rubio's friend David Rivera traveled to Iowa for caucuses

Unnamed

@PatriciaMazzei

Marco Rubio has kept David Rivera, his longtime friend and former Miami congressman who is under investigation by the feds, at a distance as he runs for president.

But Rivera hasn’t kept a distance from Rubio’s presidential bid.

Rivera traveled to Iowa ahead of Monday’s caucuses, visiting the eastern portion of the state and at meeting with other Rubio friends and volunteers to watch the results Monday night.

One of them posted a photograph of Rivera and three others posing at a Hooters restaurant in Davenport. In the picture, Rivera is giving a thumbs-up.

Dana Hudson, a Washington lobbyist and Rubio backer, posted the photo on Facebook. She appeared next to Rivera, along with Miami pollster Dario Moreno and Rafael “Ralph” Perez, a former aide to then-state Rep. Rubio. (Perez is also giving a thumbs-up.)

Hudson declined to comment. Perez told a reporter he hadn’t seen the photo. Rivera did not respond to a request for comment.

Moreno said he and Perez volunteered for Rubio’s campaign, knocking on voters’ doors and telephoning them, but Rivera did not participate in those activities.

“David was just, you know, watching the returns, kind of staying away from the campaigns,” Moreno said. “He wasn’t connected to the campaign – I know for a fact he wasn’t. He was sort of doing stuff on his own.”

“Everybody was out there – I mean, half of Florida was in Iowa,” Moreno added. “At least half of the Republican part of Florida.”

Rubio spokesman Alex Conant said he didn't know why Rivera was around. "We didn't see him," he said.

In the past, Rubio’s aides, aware of the negative publicity surrounding Rivera, have been adamant that the ex-congressman has had no involvement in their effort. He showed up at the first GOP debate in Cleveland last August, and then at a debate in Madison, Wisconsin, last November. Both times, Rubio’s team insisted it hadn’t given the ex-congressman tickets. Rivera credited his access to the many political friends he’s cultivated over the years.

The former congressman has been the target of a federal criminal investigation in Miami into an illegal campaign-finance scheme that secretly financed a ringer Democratic candidate in 2012. He served in the Florida House of Representatives as Rubio’s budget chief, and the two used to own a Tallahassee home together.

Rubio has stood by his old friend throughout the years, saying he hopes Rivera can put his troubles behind him.

Photo via Facebook

November 19, 2015

Could Marco Rubio's rise in the presidential race further delay federal investigation into David Rivera?

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@PatriciaMazzei @jayhweaver

Federal prosecutors have circled David Rivera for three years, trying to build a strong enough criminal case to prove the former Miami Republican congressman propped up a ringer candidate in the 2012 election.

They got the ringer, Justin Lamar Sternad, to confess, and sent him to prison. They chased the woman who secretly funneled more than $81,000 to Sternad — Ana Alliegro, Rivera’s ex-girlfriend — to her Nicaragua hideout, and sent her to prison, too. They even got Alliegro, once out of prison, to testify to a grand jury that it was Rivera who had plotted the illegal campaign-finance scheme. 

That was almost a year ago. To date, the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami has filed no charges against Rivera — or closed the investigation against him.

“The judge had them name David Rivera as ‘Co-Conspirator A,’ and David Rivera has not been charged,” lamented Alliegro’s father, Anselmo Alliegro. “Nothing seems to be moving in that direction.”

As 2015 draws to a close, prosecutors may choose to wait even longer to resolve the case.

They have until 2017 to file charges, under the federal statute of limitations. And if Rivera’s friend and former housemate Marco Rubio continues to rise in the 2016 Republican presidential race, prosecutors may want to steer clear of the politically charged case, to avoid the appearance of meddling with an election.

More here.

Photo credit: Hector Gabino, el Nuevo Herald

September 14, 2015

Aide to ex-Rep. Joe Garcia gets house arrest, probation for putting up ringer candidate against David Rivera in 2010

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via @jayhweaver

At first, it looked like the former campaign manger for ex-Miami Congressman Joe Garcia was heading to prison for breaking an election law, even after a prosecutor recommended probation as punishment.

