September 10, 2014

As feds draw closer, David Rivera's confidante to be sentenced today


The federal investigation into former congressman David Rivera takes another major step today when his close friend and political ally is scheduled to be formally sentenced for her role in allegedly helping him break campaign finance laws.

Ana Alliegro last month made a surprise admission of guilt in open court and named Rivera as the mastermind of the 2012 scheme to steer more than $81,000 to a political unknown to help fund fliers and other items to campaign against the Republican’s rival, current U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia.

“Those fliers were designed by Ana Alliegro [and] David Rivera,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Mulvihill said in court, implicitly citing prior statements Alliegro had made to prosecutors.

Before that disclosure in court, Rivera had denied wrongdoing and falsely claimed he was never under investigation. Rivera couldn’t be reached.

Court records and testimony indicate that Alliegro has told authorities that Rivera not only set the conspiracy in motion, but he also helped her flee the United States to Nicaragua when she was supposed to cooperate with prosecutors instead.

Alliegro in March was informally extradited to the United States and has been in jail ever since. Now that she’s cooperating, Alliegro could be sentenced to just six more months in jail, or even house arrest.

Alliegro is the second conviction in the case. Her co-conspirator, no-name former Democratic candidate Justin Lamar Sternad, pleaded guilty in 2013 for accepting the illegal campaign contributions and making false statements about them when he ran as a Democrat in the 2012 primary against Garcia and others.

Garcia won that race and went on to wallop the scandal-plagued Rivera in the general election. In this election, however, federal investigators are now examining whether Garcia's former top consultant and chief of staff, Jeffrey Garcia (no relation to the congressman) helped prop up yet another ringer candidate two years before in what appears to be a pre-cursor to Sternad's case.

Rep. Garcia has denied wrongdoing, said he'd cooperate with prosecutors and no witnesses have said he's culpable -- a stark contrast to Rivera's case in which two campaign vendors told The Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald that the Republican was involved in the 2012 campaign-finance scheme from the start. Based on the Herald reports, the FBI began examining the case.

With the two convictions and what appears to be a wealth of evidence and testimony against Rivera, Miami’s political and legal worlds have been abuzz with word of Rivera’s imminent indictment.

But Rivera, who has survived a prior federal investigation and a separate state investigation into his finances, has avoided indictments in the past. A Tallahassee judge, however, recently sided with state ethics commission prosecutors and found that he broke state ethics laws over how he managed campaign and taxpayer money as a state legislator.

Rivera is appealing. The ethics commission has yet to rule on the case.

But voters have rendered their verdict.

Rivera tried to mount a comeback to run against Garcia this year. But the one-time political power broker, nagged by scandal and his repeated misstatements reported in the press, came in fourth place in a five-way GOP primary on Aug. 26.

Rivera received just 2,209 votes – which is 647 less than the no-name Sternad received just two years before when his campaign was propped up by illegal money.

August 26, 2014

Carlos Curbelo wins Miami GOP congressional primary, will face Joe Garcia


Carlos Curbelo, a longtime political insider and former aide to a U.S. senator, won a decisive Republican primary victory Tuesday to run for Congress himself.

He received 47 percent of the vote in a field of five candidates that included a scandal-plagued former congressman vying for his old seat. Ex-U.S. Rep. David Rivera came in fourth place.

Curbelo, a Miami-Dade School Board member, now faces the far more difficult task of running against incumbent Joe Garcia, a Democrat who was elected two years ago to represent the swing 26th congressional district that extends from Westchester to Key West.

The closely watched race among Republicans and Democrats nationwide is considered a tossup. Republicans hope to flip it to their column come the Nov. 4 general election.

“I will work hard to honor your trust,” Curbelo told campaign supporters gathered Tuesday night at Killian Palms in Kendall. “I will serve with honor and integrity. We live in a community that needs new leaders.”

More here.

August 24, 2014

Ex-Rep. David Rivera: A parent's nightmare


David Rivera isn’t just a scandal-plagued ex-lawmaker and current congressional candidate.

Rivera is also a parent’s nightmare.

Last week, that awful truth came home to the parents of Ana Alliegro, a 44-year-old political operative who has been sitting in jail for almost six months over a campaign-finance conspiracy that, she admitted Tuesday, was hatched by Rivera.

“If Rivera was indeed her friend, he should have come forth long ago to accept or refute the allegations,” Alliegro’s father, Anselmo Alliegro, wrote in the comments section of a local legal blog.

“She has suffered enough expecting Rivera to come [to] her defense,” he wrote. “A person that shows such callous disregard for a friend’s sacrifice does not deserve loyalty.”

To call Ms. Alliegro “loyal” is an understatement. She was more like a cult adherent to Rivera. Yes, she willingly broke the law, but she was also under his thrall.

The devotion to Rivera, at least at first, was somewhat understandable. He’s charming. Funny. Smart. Hardworking. Powerful. He also has a few media apologists, mainly Spanish-language, who praise him or attack anyone who questions him.

