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

@PatriciaMazzei

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

@PatriciaMazzei

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

@MarcACaputo

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.

  CarlosCurbelo_GovernorBushABSChase

CarlosCurbelo_GovernorBushABSChase2

August 01, 2014

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

@MarcACaputo

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

@PatriciaMazzei

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

@PatriciaMazzei

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.

June 23, 2014

The latest David Rivera mystery: What has he been doing for a living?

@PatriciaMazzei

For the first time, David Rivera is running for Congress without holding a political office.

So what has the former U.S. House of Representatives member been doing for the past two years to pay the bills?

"Business development," the Miami Republican said Monday night.

What that means, exactly, will for now have to remain a mystery. Rivera repeatedly refused to elaborate on his profession, saying only that he will eventually file his required financial disclosures with the House. He would not name any clients or businesses that have paid him.

"That'll all come out in the financial disclosures," Rivera told a Miami Herald reporter. "They will speak for themselves." [See the transcript of the interview below.]

Earlier this month, a Florida administrative law found that, as a state representative, Rivera violated three ethics laws, included one every year between 2005 and 2009, when he failed to properly report his income. Rivera claimed in those financial disclosures that he worked as a contractor for the U.S. Agency of International Development.

USAID had no record of ever hiring him. After the Herald asked about the discrepancy in 2010, Rivera amended the financial disclosures to delete any USAID references.

Continue reading "The latest David Rivera mystery: What has he been doing for a living?" »

June 15, 2014

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

@MarcACaputo

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

Oops

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.

A1wheelrealm

June 09, 2014

Judges says Rivera violated ethics laws by double-dipping on expenses

David RiveraFrom the News Service of Florida

An administrative law judge is calling for Florida's ethics commission to find that former state Rep. David Rivera improperly received state travel reimbursements and did not adequately disclose financial information.

Judge W. David Watkins issued a 37-page recommended order Friday that delved into Rivera's personal finances and his use of political campaign funds. The recommendation goes to the state Commission on Ethics, which will make a final determination.

Rivera, R-Miami, served in the state House from 2002 to 2010, before getting elected to Congress. He served one term in Washington and lost a re-election bid to Democrat Joe Garcia amid numerous ethics-related questions. Rivera is running this year to try to regain the Congressional District 26 seat.

Watkins wrote that Rivera, on numerous occasions, received reimbursements from the state for travel expenses that were paid by his campaign accounts. The judge wrote that Rivera commingled personal expenses, political expenses and state House expenses on multiple credit cards, rather than having a designated credit card for his official legislative duties.

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