“The problem is, this type of crime strikes at the very core of our democracy,” U.S. District Judge Jose Martinez declared on Monday, noting that he found it “infuriating” the way outsiders think of Miami as a “Banana Republic” because of all its fraud and corruption.

But in the end, after telling the defense attorney for Jeffrey Garcia that he was confronting an “uphill road,” Martinez gave the defendant a two-year probationary sentence with eight months of home confinement and a $1,000 fine.

Martinez cited prosecutor Kimberly Selmore’s support for the lenient sentence, along with defense attorney Henry Bell’s arguments that his client cooperated extensively with the FBI investigation, including testifying before the grand jury, and had already been severely punished after losing his solid career as a once-respected political strategist.

“We felt we were on high ground arguing for no jail time,” Bell said after the hearing.

Garcia, convicted of a misdemeanor in a plea deal, faced up to one year in prison for illegally financing the campaign of a ringer tea party candidate whose role in the 2010 congressional election was designed to help the Democratic bid of Garcia's boss, Joe Garcia, against Republican David Rivera.

More here.

Photo credit: Alvaro Mata, pool photo (Miami Herald file)

August 07, 2015

David Rivera pops into Cleveland to watch Marco Rubio debate

@PatriciaMazzei

CLEVELAND -- Marco Rubio and David Rivera don't serve in Congress together anymore. They don't own a Tallahassee house together anymore. But the ties still go deep between the two Miami Republicans who spent years side-by-side in the Florida House of Representatives.

So when Senator Rubio took part in his first presidential debate Thursday -- a momentous event for any politician -- Rivera was there, in the audience at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Word spread quickly among the Floridians who had flown to Ohio to support either Rubio or Jeb Bush: There'd been a Rivera sighting!

Rivera, a former congressman, has so far managed to escape criminal indictment in a federal campaign-finance case in Miami. Though he's never been accused of wrongdoing in court -- early investigations into his finances in state court and by the IRS went nowhere -- a Florida panel has recommended his former statehouse colleagues fine him $58,000 over ethics violations. 

Despite the baggage he represents for Rubio -- the liberal group American Bridge blasted an email before the debate about the "Roomiez 4 Life" -- Rivera once was a close Rubio friend. Rubio's wife, Jeanette, showed up at the polls to campaign for Rivera the day he lost his congressional seat in 2012.

Rubio's campaign staff seemed less than thrilled about Rivera's appearance, so it's unclear who knew he was going to attend. Politico reported Rivera was spotted with another ex-state representative with a checkered political history, Ralph Arza.

June 03, 2015

Marco Rubio, David Rivera sell Tallahassee home

@PatriciaMazzei

Marco Rubio and David Rivera have sold the house the owned together in Tallahassee, a property that for years tied the Florida senator to the former Miami congressman.

The two friends sold the house this week for $117,000, a Rubio aide confirmed Wednesday to the Miami Herald. The sale was first reported by Politico.

Rubio and Rivera had listed the house in March for $125,000. They had bought it in March 2005 for $135,000. It briefly entered foreclosure proceedings before the former Tallahassee roommates settled the matter.

The house has been a drag on Rubio, a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, who has been repeatedly tied to the embattled Rivera, who is the target of a federal criminal investigation into campaign-finance shenanigans. Rivera has appealed a separate state ethics finding against him.

Rubio has also faced scrutiny over his finances, including the underwater mortgage on the Tallahassee home.

As of Wednesday morning, the Leon County property appraiser still listed Rubio and Rivera as the joint owners.

This post and headline have been updated.

June 02, 2015

News Service of Florida: David Rivera appeals Florida ethics case

From the News Service of Florida:

Former state lawmaker and Congressman David Rivera has given formal notice that he will take a long-running ethics case to an appeals court, according to an online docket.

Rivera filed a notice of appeal last week in the case, which has included allegations that the Miami Republican was improperly reimbursed for state travel and did not adequately disclose financial information.

The state Commission on Ethics in April backed an administrative law judge's recommendation that Rivera should pay about $58,000 in fines and restitution, though the ultimate decision about penalties would be made by the state House speaker.

The online docket at the 1st District Court of Appeal does not provide details of the arguments in the appeal. 

Rivera, who served a single term in Congress, was a state House member from 2002 to 2010. The ethics case deals with his time in the Legislature.