For Alliegro, Rivera implicitly promised political and social status. He also could get his hands on lots of money.

More here

August 19, 2014

David Rivera named co-conspirator when friend pleads guilty to campaign-finance violations

@MarcACaputo @jayhweaver @PatriciaMazzei

Miami congressional candidate and ex-U.S. Rep. David Rivera was officially named as a co-conspirator Tuesday in federal court when his friend and confederate pleaded guilty to criminal campaign-finance violations.

That defendant, Ana Alliegro, didn’t name Rivera — that was done by a federal prosecutor at the urging of a judge who wanted to know the identity of a man previously identified only as a “co-conspirator.”

According to prosecutors, that person, along with Alliegro, secretly funded the 2012 Democratic primary campaign of ringer candidate Justin Lamar Sternad, who has been sentenced to seven months in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Mulvihill initially declined to name Rivera, but then did so at the direction of U.S. District Judge Robert Scola.

Alliegro’s trial had been scheduled to Monday — a day before the Republican primary election for Florida’s 26th congressional district. Rivera, one of five candidates on the ballot, is running for his old seat.

In a surprise move, Alliegro, who had pleaded not guilty to four charges in March, used a pre-trial court appearance Tuesday to switch her plea to guilty.

More here.

August 17, 2014

FL-26 Republicans tussle in TV faceoff


Five Republicans jostling for their party’s nomination to run against Congressman Joe Garcia, a Miami Democrat, faced off Sunday perhaps for the last time before the Aug. 26 primary election.

The two candidates who have tussled the most -– Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo and Cutler Bay Mayor Ed MacDougall –- pointedly went after each other in their appearance on WPLG-ABC 10’s This Week in South Florida.

MacDougall's strategy has been to try to topple Curbelo, the presumed frontrunner in the race, in an apparent effort to split the Hispanic vote enough among the four Hispanic candidates to leave MacDougall as the winner. He accused Curbelo of being untrustworthy because he won’t disclose his media and public relations firm’s clients.

“He regulates hundreds of millions of dollars for the school board,” MacDougall said. “Why is this not coming out?”

Curbelo called the jab “frivolous,” saying he discloses what he’s required to by law. He put his firm, Capitol Gains, in his wife Cecilia’s name in 2009, citing advice from U.S. Senate attorneys. At the time, Curbelo was an aide to former Florida Republican Senator George LeMieux.

Continue reading "FL-26 Republicans tussle in TV faceoff" »

August 05, 2014

Hey, look! David Rivera puts out another robocall


For the second time in a week, David Rivera, the embattled former Miami congressman who claimed he had suspended his campaign for his old seat, has reached out to voters through automated telephone calls.

This time, we have the audio recording of the call, in which Rivera tells voters, in Spanish, to ignore "the false campaign by the Miami Herald" and vote for him in the Aug. 26 Republican primary for Congressional District 26. (Thanks for the free publicity!)

"It's Congressman David Rivera," Rivera says on the call. "Your ballot to vote should have already arrived. And although the false campaign by the Miami Herald continues, I will keep fighting for our best interests. That's why I ask that you vote for a conservative fighter like me, David Rivera, for Congress. Fill out your ballot and send it by mail today, voting for a conservative Republican like me, David Rivera. Thank you and may God bless you."

"Political advertisement paid for by David Rivera for Congress."

The call comes a few days after new filings in a federal court case revealed for the first time that Rivera is "Co-conspirator A" in the criminal investigation into a 2012 campaign-finance scheme. Rivera has denied wrongdoing but refused to comment on -- or even acknowledge -- the investigation, which is but the latest in a series of controversies to tarnish his reputation.

Rivera didn't report raising any campaign funds as of June 30. Robocalls are among the cheapest campaign tools available to candidates.

His opponents who have been campaigning all along -- Carlos Curbelo, Ed MacDougall, Joe Martinez and Lorenzo Palomares-Starbuck -- have said little about Rivera's latest foray into the race. On Friday, Martinez told Spanish-language television host Roberto Rodríguez Tejera that voters are tired of candidates waffling.

"In Washington," Martinez said, "we already have enough indecision."

August 03, 2014

Carlos Curbelo deploys the Jeb Bush bomb in CD26 primary


No other Republican polls as well in the Florida GOP as former Gov. Jeb Bush.

And Miami-Dade School Board Member Carlos Curbelo hopes that's equally true in the crowded GOP primary in Congressional District 26, which stretches from their shared home county to Key West. This week, Republican voters in the district should be receiving a Curbelo-paid mailer featuring Bush's likeness and endorsement of the "proven education reformer and a proponent of expanding economic freedom and cutting wasteful spending."

So what's in a mailer?

Perhaps a lot.

