June 12, 2013

Mysteriously financed mailer links shadow candidate to Rep. Joe Garcia camp

@MarcACaputo and @Patricia Mazzei

As rivals call on the FBI to examine a former mystery opponent of Congressman Joe Garcia, the Miami Herald has uncovered a new connection between them: Both used the same print shop for campaign mailers.

But the print shop, Image Plus Graphics, isn’t the only tie between Garcia and Jose Rolando “Roly” Arrojo, whose 2010 campaign violated federal campaign-finance disclosure rules.

Arrojo went to school and did business with Garcia’s top advisor, who was abruptly fired May 31 as the congressman’s chief of staff amid a state investigation into alleged absentee ballot-request fraud.

Arrojo, Garcia, and Garcia’s campaign have denied working in concert two years ago, but the mailers printed by the same vendor have led to new questions about the campaigns.

“I can assure you, we printed that piece and it has our permit number,” Image Plus Graphic’s president, Cliff Warren, told the Herald when shown Arrojo’s mailer.

“But I think it was done on the qt,” Warren said.

Warren said he couldn’t recall who paid for the Arrojo mailers or how many were printed two years ago, but he quickly identified Garcia campaign mailers printed by his shop over the years.

More here

June 06, 2013

GOP poll: Rep. Joe Garcia had trouble in district even before election scandal

@MarcACaputo

Even before an election scandal engulfed his campaign, Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia already had a tough re-election campaign ahead of him, according to a poll released Thursday by a Republican group.

A slight plurality of voters in the district, 42 percent, said they'd prefer someone new compared to the 37 percent of those who said Garcia deserves reelection, according to the survey of 450 district voters taken by Harper Polling for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Though taken by a Republican-tied firm, the NRCC poll wasn't all bad news for Garcia. It indicated more people approve of the job he's doing, 38, compared to 35 percent who disapprove.

The tidbits from the NRCC poll -- released with a national memo characterizing Democratic "struggling" from Florida to California" -- was taken in late May.

So the results don't include details, first reported Friday by The Miami Herald, that Garcia's 2012 campaign is being investigated for requesting fraudulent absentee ballots during the Aug. 14 Democratic primary. Garcia has denied wrongdoing or knowledge of the alleged scheme.

The NRCC didn't share all of its results and critics are sure to question the poll's provenance and whether any survey questions gave it an anti-Democratic bias (that is, whether it message-tested). The poll does sample a few more Republicans (44%) than Democrats (38%). (Note: the last NRCC poll in this district, taken by another firm, accurately showed Garcia winning before the 2012 election).

Still, Garcia acknowledged the scandal will become a central campaign issue. And his supporters note that he's tough to beat, having raised about $550,000 in his first full quarter of fundraising as a freshman congressman.

Garcia also carried the district by about 11 percentage points in his race against a scandal-plagued Republican Rep. David Rivera. President Obama carried the district by about 7 percentage points. Registered Democrats slightly outnumber Republicans, 37-34 percent, making the Key West to Miami-Dade Congressional District 26 one of the most-competitive in the state.

But the poll indicated that 48 percent said they preferred a Republican candidate compared to 40 percent who said they preferred a Democrat

According to the poll, exactly half of the district said they'd prefer a congressman who provides a "Republican check and balance" to 43 percent who said they wanted a "Democratic ally of Obama."

Continue reading "GOP poll: Rep. Joe Garcia had trouble in district even before election scandal" »

June 04, 2013

In Joe Garcia election scandal, lawyer of convicted rival wants FBI investigation of mystery candidate

 @MarcACaputo @PatriciaMazzei

Hidden money. A shadowy candidate. Missing campaign-finance reports.

That’s not just a description of Justin Lamar Sternad’s crime-filled congressional campaign against U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia in 2012.

It also describes yet another Garcia rival from two years before: Jose Rolando “Roly” Arrojo.

But unlike Sternad, Arrojo has ties to Garcia’s former top advisor who resigned Friday amid an unrelated criminal investigation into fraudulent absentee ballot requests in the Aug. 14 Democratic primary.

Continue reading "In Joe Garcia election scandal, lawyer of convicted rival wants FBI investigation of mystery candidate" »

June 03, 2013

Columnist Fred Grimm: Quarantine elections in Florida's 26th congressional district

From Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm:

We’re calling the game off down in District 26. Suspending the democratic process. Citizens of District 26 will have to get by without a voice in the U.S. House of Representatives until they can come up with congressional candidates not inclined to subvert elections.

Sure, this sounds drastic. But it now looks as if the shenanigans leading up to the Aug. 14 primary were symptoms of a bipartisan epidemic. District 26 needs to be quarantined until political scientists can isolate the contagion infecting the electoral process.

If it wasn’t for attempts to pervert elections, Congressional District 26’s slimiest problem would be snakes of another kind. The district, which includes a big chunk of Everglades National Park, may have more Burmese pythons slithering about than voters. Most of those (voters, not snakes) are clustered in the southern suburbs of Miami-Dade County. The district also includes the Florida Keys, where residents must be perturbed by their association with the mainland’s election scandals.