In the recent CD13 race in the St. Petersburg area, Bush's support for David Jolly might have helped the Republican beat Democrat Alex Sink, strategists say. They say that after they started featuring Bush on TV as well as in a mailer for absentee-ballot voters, Jolly's poll numbers started to tick up just enough. If so, it's a remarkable feat because that was a general election.

This mailer is for a primary of just Republican voters. And it's in their home county. And the bilingual Bush is well-known to Anglos as well as Hispanics, who comprise a majority of the voters in the district.

As with CD13, this flier arrives just as voters are returning their absentee ballots. The election is Aug. 26 to see who challenges incumbent Rep. Joe Garcia in November.

If establishment money and endorsements are an indicator, Curbelo's the frontrunner. But ya never know in a primary. And that's doubly true when you have a sneaky, well-known former congressman running but not running -- David Rivera.

None of this means Bush is beloved by all. He promotes the Common Core educational standards, which some conservatives have demonized. And, remarkably so, the Miami-Dade GOP last year took a stand against Common Core -- a slap at Bush who helped make the once-floundering party a powerhouse in a Democratic County.

Common Core, though, hasn't really been an issue in this congressional race. After all, Common Core was created and managed by the states. A federal conservative who opposes a states' rights issue has a measure of explaining to do.

Common Core hasn't appeared to hurt Bush's standing with Florida Republican voters. In a series of Florida polls, Quinnipiac University consistently finds he's most-liked by the GOP in a presidential match-up against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who nevertheless edges him.



August 01, 2014

New court records show how David Rivera is 'Co-conspirator A'


Congressional candidate and former U.S. Rep. David Rivera has a newly disclosed identity in a federal campaign-finance corruption case: “Co-conspirator A.”

The name “Co-conspirator A” appeared in a 2012 search warrant for the home office of Rivera’s friend and political operative, Ana Alliegro, who’s awaiting trial for breaking federal campaign-finance laws.

Alliegro implicitly revealed Rivera’s identity by filing a recent but failed court motion that claimed the search warrant wasn’t lawfully approved by a judge because the FBI didn’t disclose that “Co-conspirator A” served in Congress. It was the first time she had tied Rivera to the alleged campaign-finance scandal.

At the time, Alliegro worked with only one member of Congress: Rivera, a Republican whose cellphone and American Airlines travel records were also seized in the criminal case, new court documents show.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry S. Seltzer said the job description of Alliegro’s co-conspirator didn’t matter anyway.

“Here, Alliegro cannot support her argument that the Affiant’s failure to identify Co-conspirator A as a Member of Congress was a material omission that bore on the magistrate judge’s decision to issue the warrant,” Seltzer wrote in a Tuesday ruling smacking down her multiple motions to have evidence against her suppressed.

More here

July 16, 2014

David Rivera apparently didn't raise cash before suspending Miami congressional campaign


David Rivera may have cited a judge's opinion on redistricting unrelated to South Florida as the reason for dropping out of a Miami congressional race last week, but the real reason might have been his campaign bank account.

The Republican raised no money to run a political race from the time he filed as a candidate in May through the end of June, according to his latest campaign finance report. His only cash -- $11,000 -- came from a loan he made to himself to pay a candidate filing fee. (He could still file contributions from July in a later report.)

He's still got more than $100,000 in outstanding debts from his prior campaign, in 2012.

Still leading the money race in Congressional District 26 is the incumbent, Democrat Joe Garcia. his campaign says he raised $455,679 between April 1 and June 30, bringing his total haul to $2.74 million. He has $1.86 million cash on hand.

On the Republican side, Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo leads the pack. He raised about $300,000 in the last quarter, according to his campaign, for a total of $1.25 million and $900,000 cash on hand.

Here's where the other candidates stand:

Cutler Bay Mayor Ed MacDougall -- total contributions $239,649 (including $211,000 in loans to himself), cash on hand $28,495

Attorney Lorenzo Palomares-Starbuck -- total contributions $93,000 (including $60,000 in loans to himself), cash on hand $24,780

Former Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe Martinez -- total contributions $86,415, cash on hand $34,234

The Republican primary takes place Aug. 26.

July 11, 2014

David Rivera suspends Miami congressional campaign


His reputation tainted by scandal, former Miami Congressman David Rivera vowed he would return to politics.

He did — for 72 days. On Friday, just over two months after launching a new campaign for his old seat, Rivera has called it quits, at least for now.

Rivera, who is under federal investigation in a campaign-finance scheme, said Friday he is suspending his congressional bid.

But he said it had nothing to do with the FBI probe — which he refuses to discuss — and everything with a ruling Thursday from a judge in Tallahassee.

“As a congressional candidate affected by this decision, I will not be held hostage by Florida’s liberal activist judges,” he said in an email to supporters.

Rivera cited “great uncertainty” following the ruling that invalidated two of Florida’s congressional district boundaries — even though neither of the districts was the one Rivera sought to represent.

More here.

This post has been updated.