Until last week, folks in District 26 thought their electoral embarrassments were all due to debauched tactics associated with former U.S. Rep. David Rivera’s failed attempt at reelection. A Herald investigation last year indicated that a Rivera operative secretly financed the campaign of a patsy candidate in the Democratic primary. The phantom candidate’s tactics were supposed to weaken Rivera’s main challenger, Democrat Joe Garcia, before the general election.

More here.

May 19, 2013

Heavy-hitters back school board's Carlos Curbelo to unseat U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia

@MarcACaputo

Carlos Curbelo, a Miami-Dade school board member and Republican consultant, today announced a congressional exploratory committee and finance team in a possible bid to take on U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia in District 26, which stretches from SW 8th Street all the way to Key West's Southernmost Point.

Garcia is no easy target. He won his district by 11 percentage points against scandal-plagued U.S. Rep. David Rivera; and President Obama carried it by about 7.

But in some models, the district leans Republican or is a toss-up.

Curbelo brings political savvy, an emerging name in politics and a heavy-hitting finance team to the race. If Curbelo runs, it'll be tough to see how Cutler Bay Mayor Ed MacDougall can win the GOP primary.

Some names to watch for: Cesar Alvarez (Chairman of Greenberg Traurig), Armando Codina (Jeb Bush friend, developer; American Airlines and Home Depot Board of Directors), Remedios Diaz-Oliver (President of All American Containers and Director of US Cuba Democracy PAC), Tirso del Junco (past chairman of the California GOP and of the US Postal Board of Governors); media/political figure Justin Sayfie (founder of the Sayfie Review, former Bush spokesman), George LeMieux (former U.S. Senator), Kathleen Shanahan (businesswoman, Bush insider), Dean Cannon (lobbyist, past Florida House Speaker), Stanley Tate (Republican financier).

One name stands from the rest: Fred Estrada. He's a frequent Democratic contributor. And he's on the Republican's side.

The press release:

Continue reading "Heavy-hitters back school board's Carlos Curbelo to unseat U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia" »

May 18, 2013

Notoriety follows David Rivera pal in Nicaragua

@PatriciaMazzei

GRANADA, Nicaragua -- In this quaint colonial town, vigilant residents who keep close tabs on their neighbors know the enigmatic woman asDoña Anita, a sometime hairdresser with a mean temper.

They describe her as a night owl prone to cursing, buying Coca-Cola by the case and watching dirty movies so loudly the volume has kept them up at night.

The FBI in Miami knows her as Ana Sol Alliegro, a political consultant and potential key witness in a federal corruption investigation into whether former U.S. Rep. David Rivera had ties to an illegally funded congressional campaign.

In Miami, Alliegro has a reputation as an erratic political operative, a three-time failed candidate who describes herself on Twitter as a “Republican Political Guru and Conservative Bad Girl!”

When she became the center of the investigation last fall into long-time friend Rivera, Alliegro disappeared.

She reappeared in Granada, where she has been living for months and only added to her notoriety.

Neighbors, who say they are so frightened of her they asked not to be identified by name, say she smashed an ex-lover’s car windows and tried to set fire to his windshield after accusing him of sexually assaulting her.

Occasionally, locals have spotted her around town with Rivera, whom townspeople readily identified in photographs shown by a Herald reporter: “Ah,Don David!”

Alliegro, 43, denied it all in an interview last week with The Miami Herald, from the disparaging accounts of her behavior to receiving any visits from Rivera.

“Write what you want to write,” she said.

More here.

May 09, 2013

Did Ana Alliegro double-cross David Rivera, secretly record him in scandal?

@MarcACaputo

A friend of former U.S. Rep. David Rivera who’s implicated in a federal corruption investigation made a recording of the Republican last year — and now prosecutors have the evidence, The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald have learned.

Ana Alliegro made the recording, perhaps secretly, months before the FBI raided her home and seized her computer last year. She later skipped town and was last seen in Nicaragua.

Alliegro played a key role in the ill-fated Democratic congressional campaign of Justin Lamar Sternad, who in February admitted receiving $81,486 in illegal contributions and aid from unnamed “coconspirators.”

Continue reading "Did Ana Alliegro double-cross David Rivera, secretly record him in scandal?" »

April 12, 2013

Nicaragua-exiled gal pal of David Rivera: "I am not a fugitive," witness in criminal case "lying"

 @MarcACaputo

One who flees is a fugitive, according to Webster's Dictionary.

But Ana Alliegro, who fled to Nicaragua amid a federal-grand jury investigation for her involvement with a criminal congressional campaign linked to boyfriend David Rivera, has her own definitions of things.

"I am not a fugitive," Alliegro tells Miami New Times in an exclusive interview. "I am tired of being depicted as one."

Alliegro has refused to talk to The Herald ever since we unmasked the criminal campaign of one-time congressional candidate Justin Lamar Sternad, her role in it and then reported her own criminal record. Sternad, used as a proxy to trash Rivera's political opponent Joe Garcia, pleaded guilty to campaign-finance and conspiracy violations. He is cooperating with the feds. He said he was "used."

In The New Times piece, Alliegro suggests she didn't do the using.

Alliegro doesn't shed much light on what she did for the campaign or why, as a Republican, she would help run a Democrat's campaign. She doesn't explain why, as a girlfriend of Rivera, she ran the campaign of Sternad, who theoretically would have faced Rivera had he not lost Aug. 14 to Garcia, who went on to beat Rivera in the general election.

The New Times piece provides more insight into Alliegro's personality and relationship with Rivera (it got a hold of some of her emails and confirmed that Rivera booked a romantic Nicaraguan vacation for the two). Alliegro blames her problems on "liberals" and said she flew to Nicaragua after she was jailed in an unrelated matter.

And Alliegro's no stranger to jail.

As The Herald reported and the New Times notes as well, she was busted for shoplifting and for pulling a gun on her ex-husband after comparing the weapon to her version of a powerful penis. In another sexually charged matter, Alliegro sent racy pictures of herself (two in a nighty and one topless photo of herself in the shower) to a Miami political consultant years ago in the hopes, the consultant tells us, that he'd leak them to blogger and stir up controversy in the hopes of getting clients (yes, we have the pictures).

Alliegro does accuse her ex, Moshe Cosicher, of domestic violence. But Cosicher's daughter told The Miami Herald that Alliegro self-inflicted her injuries -- claiming initially that she was attacked by a raccoon -- and tried to use the wounds and phony domestic-violence claim to blackmail Cosicher into staying married. Prosecutors didn't buy her story and she didn't press charges.

Even Alliegro acknowledges she's "crazy." Now, according to New Times, she's claiming she had a horse-riding head injury that has impaired her memory. What a coincidence. Maybe a raccoon knocked her off the horse.

As for the latest crime that involves her, Alliegro says she's innocent. She said she didn't ferry illegal campaign money to and from Sternad, who has told prosecutors that she did.

Sternad's not the only one. John Borrero, who runs the mail house that Sternad used to send out his campaign fliers, told The Herald and then the FBI that Alliegro delivered stacks of cash and checks for his services.

"Borrero is lying," she tells New Times. "I'm crazy, but I am not stupid."

Alliegro also told New Times she didn't have a central role running Sternad's campaign.

"Let's be clear: I was never Justin's campaign manager," Alliegro said. "He never paid me a dime."

Sternad told us in August that she was his campaign manager. She didn't return our calls on the matter, so when I reached out to her on Twitter, she ducked the question Aug. 14, the day of the District 26 Democratic primary that saw the end of Sternad's campaign.

"ARE YOU SERIOUS? YOU CALLED MY VERY PUBLIC TELEPHONE NUMBER? YOU DID NOT AND YOU CALL REACHING OUT VIA TWITTERS," she said. "LOL."

Nothing says reasonable discourse like ALL CAPS evasions.

"I called the number I was given, called your ex and tried this. And you still haven't answered," I responded.

"how about you do your job. Caputo-I am tired and going to sleep. Again, highly unprofessional and wreckless," she wrote back.

And on it went.

In the New Times piece, Alliegro said she's willing to testify and will be back in Miami to renew her passport. She said she's not hiding. "She admits she wanted to lay low," New Times reports.

"I haven't abandoned my country," she said. "I feel my country has abandoned me. But if I have to testify I will. Make no mistake about it, I will not take the Fifth. I will answer what ever questions they ask me."

If that happens, she'll have to give honest answers as well.

March 23, 2013

Marco Rubio's immigration expert draws fire from hardliners

Sen. Marco Rubio's decision to hire immigration lawyer Enrique Gonzalez, a longtime friend and practicing expert in the field, is drawing fire from the conservative Daily Caller (and its readers if you check the comments section):

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio’s top lawyer in the closed-door effort to draft a new immigration bill is a Democratic donor who earns his living by bringing foreign workers into the country on behalf of corporations and universities.

The lawyer, Enrique Gonzalez, is a partner at the nation’s largest immigration firm, whose future depends on the outcome of Gonzalez’s closed-door work.

Rubio hired Gonzalez in January, when he was a partner at the Coral Gables, Fla., office of Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy.

Continue reading "Marco Rubio's immigration expert draws fire from hardliners" »

March 21, 2013

Former aide, printing house become witnesses in David Rivera investigation

@MarcACaputo

A former aide of U.S. Rep. David Rivera and a printing company have both become witnesses in the federal investigation of the Republican politician’s ties to an illegally funded congressional campaign, The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald have learned.

The cooperation of former Rivera aide Ivette Pinto and Expert Printing & Graphics in Doral mark another major milestone in a criminal case that has already resulted in the guilty plea of Democratic congressional candidate Justin Lamar Sternad.

Fueled with at least $81,486 in secret money, Sternad’s campaign was used as a proxy to undermine a political rival of Rivera, who denies wrongdoing.

Continue reading "Former aide, printing house become witnesses in David Rivera investigation" »